Les Clefs d'Or History
The early years
The commonly used title, especially in France, was portier, or porter in English. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the concierge was, and still is, a title used for the caretaker in a building.
The hall porter or doorman became the focal point of guest relations and customer service at many luxury hotels. It was during this time that the role of the concierge was created in the various grand hotels of Paris and Western Europe. This was the first time a role had been specifically created to assist guests with their requirements in unfamiliar cities. The concierge quickly became a popular and essential service in luxury hotels.
Origins of present day Les Clefs d’Or
During the mid-1920s, there was a group of concierges from various hotels in Paris (including one from Algeria) who were trying to organise themselves with the guidance of Mr. Pierre Quentin from the Hotel Ambassador (Paris), which opened in 1928 and played host to a ceremony in honour of Charles Lindbergh’s cross-Atlantic journey in 1927. The following year, Paris welcomed other of today’s landmark hotels, such as Hotel Lancaster, The Prince de Galles and the George V.
On 26 October 1929, Mr. Quentin sent an invitation to 20 prominent concierges throughout Paris to dine at Restaurant Noël Peters in the hopes of strengthening the bond among them. The restaurant was located across the street from his hotel, in the Passage des Princes. With 11 in attendance, this dinner marks the first instance of professional hotel concierges meeting as a group.
Within four weeks, the new association was ratified at the first-ever General Assembly, with more than 75 delegates present. Mr. Pierre Quentin was elected the first President of Les Clefs d’Or on 27 November 1929, a post he held for three years.
After much communication and several smaller meetings (including the initial multi-national meeting that took place in 1951 in Sierres, Switzerland), the gathering of the first six member sections took place on the historic date of April 25, 1952, at The Carlton Hotel in Cannes. This event gave birth to the Union Européenne des Portiers des Grands Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or,” the international network as we know it today, and it was the very first multinational Congress.
Representatives from the French organisation were joined by prominent concierges from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and Ireland. Belgium and Denmark were observing countries, and Spain was an invited guest.
After the congress, each country represented was encouraged to go back and form a formal organisation in their respective regions based on the French model. The members in Morocco, being a French protectorate at the time, although outside of mainland Europe were regarded as French members.
Les Clefs d'Or Expands Outside of Europe
In 1970 in St. Moritz, with the addition of Israel, UEPGH Les Clefs d’Or (Union Européenne des Portiers des Grands Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or”) changed its name to UIPGH Les Clefs d’Or (Union Internationale des Portiers des Grands Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or”) to accommodate the organisation to reflect its growth and presence outside of Europe.
Oscar Wirth (Switzerland) is elected international President
A newly restructured UICH welcomed its first female president, Mrs. Marjorie Silverman from the USA section. Mrs. Silverman rewrote the statutes and gave birth to the famous Article IV.
Mr. Aldo Giacomello (Switzerland) became the president of the association.
Les Clefs d'Or Award Launches
The Les Clefs d’Or® Award was first established at the 55th Les Clefs d’Or International Congress in Denmark, 2008 and aims to recognise and encourage young members to become active participants in our global network.
It was named for a few years as the “Andy Pongco Award” to honour the memory Andy Pongco, and was then each year dedicated to iconic figures that have been great contributors in the history of our association; Ms Marjorie Silverman, Mr Andre Damonte, Mr Pierre Quentin and Mr Tony Facciolo.
The award is managed by the Les Clefs d’Or Award Committee which comprises five members including one member of the Executive Committee, one member of the Conseil des Sages and the winner of the previous year’s competition. Two other committee members are also nominated to complete the committee.
In 2017 Les Clefs d’Or membership reaches the 4,000 mark globally with members reaching in over 80 countries and 536 destinations reaching six continents around the globe.
New UICH Statutes
After months of work and many meetings, new statutes were approved during the 2023 Congress in Istanbul. With these statutes, our association is well positioned for the coming years.