‘I just love it, it’s a lovely place to work,’ says ‘Burlo’ concierge
For head concierge of the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, a typical day’s work for Paul Fitzsimons might involve sourcing emergency cufflinks or organising a private shopping experience
For head concierge Paul Fitzsimons, working in the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road (the “Burlo”) has always been a family affair. He started working in the Burlington Hotel 20 years ago, aged 18. Now rebranded as the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, it’s the place where his mother and father met.
“My father worked in the restaurant - and he’s still here today, 40 years later, as maitre D. My mother worked in accommodation until a few years after I was born. They weren’t the only ones; when I started in May 1996, two of my aunties, an uncle, his wife and a couple of my cousins all worked here as well. My brother also worked as a concierge for a few years not too long ago.”
Lots of employers like to talk about how their staff is one big happy family. In Fitzsimons’ experience, it rang true: “When I joined staff would always be asking you; ‘Who are you related to?”
He started out doing summer work as a hall porter and loved it so much that he stayed, working his way up to concierge, a key figure on the staff of any hotel. “We’re the face of a hotel, the person who meets and greets you, who makes you feel welcome when you get here and who can help you out with any queries or requests you have during your stay,” he says.
He is one of only 44 Irish members of Les Clefs d’Or, the prestigious international association of hotel concierges. Fitzsimons is the organisation’s current president. The time he spends working at the hotel is only half the job, given that so much of his free time is spent keeping abreast of changes and developments in the city, visiting new shops and restaurants and winkling out hidden tourist gems, in order to pass that information on to his guests.
“At Les Clefs d’Or we meet every month to hear presentations from new restaurants or tourism service providers, but a lot of what we do is about networking. It means that we are in a good position to get tables in restaurants for guests that they might not otherwise be able to get, for example,” he says.
A typical day’s work as a concierge in Clayton Burlington Road might involve anything from sourcing emergency cufflinks to organising a private shopping experience. “Last week I had a travel agent call me to say they are bringing 30 people to the hotel and wanted me to organise an itinerary for them, from airport pick up to departure.” He lined up and booked a range of excursions, from restaurant visits to tours of Dublin, Wicklow and the Cliffs of Moher, before organising their transport back to the airport. “We have direct contacts with all the tour companies and we know what’s popular.”
An avowed history buff, he has a particular interest in Dublin’s lesser known heritage sites, providing him with a wealth of sightseeing recommendations he can share with guests. Personal favourites of his include the last vestiges of Dublin’s medieval walls at St Audoen’s Gate, the 18th century Marsh’s Library – still open to the public and used for its original purpose - and the Iveagh Gardens, tucked away behind the National Concert Hall. They are the kind of insider tips that are worth their weight in bragging rights for tourists, and the stock in trade of a professional concierge.
“For business travellers the kind of requests we’d deal with are more about sorting out tables in restaurants, organising transport and meeting rooms – we have 21 meeting rooms here in the hotel, and one of the biggest conference venues in the city.”
Though the hotel’s owners, and indeed its name, has changed over the years, the heart of the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road remains the same, he says.
It’s a lovely place to work. We are all one big happy family
“I’ve had guests come back recently who hadn’t visited in years and they said it’s great to be back in the Burlo. There is that great sense of familiarity - we’re on first name terms with many of our guests and part of being a good concierge is having a facility for names. One woman who comes here for a conference each January asked me how is it that I always remember her name, when she’s only here once a year? But that’s what we do. We had a guest in for a motoring event recently from down the country and he hadn’t been with us for years. He was delighted to be greeted by name at the door. People like to be acknowledged, and when you feel welcome somewhere, when you’re met at the door with a smile, it sets the tone for your stay.”
Also part of what keeps guests coming back to the Burlo is its location. “It’s ideal because we’re not in the bustle of the city centre. The walk down Leeson Street, through Stephen’s Green to Grafton Street is the nicest walk in the city.”
Now heading into his third decade at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, despite being only 38, it’s a position he would find hard to relinquish. “I just love it. It’s a lovely place to work. Although there are not many relatives working together today, you can still say that we are all one big happy family.”
Book your next break at Clayton Burlington Road from €119 per room per night including breakfast. Call 01 618 5600 or visit claytonhotelburlingtonroad.com