Helping Hands for Travelers: A worldwide personal assistant

Business Jet Traveler » August 2013
“The concierges get to know you, so if we have access to an amazing James Bond ­premiere, they can call you and say, ‘I know you’re  a big fan of James Bond. Would you like to attend?’”  (Illustration: John T. Lewis)
“The concierges get to know you, so if we have access to an amazing James Bond ­premiere, they can call you and say, ‘I know you’re a big fan of James Bond. Would you like to attend?’” (Illustration: John T. Lewis)
Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 8:00am

Whatever you want—wherever and whenever you want it—concierge services can deliver.

You’re reviewing travel plans for next week’s business meetings in Shanghai when you notice a fuel stop in San Francisco and ask your assistant to order a food delivery from your favorite restaurant there. Your aide is at a loss about how to comply with the request, since the fuel stop will be at 4 a.m.

That’s when a concierge can help.

“We actually opened a restaurant at 4 a.m. for a client who wanted his favorite ramen noodles,” says Adriann Wanner, president of New York-based jet charter broker Evojets, which provides concierge services to its clients. “He didn’t mind that it cost $5,000 to get the restaurant owner and chef out of bed to open that early, make the meal, plate it and get it out to the aircraft. That’s what he wanted and that’s what we arranged. There’s almost no reason for us to say no.” 

Many private aircraft charter companies and brokers offer some level of concierge service, to help you or your assistant set travel schedules; arrange limousines or other ground transportation; ensure food and drink preferences are met, both on and off the aircraft; and book resorts and private excursions. But charter brokers like Evojets find that offering concierge services beyond expectations can be a market differentiator.

“We serve as an extension of your personal assistant,” says Wanner. “We can accommodate 99 percent of requests. We’ve flown fresh seafood from one coast to the other, arranged babysitters for kids with special needs, found flight attendants with massage or makeup skills and often stock the aircraft with a client’s favorite potato chip or organic produce. We make sure that whether it’s a short flight, a weekend or a month-long trip, it’s a seamless experience.” 

While your jet charter company may be willing and able to open restaurants or shop at specialty grocers to fill your dietary requests onboard, most lack the connections needed to provide front-row access to a sporting event, grant entry to an exclusive nightclub or score tickets to the Oscars. For requests like those, you’ll need a personal-concierge company. 

“Having that insider knowledge and access makes us stand out,” says Clementine Churchward, director of Quintessentially Communications, the public relations division of London-based global concierge group Quintessentially Lifestyle. As one of 30 businesses in the Quintessentially Group in 60 locations worldwide, Quintessentially Lifestyle has access to more than 2,000 employees who specialize in a wide variety of luxury goods and services, from wine to art to real estate to autos.

“The people in our offices have a passion for understanding the luxury market,” Churchward remarks. “We have experts [in each location] who can connect our clients to the very best places to stay, eat, drink and play, essentially providing inside access in that territory.” 

Quintessentially Lifestyle’s general membership £1,150/$1,800 annually) covers around-the-clock access to the AskQ team, which responds to requests for dinner reservations, event tickets, travel arrangements and more. At the Dedicated level (approximately £3,000/$4,500 per year), members are assigned a manager who provides a more personal touch and can proactively suggest events, gifts, restaurants, resorts and bespoke experiences based on the client’s preferences and lifestyle.

“[This manager] is someone who looks after you,” Churchward explains. “When you call up, the phone is always answered by that person. They get to know you, so they can preempt some of your requests. For example, if we have access to an amazing James Bond premiere with a limited number of tickets, they can call you and say, ‘I know you’re a big fan of James Bond. This is the kind of thing we know you would love. Would you like to attend?’” 

Quintessentially Lifestyle’s Elite membership (from £12,000/$18,700 to £24,000/$37,500 annually) provides a team of managers to accommodate every request, manage your schedule and offer onsite assistance wherever you go. An Elite member wanted a Batman-style cave built in his house, complete with the secret door behind the library. Done. When another member lost his house keys in the snow in the French Alps, the company immediately delivered a metal detector and the keys were found.

Like Quintessentially Lifestyle, Boca Raton, Florida-based One Concierge provides elite-level services. This operation, though, has only 19 employees and relies on a worldwide network of 116 independently owned agencies. Through this agency network, One Concierge maintains relationships with more than 10,000 domestic and international partners to gain access to more than 50,000 events. One Concierge offers three levels of annual membership—Executive ($2,000), Bespoke ($8,000) and Lifestyle ($18,000)—which all include services for two to four authorized users.

“Instead of simply performing tasks upon request, we proactively manage lifestyles to help members achieve their personal and business goals,” says Brian Taranto, director of sales and marketing for One Concierge. “We leverage the connections that we have spent years developing, some from fulfilling requests for our members, to help other Lifestyle members. For example, we might use a connection to get tickets to a Broadway show for one member, and that connection also knows someone who directs a Broadway show. So we leverage that ­connection to secure an audition for a member who always wanted to be in a Broadway show.”

Taranto claims the company’s Lifestyle membership can not only further careers but help create them as well. “If you are person A and you want to become person B, you purchase the Lifestyle membership,” he says. “It’s like opening a door to becoming someone else. We have a client from Russia who is launching a fashion brand, so we are coaching her through our connections on how to get that brand into the right people’s hands.

“For another client, who is a globally known figure, all we do is manage her image.” Taranto adds. “Then there’s a client who came to us and she was really nothing in terms of celebrity status, and we raised her up into the celebrity jet-setting lifestyle. If the client wants to be a model, they buy a Lifestyle membership and we would be proactive about getting them to fit into a profile of a model. And it works.” 


Get to Know Your Resort Concierge 

Even if you use a personal concierge service, it’s worth cultivating relationships with resort concierges, especially if you repeatedly frequent certain resorts. Knowing the concierge can result in a level of service that extends far beyond the mere courtesies extended to casual travelers. One concierge takes such good care of her guests that they often invite her to their weddings, funerals and baby showers. 

“We have guests who come three to four times per year, and we really get to know each other,” says Pat Farman, one of two concierges at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina, a luxury resort featuring two- to four-bedroom homes and cottages. 

Sometimes it’s the nature of the destination that makes help from a local concierge invaluable. For example, Napa Valley, California, can be a daunting challenge, with its more than 450 wineries (many open only by appointment), exclusive restaurants and unique experiences. 

“Napa Valley is complex because there are so many options,” says Yahell Peralta, chief concierge for the Auberge du Soleil resort in Napa Valley. “It’s overwhelming to plan an itinerary when the field is completely unknown. That’s why guests lean on the concierge.” Among “gotchas” that can hamper a visitor’s plans, Peralta cites permitting issues at wineries and restaurants such as the world-famous French Laundry that require reservations weeks or months in advance. “We help plan [guests’] entire stay, from the moment they arrive, to organize the best experiences in terms of wineries, restaurants and rejuvenation.” —K.R.


In Case of Emergency

If you become ill or are injured while traveling, you may need even more help than a personalized concierge can provide. For that, you can turn to suppliers of medevac insurance—companies that can arrange for care wherever you are and, if necessary, evacuate you to your home turf. Besides helping with medical emergencies, they can assist with evacuations in case of political instability or natural disasters. For more on these companies, see Getting Home Sick.” —Ed.

Kim Rosenlof welcomes comments and suggestions at krosenlof@bjtonline.com.

 

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