Robbie Smyth has been in the hotel guest relations business for 23 years. Now Chief Concierge and Guest Relations Manager at Powerscourt, he spent 13 years at Fitzpatrick’s Castle in Killiney before he moved to Wicklow.
He has that immediately likeable Irish personality that seems both open and generous but reliable and trustworthy at the same time. US guests, among others, love it and the welcome everyone receives is of the same five-star standard. Your visit begins at the front door, he explains. The moment you approach it your stay has begun and so you need to experience that immediately.
It’s a five-star check-in and, unless you’re seeking it, you’ll never be simply handed your key with directions to your room. Robbie and his team will engage with you and attempt to measure the kind of assistance you might require – sometimes even before you’ve realised it yourself, he says smiling.
Proposals have become a regular activity at the resort and Robbie spends many long telephone discussions with nervous boyfriends trying to plan the perfect surprise. They can be very straightforward or end up involving many members of the couple’s family in lots of secret spots around and within the hotel. He’s wary to share too much information for fear that his secrets might be revealed – it’s a really important moment in people’s lives, he says, and he feels very responsible to getting it right. Often people who propose at the hotel will come back for their wedding and it allows great friendships to strike up.
He wears his double Les Clefs D’or (the Golden Keys) with pride. They’re hard earned and a symbol that you are in proven hands. Les Clefs D’or is the organisation that upholds and represents the concierge network internationally. It’s a mark of quality and a recognition of skill. To earn the keys you must dedicate many years of training and service and once worn they allow you to rely on the help and assistance of the entire concierge network in fulfilling guest requests.
Bellboys and a full concierge service is becoming rare outside the five-star hotels. “A lot of four-stars are installing computers in the lobby,” he says, “offering tips on local sights, but it’s only where human interaction is involved that you can see the benefits – the problems solved, the table found in a booked-out restaurant, the small piece of local advice that can make a guest’s stay”. His enthusiasm and honest opinion of his role shines through and he reminds me again how happy the staff in Powerscourt appear to be.
“It’s genuine,” he says, “and guests pick up on that. I love weddings. Watching people arrive, meeting the bride and groom, having that small solution that makes the bride relieved and know she’s in safe hands. Everyone here feels like that. We’re a team, a family, it’s a great place to work and a wonderful place to be a guest.”