Riyas Kallan, a Concierge at London luxury hotel, The Marylebone, has been selected by his peers to receive the prestigious Andre Damonte award 2015 as the UK’s best Concierge. The Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain and the Commonwealth was founded in London in 1952, and selects one outstanding individual to receive this annual award. Riyas will now go on to represent the UK at international level, as he competes to win the title of best Concierge in the world in the Andy Pongco competition at the 63rd UICH Les Clefs d’Or International Congress held in Dubai, UAE in April 2016.
Riyas began his career as after graduating in Travel and Tourism Management and completing an MBA in London. He joined the concierge team at The Marylebone, part of Irish family-owned hotel group The Doyle Collection, two years ago and is their Assistant Head Concierge. It is there that his career enhancing the experience of guests in this luxury hotel took off, supported by training by the company. He cites his colleagues at The Marylebone, Head Concierge Rahim Ismail and General Manager Garreth Walsh and The Doyle Collection’s CEO Pat King as mentors, and Simon Thomas and Antony Lynch, Head Concierges at The Lanesborough and The Hilton Kensington respectively, as his sponsors and champions throughout the process.
Officially registered as Les Clefs d’Or Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels, but more commonly known as ‘Les Clefs d’Or’, this international network of professional hotel Concierges has a unique mystery and prestige. The aim of the organisation is to continually grow and improve the way international travellers and tourists are assisted and guided by hotel Concierges. It operates by promoting and supporting the sharing of expert destination inside information and intelligence through a network of friendships and relationships made through the organisation. Members are identifiable by their signature gold crossed keys badges, and the organisation has a strict admission policy that requires applicants to complete a rigorous assessment of their communications skills, local knowledge and management before entry is granted. There are almost 4000 holders of the Golden Keys working in hotels across the world.
“Getting your keys” is a hugely prestigious moment in the life of a Concierge, and being chosen as the best amongst Concierges in the UK by his peers is a huge honour for Riyas. “’To win this award is incredible. I have the utmost respect for my peers in Les Clefs d’Or and to be recognised by them for my contribution to the industry is the most wonderful feeling. I also have a great sense of responsibility now in representing them at an international level. The UK award is named after Andre Damonte, and I’m a massive advocate of his belief that we need to keep our profession alive, healthy and progressive, and encourage today’s young Concierges to become tomorrow’s elite. I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to compete in Dubai, as my mum lives there. She’s been calling and texting everyone she knows and is like my UAE publicist! I think I’ll have a great crowd of supporters!”
As part of his work with Les Clefs d’Or, Riyas is organising an educational day for all London Concierges in January. He is also active in the charity efforts of The Doyle collection, and is the first point of contact for any charity initiative undertaken by The Marylebone. I am currently an ambassador for Sangeetha of the UK, which supports children with special needs to provide them with recreation, physical and emotional support. The charity is based in Trivandrum, India, which is where my family is from, so it is an organisation very close to my heart.
Riyas also recognises the challenges faced by the profession in the age of search engines and travel apps, but feels that a great Concierge will always have an edge over technology: “I know my guests, and so can anticipate their wants and needs in a way that the internet can not. An online review or restaurant website might be able to give you an idea of the cuisine and style, but it can’t tell you that the Executive Chef has just moved on, or that they have just changed their wine list, or what the best table is at a restaurant and how to get you said table when the restaurant is seemingly booked out on a Saturday night. We have access to contacts and insider knowledge to provide a unique service for our guests. I know Marylebone, its people and its quirks like the back of my hand, and I love to be able to offer this insider knowledge and surprise guests with options that they would never have even thought of.”
General Manager of The Marylebone, Garreth Walsh, says that the team is fully behind Riyas on his journey to the world finals in April. “The Doyle Collection is known for offering guests a “Slice of the City” thanks to our expert knowledge of our locality, and we are very proud that Riyas will be carrying this message with him to the finals in Dubai. This award is testament to the exceptional service that Riyas provides, his excellent character and communication, and the time and dedication that he puts into maintaining his incredible bank of knowledge to allow him to go the extra mile for his guests. Everyone at The Marylebone and The Doyle Collection is immensely proud of his achievements.”
You can get top tips for London attractions and events, as well as Riyas’ recommendations of the hidden gems of Marylebone, by following him on Twitter and Instagram @RiyasConcierge. Get more of The Doyle Collection’s local knowledge from their luxury and urban hotels in London, Dublin, Bristol and Washington DC by searching #sliceofthecity on social media.