Concierge of the Year – Colin Toomey

Since 1995, Colin has been greeting guests and making their journey great at Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. He is a consummate professional and was awarded the well-deserved prestigious title “Concierge of the Year” at the Hotel Management Awards.  In this interview, he shared with us how he has been able to excel in his role for almost two decades and told us a heartwarming story at work!

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Congratulations for winning “Concierge of the Year”! How do you feel about it and can you share your secret in winning such a prestigious award?

It was a great personal honour winning the award but more importantly it demonstrated the support and commitment that Shangri-La has for the Concierge profession. For myself and my colleagues to be able to provide the highest level of Concierge services to our guests, we obviously require the necessary resources and training. Shangri-La has always recognized the importance of having an experienced and dynamic Concierge Department in the lobby and I think that in receiving this award we have justified the time and effort that has gone into building a very strong team.

You have been with Shangri-La for 21 years! What motivates you to stay?

Unlike some other positions in the Hotel the role of Concierge is very much dependent on the relationships you have built up over a long period of time. Working for a prestigious hotel group, such as Shangri-La, has allowed me to develop a wide network of contacts which in turn makes it easier for me and my team to provide the very best of service to our guests. I’m not sure if I would have had that same opportunity elsewhere. Having been with the property for so long, I also feel a real attachment to the people I work with. I am only one of a number of long serving employees here in Sydney and over the years you develop a special bond with these people. It is also very rewarding to be recognized as the “Face of Shangri-La” and that comes from having been an integral member of our front line team over so many years.

In your opinion, how did Shangri-La develop or change over the years?

I think one major change has been our focus on welcoming and caring for our guests like family. It is one thing to provide friendly and efficient service but to take that to the next level and really embrace the concept of family is something quite unique. It is also a much larger hotel group now than when I first started. There has been considerable growth over the last few years which is very exciting for us. With this expansion comes an opportunity for colleagues who would like to further develop their careers in different cities and countries across the world. I have had a number of colleagues from Sydney who have been lucky enough to travel overseas to continue their development with Shangri-La Hotels.

Can you describe how you have been able to utilise your talent at Shangri-La?

Working on a busy Concierge Desk certainly has its challenges but that is what makes the job so appealing. Because of the varied nature of the role I have to have an intimate knowledge of our city and that I think that comes from experience. I like being organized and that is definitely a prerequisite in managing a large department. I’m constantly learning in this role as well so being receptive and inquisitive is also quite important and something that I’m very conscious of. Developing the younger staff in my department is also quite rewarding and something that I enjoy a great deal.

 What makes you proud of being a part of the Shangri-La family?

Shangri-La Hotels are recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious hotel groups so it gives me a great deal of pride to be a part of the team. Because we all share a common goal of being the very best we can I think it builds a unique bond amongst our colleagues which is quite special. Apart from working closely together there is also a wonderful social aspect to being a part of the Shangri-La family and that also brings us closer together.

Being a Chief Concierge you must have many stories to tell. Can you share with us one of the most memorable stories at work?

I have had the pleasure of dealing with some very interesting guests over the years and some of them leave an indelible impression on you. Only recently I had a young Spanish couple staying at the hotel who required some special attention. The couple was on their honeymoon but just prior to arriving in Sydney the husband injured his leg quite badly in a horse riding accident and was hobbling around on crutches. What should have been a joyous occasion for them was marred by this terrible inconvenience and they were quite despondent. I sat down with them on arrival and we carefully revised their itinerary to include as many activities as possible given their circumstances. I was able to book them on a helicopter joy flight, a private harbour cruise and even a special wheelchair tour in the Sydney Opera House. Rather than limiting their opportunities we explored options they had never even considered. Through creative planning I was able to turn their pessimism into optimism and they left Sydney with renewed vigour and some wonderful memories. For me that was one of the most rewarding guest experiences I have ever been involved in.

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