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Miami Concierges Are Here to Serve You

Ed Ponder, Senior Chief Concierge at The National Hotel.

As a local, I rarely venture into hotels unless I’m having drinks or dinner with friends.  So when I attended China Grill Management’s annual concierge appreciation dinner  last month at The Sagamore, I thought about all the hard work behind-the-scenes that makes Miami Beach a world-class tourist destination.  Sure, I’ve relied on concierges when traveling abroad, but what about concierge service in my own backyard?  To be honest, there’s so much even locals don’t know about their own town and that’s where a good concierge comes in handy:  their job is to be in the know, down to the slightest detail.

At upscale hotels, a concierge can arrange just about anything, as long as it’s legal!  Babysitting to concert tickets to flower arrangements, club passes, shopping and massages – your wish is literally their command.  While it’s the nature of the industry for restaurants, clubs and businesses to offer incentives to concierges, the best ones will make guest needs and not their own pocket a priority.  And since the service is included in room rates, there’s no excuse to not take advantage of their expertise and local connections.

Find Help From Local Experts You Can Trust


Ed Ponder, Senior Chief Concierge at The National Hotel, encourages guests to take advantage of the service. And yet, as a veteran in the business, Ed has seen changes in the way guests relate to concierges. “In recent years, the most visible and perhaps troubling trend is all the information out there that isn’t always based on experience.”

Indeed, the vast quantity of information available on the internet and print media can’t replace a concierge’s up-to-date, pertinent and relevant knowledge, which is something every traveler should keep in mind.  While travel guides are useful for general background information, any article about a specific event or establishment becomes outdated the moment it’s published.  (As a writer, I know this all too well; every time I revisit a topic, I must fact check for correctness.)  Concierges must also keep up with change.  “At The National, we get out there and maintain a database of updated information.  We compare notes,” says Ed.  “Printed guides are not always 100% accurate.  You never know if it’s live or Memorex.”

Printed guides are surely useful for trip preparation, but why bypass the concierge once you’ve arrived at your destination?  On the spot, timely recommendations from concierges are invaluable.  “There’s no need to be less confident in the concierge.  We put a great deal of integrity, passion and knowledge in our work. Feel free to ask the hard questions.  Get specific.”

For a concierge, it’s all about being specific.  Most travelers tend to ask general questions but concierges steer them toward very specific wants and needs.  According to Ed, if it’s seafood you want, you’ll be asked many questions, including what kind, what style, what budget and even how loud the restaurant or how far you want to walk.

As Ed explains, it’s especially important to ask questions in Miami Beach because the scene is dynamic and always evolving.  “Things change by day and time of day.  What’s hot on Monday may not be hot on Wednesday.  Even locals call us for advice and we oblige as much as we can.”

Do Something Different on Your Vacation


Next door at The Sagamore, concierge Madeleine Kelly is also armed with a wealth of local knowledge.  “I try to individualize itineraries.  Relaxing on the beach or by the pool is great, but I encourage guests to do something unique that they wouldn’t normally do, such as private chef dinner aboard a yacht or a visit to Fairchild Tropical Gardens.”

Born in Sweden and a consummate world traveler, Madeleine has lived in all over the world, yet has called Miami Beach home for the last nine years.  “I’m totally in love with this place.  Sure, sometimes I get tired, but all I need is a couple of days away and I miss it.”  With this kind of love, it’s no surprise that Madelyn steers guests to experiences a little off the over-hyped celebrity path.  “Why go to Prime 112 over and over again when you know you’ll have a two hour wait?  Why not try the Grill at The Setai?”

Don’t Believe The Hype

Dee Amavi, an independent concierge liaison since 2001 based in Miami Beach, knows all too well the pull of celebrity hype; see and be seen is the motivation.  “Many people come to Miami Beach dead-set on going to a particular spot because they read about so-and-so in a magazine.  Unfortunately, this creates a high demand and a good concierge knows alternatives that are not as high profile and in some cases even better than the more famous restaurants and clubs.”

Dee couldn’t emphasize enough how much responsibility a concierge has in shaping a memorable vacation.  “It’s a magical thing,” Dee explains.  “Visitors are putting their vacations in their hands.  A good concierge is open-minded and takes risks, sometimes recommending places beyond the obvious choices.”

To help concierges keep up with the scene, Ingrid Schlichtmann, Maitre D’ and Concierge Coordinator at Tuscan Steak, maintains open communication.  “It’s important for a concierge to be very familiar with local restaurants in their effort to cater to guest needs, so we maintain a strong relationship with our concierges.  We support their needs by keeping them informed.”

Indeed, in the concierge business, information is key.  A concierge needs to eat, live, breathe and work the city beyond full-time hours to keep up with trends.  While locals and taxi drivers can also make excellent suggestions, concierges have the daunting task of having to please all the people all the time—something they do with great pleasure.

Related Categories: Miami: Travel News,

About the Author: Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith who loves to write about all things travel in Florida and the Caribbean. She is also the author of the award-winning blog Sex and the Beach.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles

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