Some would say grace and refinement are things of the past, but they are alive and well in this classroom. Twenty-one men and women sit posture- perfect, pens in hand, attentively, even obsessively attuned to Dr. Michel Langlois, hospitality expert and chairman of the International School of Tourism.
The students come from three continents but share one dream, the right to wear on their lapels the crossed golden keys. The symbol of the exclusive Order of International Concierges. The pin and diploma earned here will bestow on these students the opportunity to fulfill every legal desire of the upscale hotel guest.
"Serving people is not a second class job; it is an honor to serve, a privilege, and the challenge is not to be good -- it is to be exceptional. To be good is not enough!"
Some of these students already have good hotel jobs, but as you heard...good is not enough, so they've paid $6000 and come from as far as Brazil, Australia and France to perfect the art of service.
You don't need hotel experience to be chosen. Students have included a nurse, chocolate maker...factory worker, an insurance broker. But each applicant is carefully screened to make sure she or he has the right stuff.
But above all, all these students biting the ends of their pens and furrowing their brows on the first day of school, have a certain je ne sais quoi...an innate desire to make people happy, almost a prescience that tells them what people want before they ask for it. These men and women have a calling. So says Quebec native, Jocelyn Chevrier.
Heather Crosby from Calgary, Alberta goes one better.
But that birthright must be honed into absolute discretion, perfect etiquette, eternal patience and devotion to duty. This means a nine week internship after nine demanding weeks of wall-to-wall lectures on first aid, computer skills, hotel law, sightseeing, accounting, cross cultural differences, customs, immigration...all in service to one goal -- guest satisfaction.
Tell everybody? It's only the second day now, but the students look worried about their futures. Hours on the details of airline reservations, theatre tickets, limo service...and next month there will be visits to smart Montreal hotels. But first, each of these, what look like to be already superbly groomed candidates, must master the fine art of protocol... Shaking hands, table manners, thank-you notes -- and grooming -- cause, buster, you ain't going nowhere with lint on your jacket!
Grooming means the way you act, the way you wear, the way you put your make up, the way you put your hair. Let's see exactly what we are looking for someone. Who wants to be the volunteer?
Jocelyn Chevrier volunteers.
Some students don't react as well to tidying up their images. Anik Laplante, a former student, now on the staff, remembers some occasional unpleasant moments.
Such behavior is rare. Generally grateful to have their appearance and manners under control, the students will go on to learn the skills needed to satisfy even the most exotic guest requests:
Service like that is what helps make a luxurious hotel luxurious. And the world's deluxe hotels are eager to hire graduates of the International Concierge Institute. In fact the placement rate for new graduates is 87% and salaries start in the mid -twenties. A good concierge can make forty or fifty thousand a year, plus tips. Not that money is the primary reward for these future members of the prestigious association of golden keys. A job as a concierge satisfies that unfathomable desire, a desire perhaps deeply rooted in the DNA of a very few, to simply make someone happy.
For the International Concierge Institute in Montreal, I'm Judith Ritter for the Savvy Traveler.
For More Information:
Where's a school near you? Check out the International School of Tourism.
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