FOH INTERVIEW: Rosewood Jeddah's fragrance butler

Issam Rajab smells success in his new role at the luxury Saudi hotel

Issam Rajab joined Rosewood Corniche in Jeddah in April.
Issam Rajab joined Rosewood Corniche in Jeddah in April.

In April, Rosewood Corniche in Jeddah set a benchmark for personal service by introducing fragrance butler, Issam Rajab. He tells Hotelier how his role has developed

What experience and training have you had as a butler?
I grew up in Syria where I attended hospitality school before starting my career in the food and beverage service industry. In early 2007 I was offered a job as butler at Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, another Rosewood property.

Within a year I was promoted to the position of senior butler followed by a second promotion as a butler supervisor before I was appointed assistant head butler in 2011.

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During my four-year tenure at Al Faisaliah I completed a professional English butlers programme with Robert Watson, the founder of the Guild of Professional English Butlers, along with a second butler training by Steven Ferry, chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers.

Why are butlers so important in luxury hotels?
The butler is the sole person who consolidates the many functions of a hotel in one resourceful, round-the-clock available person; an individual whose job caters to requests both large and small while paying fine attention to details and exceeding guests' expectations at all times.

A constant helping hand at the guest’s disposal is beyond price and guests are always happy to take advantage of the additional aid.

How is this role evolving?
Until butlers arrived on the scene in hotels three decades ago, there was very little hotels could really do for guests in their room or suite, other than clean, provide amenities and offer room service.

Hotels which have successful butler services now can exceed guest expectations by offering the wow factor or making their stay more fun, convenient, pleasurable and tailor-made to their needs. While the availability of a butler service in hotels is increasing, the nature of this discrete service is constantly changing.

These days, butlers must still perform all the roles of the traditional butler without seeming stuffy or old fashioned. The key skill of being instinctive remains at the forefront of the role.

The modern English butler also acts as a personal assistant at times, setting up a guest’s laptop, arranging itineraries, even pooling expenses. The traditional butler service has been revived and reinvented in a less conventional and rigid manner where they still have the utmost commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty.

Why was the role of fragrance butler created?
We believe we’re offering our guests a truly personalised service by appointing a fragrance butler who can talk to them about the specific notes in each aroma and help them match the best scent for their day’s activities.

Of course, hotels can provide fragrances as an in-room amenity, but honouring the time tested methods of traditional ‘butlering’, where butlers were employed to provide personal services for nobility, royalty and estate homes, Rosewood Corniche goes a step further with this creative service for all hotel guests.

How do you incorporate technology into your role to enhance guest experience?
Technology has made things a lot easier especially for butlers as we are constantly on the move juggling guests’ requests. My smart phone and iPad are my best friends because they help me attend to guests and their last minute requests such as booking lunches, reserving dinner tables, or finding them a meeting room. With technology I am a click away from my guests.

Five s peciality butlers hotels could employ

  1. Clothes. Unpacking suitcases upon arrival and packing them for guest check out is one of the most valued services we offer. Options of wardrobe management, laundry, pressing and shoe shining are important, too.
  2. Technology. Helping guests with their IT needs and acting as a PA ensures business travellers are up-to-date with professional commitments.
  3. Fragrance. Mainly for business travellers who fly with hand luggage only, we offer them a choice of scents as per their taste and day’s activities.
  4. Local Expert. Providing an update on latest happenings in the city and cultural hotspots around town.
  5. Personalised services. Escorting guests to appointments on and off property, personal shopping and assistance, wake-up services and most importantly, anticipating their needs.

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