Ten of the world’s most unusual hotel jobs
From falconers to swan whisperers and crystal attendants, these hotels employ experts to master most unusual skills.
Running a hotel requires employing a lot of people: housekeepers, chefs, butlers, bellboys, and — if you’re at the Baccarat Hotel New York — crystal attendants. That’s right; there are people whose only job is to ensure the Manhattan hotel’s legendary crystal collection stays perfectly gleaming.
Of course, the Baccarat is not alone. In an effort to offer the best services and guest experiences, luxury hotels routinely employ experts in everything from music and fragrance to swans and falcons. Here are 10 of the oddest jobs in the hospitality business.
Truffle-dog trainer at Blackberry Farm
Jim Sanford began working at Blackberry Farm more than 17 years ago — first at the front desk and then as the hotel’s first in-house fly-fishing instructor. He also started the property’s horseback-riding program before finally moving on to his current post: truffle-dog trainer and breeder. Sanford’s duties include selecting the curly pelted pups — all of which have been chosen from two distinct bloodlines from Northern Italy — as well as breeding them. For gastronome guests, however, the most appealing part of Sanford’s job is training the dogs to sniff out Tennessee’s famed black truffles, hidden away in the nearby forests of Chuckey, Tennessee.
Tartan butler at the Balmoral
Travellers have been coming to Scotland to trace their roots — and maybe don a kilt while they’re at it — for decades. At the Balmoral, a Rocco Forte Hotel in Edinburgh, guests can leave both their ancestral investigation (and their fashion fantasies) to Andy Fraser, the resident tartan butler. Fraser helps guests uncover their Scottish heritage and their associated family tartan using his relationships with the city’s foremost experts. In addition to revealing the secrets of guests’ lineage, Fraser can arrange trips to Kinloch Anderson, Edinburgh’s most established kilt shop, for a fitting with the proper tartan. Those who wish to follow in their ancestral footsteps even further can also book a bespoke tour of their family’s native regions.
Underwater glass cleaners at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
The Maldives’ hottest reservation has more than just ocean views. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is the world’s first undersea restaurant, featuring just 14 seats positioned beneath an aquarium-like dome through which marine life — including the catch-of-the-day entrée — can be seen scuttling through the crystalline waters above. Keeping all of that glass crystal clear — after all, murky algae doesn’t exactly inspire an appetite — is the Conrad’s team of scuba-diving cleaners, who scrub the dome’s walls three times a day, before each meal service.
Spiritual guide at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa employs its fair share of wellness experts: physical therapists, personal trainers, masseuses — and spiritual healer Pam Lancaster. A life coach, licensed body therapist, and sound healing specialist, Lancaster offers guests spiritual counselling through such ceremonial practices as Tibetan-bowl sound healing, Kundalini Yoga, Shiatsu, and traditional Thai massage. The resort also employs an astrologer, a psychic, a shaman, and a resident beekeeper. Of course, you could always just get a plain old massage, too.
Beekeeper at Fairmont Mayakoba
In the peaceful Willow Stream Garden at Mexico’s Fairmont Mayakoba, there is an apiary that houses thousands of Melipona bees. These bees are an endangered species endemic to the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America. The hives — a donation from the Mayan community to thank the hotel for many years of partnership — are maintained by beekeeper Alonso Ortiz, whose duties include monitoring the size of each colony and providing honey to the resort for use in spa treatments and cocktails. Ortiz routinely harvests the honey in traditional Melipona bee ceremonies, elaborate rituals that involve cleaning the hives and collecting the honey during full moons in June and December.
Crystal attendants at Baccarat Hotel New York
The three crystal attendants at Baccarat Hotel New York are tasked with caring for the hotel’s vast collection of crystal. With more than 40 different types of stemware and dozens of designs, it’s the job of the attendants to know every one of them — and their value. Attendants train with a Baccarat Brand Ambassador at the Baccarat flagship boutique a few blocks away to learn the art of the crystal-making process as well as the specific care and cleaning required to maintain each piece. Attendants are also trained to detect even the smallest stain, smudge, chip, or scratch, as only perfect Baccarat crystal can be served to hotel guests.
Swan whisperer at Hotel Bel-Air
For the past seven years, Francisco Arriaga has taken care of four very special guests at the grand Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Chloe, Athena, Hercules, and Odette are the exclusive residents of the hotel’s exquisite Swan Lake. Arriaga feeds the swans a healthy diet of romaine lettuce twice a day, cleans their water every two weeks, and, in the event of rain, walks the long-necked beauties to dry cover. And for their part, the swans are truly grateful; every time they hear Arriaga’s voice, they swim right toward him.
Fragrance butler at Rosewood Hotels
There’s no need to horde those mini fragrance samples in your carry-on bag anymore. Guests who check in at certain Rosewood Hotels — including the Carlyle in New York City and the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver — can ring the fragrance butler at any time for a quick spritz of designer scents. Fragrances like Chanel No. 5 and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid are always at the ready, delivered to guests’ doors on a silver tray. The butlers can even help you decide which fragrance suits you best.
Falconers at Gleneagles Hotel
Scotland’s recently renovated Gleneagles Hotel is known for its robust roster of outdoor pursuits — from skeet shooting to the historic sport of falconry. Offering the latter is the British School of Falconry, the hotel’s impressive program operated by husband-and-wife falconers Steve and Emma Ford. Since 1992, the Fords have guided guests through the basic skills and techniques of this sport, providing them with hands-on experience in handling and flying Harris’s hawks. Guests can even become certified falconers themselves after completing four sessions with the Fords, plus a written test.
Music director at Aria Hotel Budapest
A boutique hotel with an enchanting musical concept, Aria Hotel Budapest offers guests the opportunity to meet with its in-house music director, Kornél Magyar, in order to add a harmonious touch to their stays. Magyar knows Budapest’s music scene deeply and shares his recommendations so guests can discover the local, authentic music experiences. He is also responsible for planning music programs around the hotel’s rare Bogányi piano, organising music-themed tours of Budapest, and creating custom playlists for guests based on their musical preferences.