Prestigious honour for Fairmont Southampton’s Curlene Lightbourne
Fairmont Southampton Hotel Senior Concierge Curlene Lightbourne has just become the third person in Bermuda to receive entry into a prestigious international society for concierges.
Ms Lightbourne, who has worked at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel for six years, was inducted into the prestigious Les Clef d’Or (Society of the Golden Keys) earlier this month in London.
Founded in 1929, membership to this exclusive society is limited to uniformed concierges serving in high calibre hotels with applicants having at least five years service as a concierge. Application to the society requires the support of two current members and candidates are interviewed by to assess their competence and their suitability.
With representatives in 35 countries and boasting 5,000 members, Les Clef d’Or’s aim is to help improve and maintain the quality of service provided by the concierge staff in their hotels and to ensure that the profession is given the recognition it deserves.
Ms Lightbourne, 59, is the second person at Fairmont Southampton Hotel to pin the golden keys to her lapel, a badge of honour that goes with membership in the society.
Ms Lightbourne is what you might call a ‘people person’. When she tells you that she likes people her whole face lights up and you get the idea that unlike a lot of other people who say it, she really means it.
“At the hotel I am involved with making the guests happy,” she said. “They chose Bermuda, so being a Bermudian I like to make sure that they have the best time of their lives. I try and just make it happen. Sometimes they want a safety pin or Band-Aid, whatever. I’ve done babysitting. I’ve taken them to the laundromat and the supermarket. It is really a matter of not working, but having fun.”
This is not the first recognition she has received for her work. In 2007, she was named the Fairmont Southampton’s number one employee. She also won a Visitor Industry Partnership (VIP) award in 2004, and was nominated again in 2005. She came into the hotel industry 15 years ago, after doing a variety of different jobs. She worked for a management company for many years. She was also a teacher at St John’s Preschool. Somehow though, these different jobs never felt quite right.
“I have been an all arounder,” she said. “I don’t miss the children, because I get involved with them at the hotel. I love to talk and I love to tell people about Bermuda. Hospitality is something we have naturally within us. You can just give it, and make a smile come on someone’s face.”
Ms Lightbourne often makes friends with the guests, and often recognises repeat visitors. Sometimes she writes a visitor’s name down so she will remember them again.
“Some of them come back two or three times a year. That is what I like,” said Ms Lightbourne. “My job is just a matter of knowing what the visitors require and following up on it. You have to stay focused.”
Part of her job is to help visitors sort out minor and major problems they might have on their vacation. In recent months transportation has become an issue that visitors deal with in Bermuda, especially when the ferries and buses were not running.
“Fairmont Southampton always tries to put on something so they don’t get too disgruntled,” said Ms Lightbourne. “It is easier when you try and distract them from what the real issues are. Sometimes I know you can’t have control over what is going on, or whatever disagreements people have. We try to keep them involved in different activities, such as enjoying the different walking paths around the Fairmont Southampton.”
One challenge she has is finding local entertainment for her guests to enjoy. She doesn’t feel there is enough local music on offer for visitors, and she would like to see local entertainment “beefed up” around the island.
In addition to working with guests, she also enjoys training and mentoring new staff. She doesn’t believe there is any point in hoarding the hotel industry knowledge she has gained over the years; she prefers to pass it on.
“You must train young people under you to have that motivation,” she said.
“I like to give back some of the knowledge I have been given. I try to be a mentor coming into it. There are young people coming in to the industry all the time. It is mostly a seasonal thing. When it is off season, that is the time to do your training, basically.”
She collected her Les Clef d’Or membership from the President of the society during her vacation on September 8 at the Thistle Marble Arch Hotel in London. She went alone.
“They treated me very well,” she said. “There were 95 people present, and I felt special. I had never been to London before. It was my first trip, but it won’t be my last. They are having a conference in January and next on my agenda is to attend that. I love the hotel industry.
“Liking people is the most important part of working in the industry. You can’t just do it for the sake of doing a job. You have to like what you are doing. I go to work with the attitude, ‘I am not going to work, I am going to have some fun’.”
Ms Lightbourne has two daughters Kenmeika, 27, and Curleza, 20, and two grandchildren. Her daughter Kenmeika, also works at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel.