How to be a local ambassador at the front desk

Gone are the days of the heavily scripted hotel check-in. Many travelers today want to start a new journey once they reach their destination, and genuine, natural engagement with the front desk and concierge are places for guests to become acquainted with a local area.

“[Red Lion] doesn’t think the front desk should be a place where people just check in and check out,” said Zachary Lipton, assistant front-desk manager at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash. 

Lipton works with front-desk agents, training them to act as a concierge in a property without one, and that means knowing locations to recommend.

Lipton began his career at Red Lion as a driver for the hotel’s shuttle to downtown Spokane, giving him a glimpse into where travelers want to be once they arrive in the city. “Authenticity is a big part of recommending activities and locations,” Lipton said. “If you know not just where other guests want to go, but where you would want to go, it rings more true.”

When he first started as front-desk manager, Lipton noted front-desk agents recommending the same places over and over, and when he inquired why these places were being promoted he found that these agents had not even been there. “They had heard it from someone else. It was all hearsay,” Lipton said.

Since then, the hotel has sponsored frequent trips to local restaurants and shops so staff can be better acquainted with the area and support local businesses. 

InterContinental Hotels Group’s Hotel Indigo brand is also fond of this practice, taking employees to local businesses to sample food and offerings.

“We create a strong partnership in knowing each other and each other’s products,” said Barbara Kulwiec, GM of the Hotel Indigo Asheville, N.C. “It benefits everyone.”

Kulwiec’s property is well known for its frequent employee outings and training. Above all, knowledge of surroundings is vital. 

“If anything changes in the community, we have to know and note it,” she said. “Communication is essential for success. When a restaurant goes through renovations or closes, we have to know as soon as it happens. Updating once a month or every other month won’t work; doing that, you will give guests the wrong information sooner or later."