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From concierge to Superman: perceptions of the contemporary hotel concierge in Edinburgh

Mhairi Sumner (Department of Business, Enterprise and Management, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, Musselburgh, UK)
Bernie Quinn (Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, Musselburgh, UK)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this study is ascertain if the hotel concierge service will continue to be relevant in a technological world where consumers have increasing access to information about their destination. To trace the origins of the hotel concierge, their route into the profession and establish whether the profession is geographically localised. Their role within the hotel, working philosophy, core values and characteristics were considered in relation to creating and delivering an experiential service encounter.


Eleven participants were selected who worked on the concierge desk in four- and five-star hotels in Edinburgh. All were male, aged between 20 and 64 years old; nine were Scottish, six of whom were from Edinburgh, one from Wales and one from England. Six respondents were members of The Golden Keys Society. A qualitative approach was adopted with semi-structured interviews designed around key themes identified in the literature review.


No feelings of servility or inferiority were documented in the host/guest relationship. Comparisons were made between the contextual setting and the appearance and manner of the respondents with that of a “performance”. The uniform was deemed to facilitate feelings of empowerment analogous to having superpowers. Technology has been adopted by the concierge department as a tool, but is considered to be ancillary to their personal recommendation and network of business and personal contacts and collaborators.

Research limitations/implications

Changes in the demographics of people travelling and discounted rates being offered in four- and five-star hotels has resulted in general perceptions of a less elite clientele. This may have implications for the future of concierge services.

Practical implications

The internet seems to have opened up this profession to enable concierges to effectively operate in a location they are not indigenous to. The personal recommendations that the concierge provides through their own knowledge are used in conjunction with technology, but are not in imminent danger of being replaced by it. It may prove beneficial for the hotel to provide some training for older members of staff to keep up with technological developments. This study could prove useful to service providers who aim to gain competitive advantage by elevating their level of guest service to exceed guest expectations through emulating the personalised service that the concierge can offer.

Social implications

The socio-cultural issues within this study are important. Internet technology is generally perceived to be the panacea of all contemporary communication ills in the twenty-first century. The authors however propose that the concierge is the last bastion of front-line service personnel who are still approached for their individual, sometimes unique, knowledge that cannot be found online.


This study contributes to an area of interest that lacks contemporary research due to the natural gatekeeping that occurs within this “closed” environment.



Sumner, M. and Quinn, B. (2017), "From concierge to Superman: perceptions of the contemporary hotel concierge in Edinburgh", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 243-254.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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