Back of House with Rosewood Hotel's Cultural Concierge
Known as “Asia’s World City,” Hong Kong has long been a hub of international business, refined art and delectable dining. But, there’s so much more than what’s beneath the surface; and that’s where your cultural concierge comes in.
On a recent stopover in Hong Kong en route for 10 days in Vietnam, we found ourselves with exactly 24-hours to soak up the fervor of this dynamic city. And truth be told, we had absolutely no plan for how we’d execute it; with only a few Instagram bookmarks on hand (hello, rainbow basketball court!), we checked in with the Rosewood Hong Kong concierge for suggestions on what to do with just a day on the ground. To our delight, Lotus was on the other side of the desk. With an ear-to-ear smile, she soaked up our disjointed desires to see the views from Victoria Peak, snap a picture or two at Choi Hung Estate and wrap the afternoon with dim sum, followed by a taste the best egg tart around.
While the nature of a concierge desk is to help facilitate time-sensitive requests, Lotus’ response to our inquiry went above and beyond connecting us to a local tour operator who could show us around. Instead, she checked her calendar to confirm she didn’t have any more clients on deck until the late afternoon and then insisted we meet her back in the lobby in 30-minutes. Half an hour later, she had changed out of her chic blazer and into comfortable walking shoes which should have been indication alone of the adventure our trio was in store for with her as our hands-on guide.
In the matter of just four hours, Lotus had us on a ferry, in a taxi, riding the subway, walking the winding streets and back to the hotel in an Uber…all before afternoon tea. She had discerned exactly the jam-packed itinerary we desired from just a few jumbled sentences about wanting a local experience, creating a magical whir of activity perfectly suited to our limited time frame. As a local who was born and raised in Hong Kong, she has an inherent understanding of this complex city’s heartbeat, an energy which she brings with her on every client outing. And with what’s been a challenging political climate in recent months, it’s never felt more important to be exploring Hong Kong with someone that knows it with their eyes closed.
To get a better understanding of how this unique role came to be, we checked in with Rosewood Hong Kong’s Managing Director, Marc Brugger.
What was the inspiration behind creating the first ever position of “Cultural Concierge” for Rosewood Hotel Group at the flagship property for the brand?
Marc Brugger: Our ‘Sense of Place’ philosophy drives everything that we do at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. Hong Kong is such an iconic city, so having a local expert on the team who could unearth those hidden corners – the tailor that no one knows, the best noodle bar in the middle of Kowloon, the singing parlours and so on – which are so unique to Hong Kong was the vision when creating this role. It was about being able to truly embrace our ‘Sense of Place’ not only in the property but by educating our team, through Lotus, and ultimately delivering a truly unique guest experience.
Tell us more about how you connected with Lotus and knew she was the perfect fit for this role?
MB: Waldo Hernandez, Chief Concierge, and I explored Hong Kong and experienced many different tours. After much persistence, we experienced a tour with Lotus who was a freelancer, and knew immediately that Lotus was the person we were looking for. Lotus’ connection and relationship to her home city was so evident, she knows things only a local could know and, having worked in hotels, understood the personalized service we wanted to deliver.
How do you feel this unique approach of Lotus actually hosting guests personally (versus outsourcing) enhances clients’ experience both on and off property?
Lotus does not have a standard tour that she delivers, every single journey is curated based on what the guests wants to taste, smell, listen or see in Hong Kong…
MB: It is amazing how many comments and notes I receive from guests who are just blown away by Lotus and the personalized journeys they experience. During pre-opening we used local third parties, some of which are very good, to learn about the city and teach the team the true meaning of Hong Kong. But what we found was that it lacked that personal touch, that individual creativity to tailor a journey to particular guests preferences, such as culinary, sightseeing, shopping, history, art, museums and so on. Lotus does not have a standard tour that she delivers, every single journey is curated based on what the guests wants to taste, smell, listen or see in Hong Kong. It’s as if a member of your family visits the city and you take them out, the day is theirs, whatever they want to do or see, you make the magic happen and that is what is so truly unique.
Naturally, to get a better understanding of Lotus’ creative approach to her concierge role, we asked her a bit more on how she got where she is today.
You were born and raised in Hong Kong and it’s easy to say that your love for “Asia’s World City” shines through from the moment guests meets you. How do describe your city to someone who has never been?
Lotus Leung: For someone who has never been to Hong Kong, I would describe Hong Kong as a defiant city of people and possibilities. Hong Kong is a vibrant city full of color, culture and energy. The city of Hong Kong embodies a wealth of exploration and experiences, and that’s where I come in.
With so much to see and often a limited time to do it, how do you match activities with different guests’ personalities?
I am flexible, adaptable and with no itinerary or schedule.
LL: The way I match guests’ personalities with activities is by simply asking “what would you like to see and experience?” The great thing about being with me is that I am flexible, adaptable and with no itinerary or schedule. I accompany my guest by feeling what they feel and by treating them how I would want to be treated.
How do you balance guests’ having their iconic ‘touristy’ moments with the more authentic ways of discovering the city?
LL: If a guest wants to go to the more “touristy place,” that’s fine with me! I have authentic, unique, and historical facts about every popular spot in Hong Kong. I also keep a list of special local places near each destination that will give my guests a true sense of Hong Kong. For instance, if they want egg tarts, we aren’t going to go to the overrated places that show up on so many blogs. I take my guests to the obscure bakery on the corner that I’ve been going to since I was a child.
Tell us about the most original experience you’ve helped orchestrate for clients lately.
LL: One of the most unique and memorable experiences that I recently had was with a honeymoon couple from New York that booked a 3-hour cultural tour. Within our short time together we shared stories, laughter and many experiences. They inquired about the famous graffiti murals throughout Hong Kong and sheepishly asked if I would clear the rest of my day and extend the tour. Not only did I spend the remainder of the day with them, but the following day was dedicated to them, with me. I guess you could say it was a honeymoon to remember!
There’s no shortage of dim sum and Peking duck in town (which we love!), but what are some of the more inventive culinary experiences being offered in the city right now?
The best culinary experience being offered in the city right now are the “nearly extinct foods.” This is one of my most popular tours. This includes golden coin chicken, stinky tofu and oil noodles, just to name a few.
What’s going to be the most exciting change on the horizon for Hong Kong going into 2020?
The most exciting change in Hong Kong for 2020 will be the renaissance of art in Kowloon. The Hong Kong Museum of Art, next to Rosewood, will debut in time for 2020, as well as the M+ Museum of visual culture in Hong Kong, set to open early 2020.
We saw (thanks to Instagram!) that you just got back from personal travels to New York and Iceland. Does discovering new places help you stay inspired to rediscover your own city?
When I travel, it’s all about feeling. The feelings that I experience I bring back to Hong Kong, this allows me to be open and connect with my guests. To travel is to feel and to be able to share this with my guests is why I do what I do.
Planning your stay at Rosewood Hong Kong? Chat with your SmartFlyer travel advisor about setting aside some time with Lotus.