Thusitha Holds The Keys

It’s rare for a hotel guest to make it past Mövenpick Hotel Colombo’s lobby without being greeted by Chief Concierge Thusitha’s Liyanage’s infectious smile. His wealth of experience and in depth knowledge was recently recognised with a coveted Les Clefs d’Or membership.

Chief Concierge extraordinaire, Mr Thusitha Liyanage is a recipient of the coveted Les Clefs d’Or membership

What is the Les Clefs d’Or, and what does its acceptance mean to you?

Les Clefs d’Or is an elite organization of professional concierges around the world. Concierges everywhere aspire to belong to this exclusive circle because it is the ultimate symbol of superior quality service. For me, it’s a personal victory and recognition of my dedication to provide a top-level service to my guests. Considering how restrictive they are, I’m proud to be one of only 9 Les Clef d’Or members in Sri Lanka.

How will this add value to your current role as Chief Concierge at Mövenpick Hotel?

Being a member of Les Clef d’Or means having access to a network of concierges from all over the world and their wealth of knowledge and information. It gives me clout to serve my guests better by tapping into the influence of my network. For an example, I could educate myself on an incoming guest and know intricate details to serve them better even before the guest lands in Sri Lanka. Similarly, I could arrange an express check-in at a hotel in Europe for an outgoing guest with perfect ease.

In your opinion, how has the guest experience evolved over the past few years? Has your service style transformed as well?

The guest experience has certainly changed, demanding a wider experience, as well as increased convenience, speed and accuracy. This requires service staff to be more informed, agile and technology savvy. With more hotels competing to provide the best service, we are compelled to be more creative with our offerings and value-added services.

How has technology impacted your role?

Technology has been our greatest ally during these changing times. Check-in and check-out processes have become speedier, no longer requiring any form filling as the guest details can be pulled directly from the reservation. Storing of guest information aids us in knowing our clients better: their brand preferences, food allergies, special requests, etc, can be at our fingertips with the touch of a button. This is even more important when serving repeat guests.

In order to provide the best-informed service, how do you keep up-to-date with happenings in the city?

Once again, technology is my friend here. I follow a number of websites and social media platforms to keep tab of events around the city, and rely on my local network of concierges from the Concierges Association of Sri Lanka. We often share any knowledge of events and happenings with each other.

Do you believe that Sri Lanka has a unique brand of hospitality?

Yes, Sri Lanka does differentiate from other countries in the way we provide service; in my opinion, it’s the people that make the difference. Sri Lankans exude warmth and offer genuine smiles, which are somehow different to the well-practised smiles and trained service styles found elsewhere.

What is being done to raise the bar for service standards in Sri Lanka?

We have identified gaps in training for a career in guest service. The Concierges Association of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the 9 local members of Les Clefs d’Or, are planning to launch a programme for aspiring concierges, which will educate and inspire better service personnel.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

Meeting people from different countries and hearing their stories is something I never tire of. I speak to over 100 people every single day and each one is unique. There are occasional challenges, but dealing with guests is mostly a rewarding experience.

We hear that concierges often receive the most bizarre requests. Any such moments that stand out during your years in the service?

My most memorable moment would have to be a high-speed airport chase to retrieve a bag containing an important business document that was mistakenly taken by another guest. The bag was already checked in and sent to the aircraft, but I managed to speak to the airline and arrange a swap with the correct bag.

What is your advice to those aspiring towards a career in guest service?

To always strive to receive practical experience. A good service person must overcome any inhibitions or shyness and learn to build rapport with guests. This becomes easier with practice, so get out there and move with guests as much as you can.

Les Clefs d’Or

  • Translated as The Golden Keys
  • Founded on the pillars of service and friendship
  • Officially founded in 1952, but roots trace back to 1929
  • Approximately 4000 members in over 80 countries
  • Over 100 million guests served every year

Career Profile

  • Years of Experience: 21
  • Start of career: Cashier Clerk at Pegasus Reef Hotel, Wattala (1997)
  • Other Positions: Bell Boy, Bell Captain, Butler, Concierge
  • Local experience: Pegasus Reef Hotel (1997-2000), Hilton Colombo (2003-2007), The Kingsbury Hotel (2015-2016), Mövenpick Hotel (2016 to Present)
  • International experience: Le Meridian Dubai (2000-2003), Four Points by Sheraton Dubai (2007-2015)
  • Career Highlights:  Member of Les Clef d’Or in 2018, chosen to be featured on the Sheraton Worldwide Calendar 2014, Best Smile at Hilton 2005
  • Career pathway: Next step is to become a duty manager and move up to a front office manager

 

 

Hospitality Insider Issue 4