Valet Service in Hotels: Does Anyone Really Care?

They aren’t Man Fridays. Not your average Jeeves either; but they’re pretty darned close. The rise of the butler is imminent in the hospitality industry, what with top guns from business world increasingly opting for the butler service on their hotel stays. Naturally, a large number of hotels, to cater to this demand and give their most important guests a spot of royal treatment, have started introducing the service across their outlets. Especially appealing to executives who spend most of their days in an empty hotel room, staring blankly into a TV screen, having meals all by themselves, the butler service is all about providing a home-away-from-home experience.

The most attractive aspect of having a personal butler is that it is centred on personalised service, based on a database of guest preferences; something that a seasoned biz traveller doesn’t mind spending an extra buck on. “Butlers act as a single point of contact for guests, taking ownership of any problems and removing stress from the guest experience,” Jennifer Buhr, General Manager, Le Meridien, Chennai, said, “The butler service was popularised in Europe and the Middle East; India is now following suit. It is one of the request services in hotels and the demand for it is on the rise.” Luxury hotels aside, the valet service is also very popular in resorts. SM Azmat, Sr Jt President Sales and Marketing, Jaypee Hotels, explained, “Our properties Jaypee Greens Golf and Spa Resort and Jaypee Greens, Greater Noida offer the facility in the Premier Suites. In fact, on average, the butler service is availed at least five times a month, with the number all set to grow.” Of the number in luxury hotels, Buhr revealed, “Many of our long-duration and VIP guests have a soft spot for this facility. I’d say, on average, 50 percent of our guests opt for it.”

The valet facility is, these days, counted as one of the leading loyalty programme incentives and is made available to guests who check into the luxury or premium rooms. Sudipta Sarkhel, Resident Manager of Chrome Hotel, explained, “The butler service usually comes as an added facility with a certain rate or category of room (especially Club Floors and Suites), and hence is not charged separately.” In some hotels like Svenska Design Hotels, Supriyo Dhali, General Manager, revealed that the butler service is available to all guests. “At our end, we incur expenses while trying to hire and retain quality associates and spend a lot of time, effort and expense in training and sensitising them. None of these costs are passed on to our guests,” he said.

Apart from attracting new guests, the development of valet-customer relationships often encourages repeat visits. Zubin S Songadwala, GM, ITC Sonar, Kolkata, said, “It is the responsibility of the butler to note the personal preferences and choices of the guest, and add this to the Guest History so that repeat stays are even more hassle-free.”

And what are the perks of having your own valet? “Butlers do not only deliver services but a whole experience to the guests. They are always at hand to provide information and assistance,” Sudipta said, while, Buhr explained, “VIP guests prefer to have one person attend to them throughout their stay, rather than having a multitude of people assist them.”

For the guest itself, it all boils down to ultimate pampering. Khushi Soni, Director, Org Soundstation, said, “I think it’s an amazing luxury that one should avail of if one can afford it. It takes your hotel stay to a different level altogether. I often choose my hotel stay based on my previous interactions with butlers.” Asvin Simon, Director, Bangs Fired Chicken, said, “In addition to doing their job well, good butlers are flexible, accommodating, friendly, loyal and importantly, very discreet.”

But don’t they feel it is a hindrance to have someone hovering about them all the time? “It depends on the compatibility with the butler,” said Simon, while Vince M Jose, Director, Plus Business Machines Ltd, revealed that the one time he opted for the valet service, he felt rather uncomfortable. “I felt almost guilty to have someone on standby all the time. I tried to make conversation with him to dissolve the discomfort- but he was clearly there only to do his job. It was a cringe-worthy experience.” Soni, added, “It could be a hindrance but not if the butlers are well-trained enough to anticipate when guests want their space and when they need company.”

Whichever way, this facility looks poised to take over the hotel experience of business travellers. Dhali said, “Post introducing the butler services in our hotel, word has spread and the competition has started taking notice. Several other brands have now implemented similar processes in their operations.” Songadwala concluded, “In the ever-progressive scenario, people are more time-bound than ever and the luxury of the butler service helps in time management and also ensures comfort. Soon, it will become an invaluable part of any business stay.”

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