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Holders of the Golden Keys converge on Whistler

Professional concierge workers spend weekend exploring Whistler



Ever wonder about the smartly clad hotel workers who always have a recommendation for just the right place for dinner, or the adventure activity you just can't miss out on?

Well, turns out concierges have a rather unique international organization to support them, and this past weekend Whistler played host to one of its regional meetings.

Only about 3,000 people make up the international membership in the Union Internationale des Concierges d'Hôtels, which is also known as Les Clefs d'Or.

"We are a family," said Hana Lynn, who works at Whistler's Four Seasons Resort of her colleagues in advance of an evening of union activities. "We are all friends."

Stéphane Mouttet, the union's regional director in B.C. and Chef Concierge at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, said those who travelled to Whistler for the meeting heard speeches from Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Karen Goodwin of Tourism Whistler.

Three members of the organization who work in Whistler — Lynn, Stephen Baumberg (Westin Resort and Spa) and Joanne Lewandowski (Fairmont Chateau Whistler), hosted the Whistler meeting.

Along with hearing from the mayor and Tourism Whistler the group was treated to appetizers at the Bearfoot Bistro.

According to Mouttet, it has been some time since the group last met in Whistler.

"We are here to get to know Whistler," he said. "A lot of us haven't been here for a long time."

It's important, said Mouttet, for members of the organization to be familiar with the tourist areas around them because the individuals work together as a network to serve travellers, despite the fact that they are all employed by competing hotel chains.

Gaining membership to the prestigious Clefs d'Or, or Golden Keys, involves rigorous training and an evaluation process, which takes three years.

Those interested in joining the group have to apply after working full-time as a hotel concierge for two years.

Lynn is currently mentoring a member of the concierge team at the Westin. Well-trained concierge staff, she said, really connect with hotel guests and help to ensure their visit is an experience, she said.

Les Clefs d'Or promote high professional and ethical standards for those who work as concierges.

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