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Pearls of Wisdom: Hugo de Castro

By Emma Eversham , 13-Apr-2012
Last updated on 13-Apr-2012 at 10:14 GMT

Portuguese-born Hugo de Castro has worked in the hospitality industry for 40 years, 30 of which have been spent as concierge at the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa in St Helier. He has seen the hotel change hands four times, most recently in August 2011 when it was taken over by BDL Management.

I’ve worked in various roles in bars and restaurants and being a concierge is the best job in the world. We are the first contact for the guests, the first person they see when they come through the door so it's an important job.

To be a good concierge you have got to have the three ‘A’s’ – attitude, appearance and approach.

You might not be feeling good inside but you have got to get on with it. If you’re having a bad day, you go away, have a break for five minutes and come back smiling for the guests.

Nine out of 10 times when the customer is difficult and they have given you a hard time over something they’ll end up apologising to you because when they hear themselves they realise they are in the wrong. Whatever happens, I always just take it on the chin.

This job is what I’ve always wanted to do, being out there talking to people. I’ve never wanted to do an office job, I couldn’t sit there all day at a desk not talking to anyone.

Don’t put me in front of a computer screen. Computers don’t talk to people and that’s what I love to do. I make sure my concierges come out from behind the desk and are talking to the guests, not looking at a computer screen all day.

The Royals love the Grand – they come here a lot. It’s easy to see why they love it, we’re in the perfect location and this place has a lot of history.

I always say when someone comes here once they’ll always come here again and it’s important to us that we remember those people who do return. We have guests who will get the same room they had 30 or 40 years ago.

I’m very good with faces. I always remember guests. I might not remember their name, but I can remember what they do or what they did last time they were here.

I never understand people who complain on their last day of their holiday. Every day we will ask if they are ok and they say, ‘yes it’s fine’ then say they weren’t happy about the room as they check out. Why do they leave it to the last day? We could have changed the room if we’d known before.

We do get some unusual requests. A Russian ballerina requested she have pink toilet paper once, she wouldn’t have anything else, so I went out to the shop and bought enough for her three-week stay.

There is a lady who lives in South Africa who comes to stay with us every year who loves fish and aquariums. Every year she goes into town and buys a fish then brings it back to the hotel and asks me to look after it. She specifies that it must live in Evian water, so she leaves me some money to buy bottles of water and I look after little Freddie until she returns again.

A guest’s stay doesn’t end when they check out of the hotel. As they are leaving I will always ask them, ‘who’s going to be there when you get home?’ and ‘do you have some milk in the fridge for a cup of tea?’ It’s important that we take care of them right until they get home.