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Concierge Chat

Louis Baleros, InterContinental Hong Kong

Louis Baleros was following in his family’s footsteps when he ascended to the position of Chief Concierge at the InterContinental Hong Kong. He talks about continuing the Baleros tradition and unveils interesting stories from behind the concierge counter. 
CityLife:  So we hear you come from a line of concierges…
Louis: Yes indeed.  I began my career at The Peninsula as receptionist.  My father was then the reception manager, my brother the reservation supervisor, and my uncle the night manager. I have another brother who also worked at reception and a cousin who was information supervisor.  
CL:  How did you move to concierge from there?
Louis:  There were no concierges in Hong Kong back then, not until The Regent Hong Kong (now InterContinental Hong Kong) opened and started the concierge department. The Peninsula then decided to merge the mail and information counters to create the concierge position.  I worked at the concierge department as a supervisor for five years. I also gained experience as Chief Concierge at Ritz Carlton and the Conrad before joining InterContinental as Chief Concierge in 1995.
CL: What changes have you seen through the years?
Louis:  These days, I’ve observed that visitors are looking more and more for genuine local experiences. ‘Traditional tourists’ are being replaced by adventurous ones who want to do what the locals do… We are proud to call our team the “InterContinental Concierge” because that means we’re always sharing “In the Know” Hong Kong experiences. I’ve made a habit of exploring the city to find new trendy venues or local hidden spots for our guests.
CL:  Have you received any eccentric or unusual requests so far?
Louis:  We once had an American visitor who had a horse ranch in Texas. He was so impressed by the use of bamboo on the city’s construction sites that he asked us to help him find the source of bamboo so he could fence his ranch back home!  We made arrangements to select the right bamboo sizes and had the whole batch shipped back to the States. I would never have done such a crazy thing for myself [laughs], but when I did it, I felt completely satisfied with my job.
I remembered another interesting request was about a couple decided to be wed during Hong Kong’s handover in 1997. They want to be the first foreign national with a marriage license issued by the HKSAR government.  We were able to arrange this couple to get married on the first business day following the July 1st holiday.  There were a lot of paper work to do, but I was still very happy to serve as their Best Man!
I think one of my greatest challenges came from a VIP guest requesting a private after-hours shopping spree at the city’s popular electronic stores on the evening of Lunar New Year’s Eve.  It was indeed difficult because that is one of the most important day for traditional local people to get off work and close their shops early for family gatherings and to prepare for Lunar New Year. I had to persuade the shops to stay open overnight for this guest.  There were a lot of negotiations being made for this and we felt great that we could fulfill his needs.

One local food all first-time guests should have:

Pineapple bun with butter and yuanyang (milk tea with coffee).

A “Hidden Gem” that guests must see or do in Hong Kong:

One-stop factory-made optical shops. Those upstairs factory shops offers more quality frame selections and costs much cheaper than optical shops on the street-level.

Things to do in Hong Kong in 2 days:

Day 1 Explore the city’s local side: a tour of Mong Kok’s Flower Market, Fa Yuen Street Market, Goldfish Market, Ladies Market, Sport and electronics shops.

Day 2: Get away from the city:  Lantau Island. Take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to view the island, have a vegetarian lunch at Po Lin Monastery, visit the Big Buddha, and go to the Tung Chung Factory Outlets for last minute shopping.



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