As a senior concierge, Joanne Lewandowski is used to showing off the community she loves to the thousands of guests who stream through the doors of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler each year.
But last week her clientele was a little different than usual, with 100 of Canada's top concierges descending on the resort for the annual National Congress of Les Clefs d'Or Canada.
"Everybody who leaves the congress takes Whistler with them and takes their experience from Whistler home to share with their friends, families, and more so their guests," said Lewandowski, who was just named the organization's national secretary.
And, as recipients of the prestigious Clefs d'Or, Lewandowski could not have found better champions for the resort.
Les Clefs d'Or is an international association of close to 4,000 professional concierges from across the globe. Key holders have years of experience and must demonstrate a devotion "to the journey of becoming a Clef d'Or and to the promise that you're going to deliver excellent service to your guests every time you have the opportunity," explained Carolina Avaria, president of Les Clefs d'Or Canada.
The organization was formed in 1929 as a way for concierges in London to connect with their Parisian counterparts to offer guests exceptional experiences, and it's that support network that remains at the heart of what Les Clefs d'Or does.
"Oftentimes we share guests, which is great," said Lewandowski. "B.C. is a big destination and a lot of our guests go to Victoria, Tofino and Whistler in one trip, so it's kind of nice we can all call upon each other to assist our guests."
But with the rise of digital technologies making it easier to plan every aspect of a vacation on your own, some have wondered where the modern concierge fits into guests' travel experience.
The answer to that question lies in the personal touch a concierge can lend that can't be replicated online, Avaria said.
"About 10 years ago, when that question was first posed, we were all quite nervous. It looked like technology was going to blow us right out of the lobby," she said. "But studies of human nature found that when it comes to service, it has to be personalized. And in the world of Google, which is, by the way, a good friend to concierges, you can't get that. You can get a lot of information, but you can't see Joanne's eyes when you come to her desk."
With four key holders in the resort — the Fairmont's Daniel Havens, the Westin's Stephen Baumberg and the Four Seasons' Hanna Lynn, along with Lewandowski — Les Clefs d'Or is well represented in Whistler.
That also means the members of this tightknit fraternity of elite concierges can lean on each other for support.
"Together as members of our profession, we inspire each other," Lewandowski said. "We love our jobs so much that we're the only ones who can inspire each other."
For more information about Les Clefs d'Or, visit www.lesclefsdorcanada.org.