Sometimes, as a travel editor, I think I’ve seen it all. The jaded journalist in me sneers at the countless “cupid concierges” that pop up around Valentine’s Day, along with desperate-feeling marketing gimmicks that range from the campfire-based S'morrier to an Aura Architect to a Guacamologist. (Yep, those are all real.)
Not all of them are quite so out-of-left-field, these crazy hotel jobs. The Bow Tie Concierge at Atlanta's Ritz-Carlton Bulkhead is really just a front desk manager who happens to have gotten a reputation for his excellent bow-tying skills, so now he turns guests into properly dapper Southern Gentlemen before weddings and galas. “Northern Lights Spotter” might seem a ridiculous job title, but that’s someone who stays up all night in Iceland, so you can wake up if—and only if—there’s good reason to get out of bed. And yes, you can roll your eyes at the word “Tobacconist,” but the one at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. passed a legitimate certification exam to qualify; he looks after one of the most meticulously curated cigar lounges anywhere.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a handful of the quirkiest hotel jobs in the world. Whether you see them during the course of your stay, they’ll add color to your vacation—or at least give you inspiration for a possible career change.
The Tartan Butler at the Balmoral, in Edinburgh
Longtime Balmoral concierge Andy Fraser has picked up a niche specialty: helping guests trace their Scottish roots to discover the family tartan. (Each Scottish family can claim a particular tartan, depending on ancestry, the locality it hailed from, or the clan its relatives belonged to.) Give him your known genealogy ahead of your visit, and he’ll do all the digging with local registries and experts. By the time you arrive, he’ll have tracked down your match in the Scottish Register of Tartans. (He’ll hook you up with kilt shops for outfits in your personal pattern, too.)
Mermaid Instructors at Sanderling Resort, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks
Want to be part of that world? Talk to Kitty Hawk Kites, the lead mermaid instructor at the Sanderling Resort’s six-month-old Mermaid School. During $49, hour-long sessions, she teaches guests how to slide in and out of a custom-designed mermaid tail, as well as how to be graceful in the water when wearing it. (Remember what they say about flipping your fins: Even Ariel didn’t get too far.)
Shabbat Technician at the King David Hotel, in Jerusalem
For Orthodox Jews staying in Jerusalem, the Shabbat Technician’s services aren’t just an amenity—they’re a reason to stay at the King David. After the sun sets on Friday, they refrain from using electricity. The technician is on call to disconnect electric drape mechanisms, replace key cards with actual room keys, and operate an elevator that stops on every floor, so guests need not push the buttons.
Truffle Hunter at Le Richemond, in SwitzerlandThis venerable, 142-year-old hotel on Lake Geneva has hired Clément Jacquemier, a local truffle supplier, to take guests on weekly foraging tours with his truffle sniffing pup, Pistache. Dig up what you can and bring it back to the hotel restaurant, Le Jardin, which has a black truffle-centric menu full of dishes that can be helped by a few additional shavings.
Canine Masseuse at the Belmond Hotel Splendido, in Portofino, Italy
This one may not exactly be for you. But any dog with passport stamps would covet a canine masseuse at one of Italy’s most impressively situated hotels. There, pups get pampered in treatment rooms just as humans do; this one happens to overlook Portofino Bay. And yes, the masseuse uses Swedish massage techniques to "warm up and work the dog's muscle tissue." Just don’t ask us how that differs from a belly rub. (We’re pretty sure it doesn’t.)
French Polisher at the Dorchester, in London
Kevin Berry has been tasked with maintaining all the antiques at the historic Dorchester hotel in London for the last 16 years. So why is he called a French Polisher? He uses a particular technique for refinishing wood called, well, French Polishing; it gives antiques a mirror-like gloss. He’s hardly alone in his industry. At the Café Royal, also in London, an uncle-nephew team function as marble and stone specialists, polishing the hotel’s many marble walls and furnishings with old and new techniques. (The old-school system: Use abrasion to create a shine-producing grit. The new way: Draw out stains with chemicals and UV light.)
Sunset Bagpiper at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, in California
You’d think bagpipers of any kind would be mostly found in Scottish hotels, if at all. But this stateside resort has had one for more than 15 years. He pipes an hour and a half before sunset most days of the week, 52 weeks per year, starting near the first hole of the golf course and making his way around the resort's grounds. Why? Some say the coastal golf resort resembles the cliffs of Scotland. Maybe the better question is: Why not?
Chandelier Cleaner at the Waldorf Astoria (pictured), in New York
This is a really full-time job. Now, we’ve told you a bit about the crazy back-of-house needs at the Waldorf Astoria, and the legends of its politician-packed ballroom. But did you know it takes a team of three people to clean the Grand Ballroom’s massive chandelier? Not just that: It takes the trio three days to pull down the fixture and polish each crystal, one by one.
Underwater Cleaning Crew at the Conrad Maldives
On the theme of cleaning: This property is famous for its one-of-a-kind underwater restaurant, which wouldn’t be such a hit if it were mucked up by algae or debris. That’s why the hotel maintains a team (which doubles as dive-center staff) to tidy up the massive marine tank three times a day. (The process takes about 20 minutes each time.) As for their office? It’s five meters (16.4 feet) underwater, surrounded by coral reefs.
Sustainable Agronomist at Vidanta Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico
Golf courses are some of the least eco-friendly features of hotels—almost by definition. (They require an incredible amount of water for upkeep.) But at green-focused Vidanta, an agronomist is tasked with managing the 2,500 acres of grounds—including an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course—in the most environmentally sound ways possible. And to help with the water management issues, there’s also a staff “vermiculturist,” who works on such initiatives as composting and soil cultivation.
Upholstery Specialist at the St. Regis New York
At a hotel where most walls are upholstered in beautiful, striped fabrics or textured toiles, it may come as no surprise that someone’s job is to mend cushions, restore drapes, and sew up worn armchairs. For Gabriel Perez at the St. Regis New York, that’s a long-honed skill: He learned upholstering as a child in his native Dominican Republic, and he's spent his entire career perfecting stitching.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland