What’s A Hotel Concierge Actually Do? Secrets Of An Ex-Hotel Concierge

four seasons vegas concierge

I’m a former hotel concierge. This was back in the mid 2000s, before Google Maps and Waze and Yelp and every app that makes a hotel concierge irrelevant these days. So what does a hotel concierge actually do if there’s no use for them?

First, let me begin by saying being a hotel concierge is actually tough, and I can personally attest to this from personal experience. Before my first job in publishing (Business Traveler magazine), which led me to the world of travel writing, I worked as concierge at a trendy, busy boutique hotel in NYC. Let’s say it rhymes with “Noho Mouse.”

Friendly check-in at St Regis Bahia Beach

The odd number of requests and encounters with celebrities were insane (including Hugh Jackman, Charlize Theron, Victoria Beckham and Hilary Swank, to name a few) but actually recommending places in the city was stressful AF, especially in NYC. You had to know guests’ personal likes/dislikes, places that would blow them away and even get them reservations.

Secondly, there is use for them. It’s up to them to be “in the know” in terms of what exhibits are happening at the local museums, what are the hottest restaurants, how to score you tickets to sold out concerts, etc. So, ultimately, when you wonder what does a hotel concierge do, they act like your private VIP butler… but it’s not always the case. In fact, it depends on the hotel you’re staying at.

Obviously, with the Internet and review sites, it’s definitely easier now (this job at the hotel was back in the early 2000s), but concierge operated in a certain way.

Now, having visited the concierge desk at hundreds of hotels as a guest, I can honestly say: TIMES HAVE CHANGED! The biggest reflection is that concierge is becoming more and more obsolete, from what I’ve experienced, but concierge are also operating in a way that doesn’t reflect 2002.

Here are some truths about how hotel concierge operate now. If you’re looking to book a trip soon, definitely make sure you have the best luggage. We’ve used for years is Samsonite. It’s reliable, durable and affordable. Check out the new collection on Amazon.

What does a hotel concierge do? Here are their little secrets.

1. Concierge often have partnerships.

Graduate Roosevelt Island Hotel
Photo: Steve Freihon Photography

Hotel concierge may be less common these days, but whether it’s 2005 or 2023, there’s one thing for sure: Many hotel concierges have partnerships with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, car services and other attractions. Sometimes they get a kick back for referrals/reservations, so their recommendations may not be the most genuine.

For instance, if you ask for a reservation at a romantic restaurant, they’ll obviously recommend one where they have a great relationship with the owner or manager, even if it’s not the most romantic or if they have never visited themselves.

Clearly, this is NOT always the case, but as a former hotel concierge, we did have “relationships” with nearby businesses. Remember: These relationships are what get you those seats at that concert or squeeze you in a table at that popular restaurant.

2. The infamous Xeroxed guide… and why it works.

Aurora Anguilla
Aurora Anguilla, credit: Darren Ornitz

How many times have you gone to the concierge at your hotel for recommendations and they hand you a Xeroxed sheet of paper with all the popular businesses? Sure, in smaller cities, it may be legit because you’ll only have few options, but this method is so much easier for concierge when they’re getting the same questions asked dozens of times a day by dozens of hotel guests.

So, what does a hotel concierge actually do? They’re supposed to give you recommendations when you ask for them. In most cases, it’s easier just to print out 100s of copies of popular attractions, restaurants, etc as a “guide” of sorts, especially in bigger hotels (300+ rooms). Nowadays, more luxury or independent hotels have merged front desk as concierge, so it’s their duty to have “in the know” knowledge of what’s hot in the city you’re traveling to.


At the end of the day, it’s the concierge’s job to get you answers, so if you get a Xeroxed guide, asking specific questions will likely help them help you — even if it means they bring another staff member involved. Some times, hotel concierge may not know anything at all (see #3).

3. Concierge have not personally been to every place they recommend — so should you even bother asking them?

Domino Park water fountain
Domino Park water fountain

Concierge work a lot and, depending on the hotel, they don’t have the time of day and extra cash to splurge at expensive restaurants, visit notable attractions, try out the wines at a busy wine bar, etc. Therefore, their recommendations may be based on what they read about the places.

If concierge recommends a place based on how wonderful it is to everyone else, it may not give you the extra inside scoop you’d been hoping for considering they have not been to these places themselves.

A concierge in Miami once recommended an “authentic taco joint.” When I went, I discovered it was a hipster spot with Keisha playing in the background. The tacos were not authentic, and it was clear as day the concierge had never been but, rather, sent me somewhere that was known to be fun.

But remember, it really depends on the hotel. Five-star hotel concierge will most likely have been to the top places.

4. Tip the concierge, and they’ll actually get the job done.

Shangri-La Covid coverage
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

Most travelers don’t realize concierge get tipped, like doormen and room service. Any form of gratuity in hospitality is appreciated, and it’s certainly understood if the concierge bends over backwards with a request. As a former hotel concierge, I can tell you that a hotel concierge will go above and beyond for whatever you need — especially since they literally stand behind a desk all day. They want to move about!

If you tip concierge during your conversation or from the get-go, you can bet you won’t have problems 1, 2 or 3. Also, you don’t have to always tip with cash. Gift cards are GREAT. I loved it when a hotel guest gave me a gift card or a bottle of wine as a token of appreciation.

I remember, when I worked as concierge, model and actress Amber Valletta tipped me $20 when I let her use the computer to check her email (she didn’t bring her laptop and we didn’t have a business center). Even though I treated all guests equally, her tip inspired me to look out for her even more as it implied she was also looking out for me. It’s how hospitality works, so… TIP!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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