While Johannesburg might not have Table Mountain or a picturesque coastline, the city is quickly climbing the ranks of one of the must-visit cities of the world. We chatted with The Palazzo Hotel’s Head Concierge Deon Prinsloo to find out how he’s selling this bustling city to his guests.
Hotel concierges have a pivotal role to play in their local tourism infrastructure,” says Deon. “Each concierge has around 200 hotel rooms behind him filled with new potential customers every day. This makes for a captive audience who we can promote local attractions to, and concierges usually have had first-hand experience of attractions and events worth visiting.”
As someone who has worked both locally and globally, and visited hotels as staff and guest, Deon brings a wealth of experience to his work. He got his first taste for the hotel life 30 years ago while working as a hotel barman during his studies at the Vaal Triangle Technikon. Once he completed his studies, he stayed on at the hotel in a new role of General Manager for 10 years before moving on to Sun City as Senior Guest Relations Manager for 2 years. “During my time at Sun City I met Belgian singer Dana Winner,” says Deon. “We got along very well and I became her manager for 3 years, relocating to Belgium. This was when I actually got to stay in hotels, and I think I learnt more in my time as a guest than during my studies!”
He returned to South Africa and took up his first position as Head Concierge in 2001 at the Palace of the Lost City.“Like so many people, I wasn’t sure what being a concierge was all about, but once I started working as a Head Concierge I realised that this is what life is all about for me. I must be one of the luckiest people around to have found a career as fulfilling and satisfying.” In 2008, he received an “unbelievable offer” to go and work in Dubai as Head Concierge at the One & Only Mirage. “It was an amazing, out-of-this-world experience!” he says. In 2009, he returned to South Africa as Head Concierge of the Palazzo Hotel Montecasino.“
Deon keeps up to date with what’s new in Johannesburg through newsletters, Tripadvisor and just generally keeping his ear to the ground to find out what’s worth a visit. Regular interactions with other concierges are also key to finding the best spots for his guests. He formed the SA Concierge Forum in 2010 as a platform for concierges from all different hotels to meet and share information about their experiences. He also believes that it’s always better to base recommendations on first-hand experiences, and has arranged educational day trips for head concierges every four months. “We’ll go out and experience different attractions on offer and place ourselves in the guests’ shoes.”
“Johannesburg might not have the ocean on its doorstep, but we have so many attractions to enjoy and a wealth of interesting places to visit that cater to all tastes,” says Deon. “Johannesburg and surrounding areas offer several adrenaline-filled, action-packed activities, safari and wildlife options, historical places of interest, arts and culture, music concerts, theatre and world-standard spa experiences. In a nutshell, we have it all.”
“Foreign Travellers are always amazed with what is available at our local food and craft markets, art galleries, as well as diamond and tanzanite jewellery creations. The Johannesburg CBD is a great place to go and explore now with the stricter safety measures in place. Deon believes that it’s imperative for concierges to listen clearly to guests about their interests before recommending attractions, but once you have an idea of what they’re into there are many things to suggest. “In fact, there are so many things to do and experience in and around Johannesburg that I always recommend to the guest to either extend their current stay or return and allow themselves some time to explore and enjoy,” says Deon.
As Johannesburg starts to tap into South Africa’s tourism and encourage visitors to make this vibrant city a stop on their route, they couldn’t ask for a better guide than Deon Prinsloo, who is clearly invested in giving all his guests an epic experience: “I love meeting guests for the first time, identifying their interests and arranging a holiday that will exceed their wildest expectations. People make my world go around, and if I’m in a position to make them happy then that’s even better – what an awesome feeling!”