As luxury travelers increasingly expect on-demand personalized attention at all levels, the term "concierge" is no longer associated simply with that person in the lobby who can help with your bags and dinner reservations.
From virtual services to airlines and OTAs, a travel concierge is the latest rage in luxury, with companies around the world offering wealthy travelers access to VIP amenities and services. And agencies and travel companies are upping the ante to meet the demand.
Direct Travel, for instance, this year launched an invitation-only, private membership-based luxury service called Direct Travel Luxe for its top-tier customers. The division is overseen by Victoria Boomgarden.
"The new luxury is having travel designed to suit your every whim,” Boomgarden said. “There really is no concierge need that you could come to us with that we wouldn’t be able to provide.
Direct Travel Luxe says its services include access to coveted amenities at more than 1,500 properties around the world, including private villas and yachts. It also gives members access to elite-status perks with airlines; members-only cruise benefits such as complimentary shore excursions and private cocktail receptions; and a suite of personalized services such as luggage delivery, entree to private events and custom-tailored itineraries.
Specific examples include Grand Cru tastings at private chateaux during an insider's tour of Burgundy and Bordeaux, Nepal by private helicopter, a whisky lover's tour of Scotland aboard the Royal Scotsman and an opportunity to ride the Tour de France course in advance of the racers with an expert cycling guide. Luxe is also partnering with several invitation-only programs offered by hotel companies like Langham, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Belmond, and tour operators like Abercrombie and Kent.
Boomgarden said membership invitations are referral-based, and there is a fee to join, although the company won't disclose pricing.
The division joins a growing list of similar services. Some, like Pure Entertainment and Quintessentially, are membership-based, with annual rates that range from $12,000 into the tens of thousands. Others are free extras offered to top-paying customers.
Etihad, for instance, last year added a concierge service to help its high-end travelers when they are on the ground. The airline teamed with global concierge service provider Ten Group to aide “guests” traveling in the Residence by Etihad class, which offers the three-room suites on the forward upper-deck cabin of its Airbus A380 aircraft.
Another Middle East-based service is like an OTA for experiences. Dubai’s www.myconcierge.com offers access to what it calls the best of the United Arab Emirates, including retail outlets, spas, private yachts, underwater adventures and desert explorations.
The service, which is free of charge, is headed up by Ankur Bagga, previously the chief concierge of Atlantis The Palm Dubai.
“If something is not on the site, it doesn't mean that we can't arrange it: we have an 800-CONCIERGE number in the UAE and 24-hour international dial-in, as well as live chat on [the] site,” Bagga said. “We have relationships with almost every hotel in the UAE and are in direct touch with both mainstream and off-the-beaten track experience providers."