By Kent Coules, This Week Publisher
Con-cierge- A noun of Latin and French origin denoting an employee whose job is to assist guests by arranging tours, making theater and restaurant reservations, etc.
What person, in their right mind, doesn’t appreciate the services of a concierge, especially when planning activities while vacationing in paradise for the first (or second or third) time?
Consider me right-minded. So having a free afternoon and morning while visiting Maui for business recently, I made a visit to the Expedia Local Experts®’ Hawaii Concierge Center and met Lead Concierge Jenny Nobriga. I went in having no idea what I wanted to do, but left with a zipline adventure and Molokini snorkel trip reservation—and a new friend.
When in Maui talk local
Jenny, born and raised on Maui, has been helping island guests get the most out of their vacations for 10 years. She, along with her husband and daughter, live on the family farm where she grew up in the “Up Country.” “Being from Maui allows me to match visitors with the total experience they’re looking for,” she explains. “It’s not just about the activity itself. For instance, I might recommend one site over another because the drive to one particular place allows them to see something they mentioned in the conversation that another locale would not.”
It’s this attention to detail that makes Nobriga special to her guests—and Expedia Local Expert®. “Jenny was named Expedia’s ‘Concierge of the Year’ at our last annual meeting in Las Vegas,” says General Manager Myra Galinato. “Visitors who plan their vacation around Jenny’s suggestions maximize their enjoyment in paradise.”
Friends for life
The expertise Jenny Nobriga provides her guests can sometimes go beyond the traditional assistance one would expect from an Expedia Local Expert®. Consider Carol, who came to Maui with her father, who was in his 90’s. She had worked with Jenny before, and sought her out at her then desk at the Worldmark Wyndham Timeshare Resort. Carol confided to Jenny that the trip with her father “might be our last.” Sadly, her concern turned out to be prescient. “It turns out her father passed away a couple days later,” says Jenny, “and instead of booking a show, I reserved a private charter boat for Carol to spread her father’s ashes at sea. On every return trip Carol comes to me and books the same boat to revisit the site and pay her respects.
Other friendships form from less solemn circumstances. “One guest wanted to know where he could buy a ‘lucky cat,’ the kind sometimes seen in Chinese restaurants,” Nobriga says. “I was able to direct him to a unique store that sold him exactly what he was searching for. We’ve become Facebook friends and I still receive occasional emails from him.”
Jenny’s Expedia family includes Melvin, who calls every other month; Clyde and Golda, who send her oranges regularly; and Lily, who drove from Worldmark to deliver her a baby gift in Lahaina.
I have beat them all. I am writing a story about her.
The Art of Listening
So how does an Expedia Local Expert® develop a lasting bond with complete strangers from faraway lands? “The friendships I’ve made are really from listening to my guests. I not only need to hear their words, but pick up on their cues, such as budget, appetite for adventure, and even differences within a family.”
On whether visitors know what they want to do when meeting Jenny: “That’s 50/50. Half know what they want to do but want help in choosing. The other half have no idea what to do and that’s when I have to really listen to come up with the best options.”
The most popular bookings? “In this office (Lahaina)? Helicopter tours—for all islands,” says Jenny matter-of-factly. “It’s not only the most popular booking, but we consistently get the best feedback on them as well. They’re a little pricey, but people absolutely love the experience.”
And for myself? I had an awesome time ziplining over severe canyons at 55 miles per hour, with breathtaking 17-mile ocean vistas, and snorkeling in the pristine waters of Molokini Crater the next morning, but I might have enjoyed the hour I spent with Expedia Local Expert® concierge Jenny Nobriga most of all.