Written by Antione Garandeau, Trump Waikiki Hotel
This is a personal account of my first Les Clefs d’Or International Congress in March of this year in Cannes, France. The event, hosted in the birthplace of the first-ever International Congress of the Organization, also marked the 90thAnniversary of Les Clefs d’Or France making it an amazingly inspiration and poignant occasion.
Friday March 22nd, 2019: 2:00PM and I just got off the train station from my hometown after a two and half hour ride. It is a beautiful spring day on the French Riviera also known as the “Cote d’Azur”. Checking in at the Gray d’Albion, one of the hotels hosting the Congress, the excitement is palpable as concierge from around the world are welcomed by the French-based committee who organized the event. Although I am meeting many for the very first time, I instantly feel a connection, as though we are all part of the same special family. The city of Cannes is also excited to welcome us and has installed billboards announcing the Congress which brings an unusual, yet prideful, feeling to many concierge who typically prefer to be humbly discreet.
The evening kicks off with an opening ceremony hosted at the Iconic Hotel Majestic, steps away from the Palais des Festivals. The red carpet is rolled out and electricity is in the air. The Les Clefs d’Or French delegation showcases their social sophistication, or savoir-faire, making everyone feel welcome and at ease. Dimitri Ruiz, President of Les Clefs d’Or France, gives an enthusiastic opening speech coining the motto for the Congress to come, “Yes We Cannes!”.
Saturday March 23rd, 2019:
Starting the day off with a morning assembly for First Time Attendees, such as myself, brings an entire host of introductions from concierge around the work including Alan Grimes of the International Trainee Committee and Pierre Pinchemel, the main archivist of the Head office in Paris. Pierre has brought with him iconic memorabilia such as past books of Members and old photographs. The legacy of Les Clefs d’Or truly comes to life and brings me a greater understanding of the underlying theme of the Congress, “No future without a past”.
In the afternoon we go on a ferry ride to Sainte Marguerite island across from Cannes. This is the island where the so-called “Iron Mask” was imprisoned at “Le Fort Royal” during the 17th century. The weather is beautiful and we can see Cannes as we look back from the island.
Gregory Tack, a Concierge from the Majestic, points out a house up on the hills above Cannes owned by a very wealthy Emir from the Middle East that apparently planned to build his own private elevator from his house directly to the beach until the city of Cannes denied such an egregious project. All I can see is a beautiful city and I am captivated.
The afternoon ends with a beach cleanup, a new initiative of Les Clefs d’Or Corporate Social Responsibility. Petitions are being handed out by a local organization to make Sainte Marguerite island classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I am honored to participate in such a movement.
Wrapping up an amazing day, we are taken to the Palm Beach Club for an event themed as a “Glittering and Glimmering Night.”
Sunday March 24th, 2019: Education Day
After seven years as a concierge, this is perhaps the one day of congress I was looking forward to the most. I was eager to understand how the profession is evolving on a global scale and what challenges and concerns my fellow Les Clefs d’Or Concierges around the world are experiencing. I am interested to learn that although the Concierge from larger, bustling cities, which contrast my relaxed, tropical one so much, remain equally challenged by their travel savvy guests and our experiences overlap quite often. It is these unique requests that we all say keep us all challenged and inspired on a daily basis. Although I envy the ever-changing knowledge that their large cities require of them and their fast-paced life, I am beginning to realize that I am lucky to be able to enjoy the slower-paced, island lifestyle where our year-round traveler season does have its pluses.
The day goes by fast as multiple speakers present everything from “Ted Talk” formats to sharing perspectives on the profession through the eyes of prominent Concierge members. The “Bar Camp” session turns out to be really interesting, highlighting topics such as those below for us to reflect on:
The Key to Leadership–re-thinking my role as a leader
The Key to Excellence–reviewing my understanding of luxury
The Key to Network–re-surging my network
The Key to Respect–re-conquering a respectful co-operation
The Key to Development–innovating my business development
The Key to Personal Growth–re-charging my progressive advancement
The Key to Appearance–re-setting my image/reputation
Quite a bit to digest but a good way to reset and think on how to define the future of the Organization while keeping its roots.
“A Night in Provence” followed that evening with an entire alley of typical Provencal restaurants in the backstreets of Cannes was booked entirely for us!
Monday March 25th: General Assembly and Gala Dinner
As we gather to hear reports on the state of the Organization, I cannot help but notice how impressive of a setting it is! Long tables are arranged on stage to host all the board members and the stakes are high as each Board of Director candidate delivers a passionate speech in hopes of being elected to serve in the illustrious group.
In the evening, each delegation is divided into their region and I learn that the USA is fortunate to be hosted at the iconic Carlton Intercontinental, the birthplace of the modern day International delegations to Les Clefs d’Or. The night was filled with a great introductions and captivating talks about the significance of this hotel.
Tuesday March 25th: Excursion day and Gala Night
Of the two choices for excursions, I chose to spend the day in Monaco as I somehow, have never made it to this part of the Riviera despite my childhood here. We visit The Casino de Monte Carlo with architecture definitely influenced by the Napoleon era, including the magnificent Opera Garnier where an eclectic repertoire of artists regularly perform. According to our guide, Elton John himself gave a concert here!
Lunch takes place next door inside Hotel De Paris where famous chef Alain Ducasse recently opened a Mediterranean theme casual restaurant called “Omer.” Once again, we are warmly greeted by a Concierge team member who, is truly an Ambassador of the profession and represents the face of their hotel. I get to take a picture with the Alain Ducasse himself! I am told by a long time Concierge in Paris that he is a longtime Concierge supporter and values the profession so much that he even arranged a phone line direct to his restaurant in Paris that is exclusive to Concierge usage. Impressive.
In the afternoon we visit the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco which is dedicated to the conservations and explorations of the Oceans overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Finally, as the trip wraps up and the 66thannual Congress comes to an end, what more perfect place to host the final gala then on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals where every May the Gratin of the movie industry gather for the Cannes Film Festival.
I go home filled with memories and inspired to share every detail of this unique experience with my fellow Concierge. The trip has made me ever-thankful for the support of those I have worked with dating back to the first day I was given the opportunity to become a Concierge. This experience has taught me that we are able to achieve so much more locally and that we are all connected regardless of where we assist our guests in this world.
The time honored Les Clefs d’Or legacy must continue because nothing replaces the simple fact that humans have always thrived and advanced by making connections with each other.
Vive Les Clefs d’Or!