A hotel's concierge staff can help a person make his trip that much better, but its services are often underused and sometimes misused.
That is the opinion of Mr Kenneth Abisror, head concierge at the Mandarin Oriental, New York.
Concierges are a valuable resource, wherever a person is in the world, he noted, and there are several ways for guests to get the most out of what they can offer.
Mr Abisror offers his tips:
1 ASK THEM FOR ALMOST ANYTHING
Unsurprisingly, concierges can make reservations to, say, a Michelin- starred restaurant, secure theatre tickets and book tours, including unconventional types such as biking and heritage excursions.
But they can also help with tasks one may not expect, such as finding a real-estate agent in the city one is visiting (useful for Singaporeans eyeing property in, say, London), tracking down lost luggage, making a doctor's appointment and even chartering a plane.
"Basically, there's nothing we can't do unless it's unethical or illegal," Mr Abisror said.
2 REACH OUT BEFORE ARRIVING
Contacting the hotel concierge in advance of a stay has advantages.
For starters, when it comes to requests that are difficult to tackle, such as a reservation at a popular restaurant, asking the concierge for help a few weeks beforehand will increase the chances of success.
Also, establishing a relationship with one or two members of the concierge staff ahead of time will serve one throughout a stay.
A concierge can make sure a guest's room is ready for an early arrival and cater to any personal preferences, such as having a chilled bottle of a favourite champagne.
3 DO NOT ASK UNLESS YOU ARE SURE
Making a request that one is not fully committed to not only shows bad manners, but can also damage the concierge's reputation if one backs out at the last minute, Mr Abisror said.
The following is a situation he encountered: A guest asks for dinner reservations at a renowned restaurant, so the concierge leverages the professional relationship he has with the maitre d' to secure it. Then the guest says he has decided to stick to a reservation at another restaurant.
"Now, I have to cancel the table that I pushed hard to get you and risk burning a valued source," said Mr Abisror.
4 THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE 'BEST'
Guests commonly ask their concierge for "the best" but, in reality, there may be several that earn the distinction.
For instance, the best show might be the one that is sold out, the one with the most accolades or the one that features a star performer.
"The most important criteria in determining the best is what is best for your taste," he said.
"If you're asking the concierge for help, convey your wishes and trust they're giving you the optimal options."
Insider tips from concierges at six top Asian hotels
How many times have you strolled past the hotel concierge before whipping out your phone to track down a decent restaurant?
This is what you could be missing out on, with six concierges from Asia's top hotels giving an insider's view of what to do in the cities they know better than most.
JAKARTA CONCIERGE: MR M. BUYUNG SATRIA ROSA AT MANDARIN ORIENTAL JAKARTA
"I rate Seribu Rasa, which means a thousand flavours, highly. There's one outlet close to the hotel and five others in Jakarta. It's a great place for local flavours.
"I recommend the Flower City of Bandung as a day trip. It's two hours away and sits at 768m in the Parahyangan mountains. It has a very European feel, with good restaurants, art galleries and shops."
TOKYO CONCIERGE: MR KOJI NOTAKE, HEAD CONCIERGE AT THE CONRAD
"The Ginza neighbourhood is a great spot for early-morning exploring. Head downstairs to the basement depachika, a type of market-meets-food hall, where you can peruse an array of food counters selling everything.
"Tokyo takes the art of cocktail-making very seriously. For guests looking to experience the city's hidden bar scene, I'd suggest booking time with local gastronome Shinji Nohara, aka The Tokyo Fixer.
"It's not the cheapest tour, but he takes guests to tiny, introduction-only bars and restaurants. He's even shown (celebrity chef) Anthony Bourdain around town."
HONG KONG CONCIERGE: MR ECHO ZHU AT PENINSULA HOTEL
"For nightlife, my picks include Stockton and Foxglove.
"Stockton is a whisky bar in Central. It's a bit hidden and might be hard to find, but as soon as you enter, the vibe is electric.
"Foxglove, also in Central, is another 'secret' speakeasy-style haunt. Hidden behind the doors of an umbrella shop, it serves some of Hong Kong's classiest cocktails in a fabulous 1950s atmosphere."
MELBOURNE CONCIERGE: MR ALI SUNGKAR AT THE WINDSOR
"I often recommend Pellegrini's, a real Melbourne institution that serves fresh pasta and excellent coffee. For a late-night drink, head to Melbourne Supper Club across from Parliament House in Spring Street: lovely leather couches to sink into and cheese from on-site underground maturation caves.
"The Dandenong Ranges are a favourite with tourists, but the sculpture garden of William Ricketts Sanctuary is often missed. It's a tranquil place with mystical human sculptures peering out from over-sized ferns."
PHNOM PENH CONCIERGE: MR SOKHA SAING AT RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL
"I never hesitate suggesting our own Restaurant Le Royal as it's the exclusive home in Phnom Penh of royal cuisine, with recipes gifted to us by the Cambodian royal family.
"A good day trip is to Oudong, 37km north-west. It's a pity it's off the beaten track for most people because the pre-colonial capital is a jaw-dropping experience.
"And for an unusual way to see Phnom Penh by night, try Vespa Adventures, driver included and with regular stops for food and drinks."
MUMBAI CONCIERGE: MR SATISH GAIKWAD AT TAJ MAHAL PALACE
"I'd direct guests to Mumbai's few remaining Irani cafes, historic street-corner spots unique to the city, serving Parsi and Iranian food and traditional tea. For something different, visit the cow and animal shelter at Bombay Panjrapole or the communal laundry at Dobhi Ghat.
"Or follow a dabbawala - a lunch-box delivery man - to get an insight into how thousands of hot meals are delivered across the city in a few hours."
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'At your service'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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