Time is a precious commodity, and for those who can afford to spend a little money, gaining just a bit more is worth it. This is where personal concierge services come in.
The concept of a personal concierge isn't new. While a personal assistant takes on tasks to free up their employer's time, when asking for something out of their pay-scale – like arranging vocal lessons from a famous music artist or fashioning a pile of 1,000 Hong Kong dollar notes into flowers as a Valentine's Day gift – special connections can go a long way, and personal concierge services usually have those in spades.
Vincent Lai, managing director for Greater China at Quintessentially Lifestyle, explains that requests to concierge services such as his can range from something as simple as booking a dinner reservation to nabbing a table at a restaurant with a long waiting list.
And whereas concierge services used to thrive on holding a wealth of information – and using that knowledge to gain a competitive edge in providing services – the availability of smartphones and the Internet has changed clients' expectations from "wanting to know to wanting to go," says Lai.
"A member had seen [the latest film in the The Fast and the Furious franchise], and called us wanting to drive one of the cars," Lai explains. After Quintessentially tracked down the cars' owners and found out where they could be driven, the client and his friends ended up in Italy.
"But that's just one part of it," Lai continues. "What about after that experience? Do they want to hang out, or go ski?"
One private jet to Croatia later, the client and his buddies had a ski lodge at which to spend the rest of their trip. "Some of our members, when they wake up, they want to play," Lai says. "Their brains start throwing about an idea, and we try to help them realize it."
Globally, most requests made by members of Quintessentially Lifestyle focus on culinary experiences, from getting reservations at the latest places to setting up the perfect experience.
But while dining bookings make up 50 percent of requests from the rest of the world, Quintessentially's Asia-based members lean more towards travel – specifically, getting a one-of-a-kind experience.
"In Asia we're still looking at dining as more of a necessity kind of situation," Lai says. "We are seeing Asia has a big percentage of travel requests. From a frequency standpoint, it outranks the rest of the world."
Travel requests from Chinese clients particularly have grown from 15 percent of all requests from China-based members to 23 percent over the past three years. "We have this significant change in the Chinese landscape, all hungry to go abroad," Lai says.
But mainland clients aren't not hungry for different cuisines, it seems, with a focus that is less chewing, more doing. "They aren't keen on experiencing a dining event," Lai says. In his opinion, mainland members still prefer a warm congee in the morning to Eggs Benedict.
Another big attraction for Asian travelers is shopping experiences. "The Asian culture has been spoiled," Lai says, by the array of luxury brands available locally, leaving residents hungry for more.
"For example, they'll say they want a Gucci experience, and they're not interested in just walking into a store," he explains.
"We then have to go to the next step to organize a factory tour, and arrange an interaction with one of the handbag 'architects,' so to speak," Lai says. "Recently we arranged a Burberry staff to do a handcraft session for our member."
Lai says a big shift in concierge services is the age of clients, as the number of second-generation wealthy individuals expands.
"Our membership is getting younger and younger," Lai explains, adding that staying ahead of trends, as well as thinking of ways to move against trends, can be tricky.
"Members like to go against the trend," he says. "They might be shopping in Tokyo, but then ask how they can get away from the crowds."