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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Your wish, their command: luxury concierge services in the UAE 

Need help booking a private jet, securing front-row seats at fashion week or planning a grand meal? These luxury concierge services have the answer

My Concierge specialises in putting together gourmet meals in tailor-made venues, such as this romantic evening at Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai. Photo by Adham Sneeh / My Concierge
My Concierge specialises in putting together gourmet meals in tailor-made venues, such as this romantic evening at Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai. Photo by Adham Sneeh / My Concierge

Concierge staff at high-end hotels may have the means to arrange a private viewing of a gallery or museum, get a last-minute booking at a popular restaurant, and remember the personal preferences of frequent visitors, but what if you needed such services, and more, on a daily basis?

That’s where luxury concierge companies step in, armed with dedicated lifestyle managers, and access to an international database of goods and service providers – from real estate and private-jet companies to art specialists, and medical and legal experts.

Luxury concierge companies can not only get you that reservation at an always-full restaurant, but can also fetch you from your home, office or the airport in a vehicle of your choice, with a change of clothing, to transport you to a meal prepared by a celebrity chef, while a world-class musician plays in the background. Don’t believe us? Read on to discover the different kinds of lifestyle-management companies offering their services in the UAE, and the most outlandish requests they have dealt with.

Aurae Lifestyle can cater tailored meals on a private jet. Photo by SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg
Aurae Lifestyle can cater tailored meals on a private jet. Photo by SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg

Take advantage of prompt private-jet services

“Regardless of net worth, everyone only has 24 hours in a day. As a concierge service, our aim is to give people back their time,” says Arman Motiwalla, senior vice president at Aurae Lifestyle.

From organising travel itineraries and reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, to planning luxury parties, the exclusive club has a by-invitation-only membership policy. However, it also provides an on-demand concierge service that deals with requests on a case-by-case basis, one of which is chartering private aircraft for guests.

Prices range considerably depending on the dates of the trip, operational costs, the type of aircraft, landing and take-off fees of each airport, and country-specific taxes. “Aircraft charters can be as cost-effective as US$4,000 [Dh14,700] for a one-way flight on a four- or five-person light jet aircraft on a domestic route, or as expensive as $535,000 [almost Dh2 million] for an international round-trip on a 12-person heavy jet,” says Motiwalla.

Comfort, meals and entertainment can go a long way in making a flight agreeable, but Aurae clients can expect much more. “Catering on-board private aircraft is one of the most requested services, and we can factor in each guest’s gastronomical requirements. They can design their own menu prior to the flight, or we can even have dishes prepared by their favourite restaurants,” says Motiwalla. “Some of the larger aircraft have private showers, offices and board rooms; iPad- or iPhone-controlled lighting; and bedrooms partitioned off from the rest of the cabins. The experience is nothing short of extraordinary.”

Also extraordinary are some of the requests the team has received over the past two years. One client insisted on having a chef on board whose only task was to prepare a meal for her dog; one requested that all cabin attendants and even the pilot be dressed as characters from the Marvel comics series; and another demanded that the aircraft be repainted to match their favourite colours and personal branding.

While private jets are usually built to hold up to 24 or so passengers, some clients charter the Airbus ACJ319, Boeing 737 or Airbus A330, says Motiwalla. “These are essentially commercial airliner aircraft, which have been designed to cater to 20 to 30 people instead of the usual 300 to 350 passengers. These aircraft are considered to be flying palaces; many have living rooms, dining rooms, couches, private rooms and on-board spas.”

Sigillus can take care of the kids even while it gets you VIP tickets to fashion weeks. AFP Photo
Sigillus can take care of the kids even while it gets you VIP tickets to fashion weeks. AFP Photo

Keep the kids entertained

Being a member of the Sigillus lifestyle-management club, which has a presence in the United Kingdom, Italy and Dubai, gets you red-carpet access to London Fashion Week, the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix Ball, plus box seats at Wimbledon, a royal box at the London Opera, and VIP seats during polo season in the UAE. And if you’re worried about leaving the kids cooped up at home or in a hotel room while you’re out and about, Sigillus and its sister company, Nanny & Butler, have members of staff who are specifically trained as children’s concierges.

“Whether people live in Dubai, travel to Dubai or travel from Dubai to London or Italy, we can arrange an entire experience for their children, be it for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks,” says founder and chief executive, Paola Diana.

For resident members, Sigillus is the go-to for children’s birthday parties, and specialises in elaborate themes. Diana says that Dubai is one of the most varied places in terms of children’s entertainment. “You have the desert on one side, and we often get requests for overnight stays where kids want to sleep under the stars, and the ice rink on the other side,” she says.

Sigillus can also organise offbeat adventures in other parts of the world. Diana cites an example of a father who wanted to bond with his son in a setting that was both fun and geared towards fitness. So the Sigillus team put together a safari-themed trip, where they attended a boot camp in the jungle, played Tarzan on a specially constructed tree house and reconnected while trying to spot tigers.

From private visits to London Zoo and backstage access during pop concerts to cultural activities, the children’s concierge team double as chauffeurs, chaperones, chefs and house managers.

“The team is carefully interviewed, vetted and trained, and we provide bilingual candidates upon request. Parties, celebrity meetings and days out aside, we can also help you to find the best schools, tutors, personal trainers, sport courses or summer schools for your children,” says Diana.

Annual membership costs Dh40,000 a year for gold members; Dh76,000 for platinum members; and Dh170,000 for diamond members, who have round-the-clock access to a lifestyle manager and complimentary support in finding and employing household staff.

A feast for fastidious foodies

All manner of milestones – from proposals and anniversaries to graduations and promotions – are celebrated with a good meal at a fancy restaurant. But a bespoke private dining experience, which has been organised by experts and takes into account not only the food, but also the setting, is a luxury event in itself, according to Rob Nicholas, chief executive of My Concierge.

Some of the services provided by My Concierge include: recommending restaurants and making reservations for brunch, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining; organising activities for daycations and weekend getaways, such as helicopter and hot air balloon rides, adventure sports and yacht cruises; spa experiences; and city tours in vintage or luxury automobiles. However, it is the private dining set-ups that people keep coming back for, especially in this region, where “residents are almost bred on five-star experiences,” says Nicholas.

Of course, these meals can be combined with a day filled with fun activities. A representative from the Young President’s Organisation recounts a recent My Concierge experience: “After driving through the desert in dune buggies, we camped for the evening with tents and tiki torches, a good old-fashioned barbecue and our preference of pours. We also had a camel polo match organised just for us. For lunch, the entire island of Lebanon on the World Islands off Jumeirah was reserved for us, followed by an afternoon of discovery around the other islands on kayaks. And for dinner, we were chauffeured in Cadillac Escalades to a private cellar, where we enjoyed a sumptuous eight-course paired meal.”

And the strangest request that My Concierge has had? “We had a client who wanted to impress his group on a fishing trip by catching his own supper, which would then be prepared on a private beach camp by a star chef,” Nicholas recalls. “The only issue was that it was off-season and the man only wanted to catch a particular species.

“All I can say is, it involved one ex-Navy Seal, a local diving master and an early morning trip to the fish market, but we made it happen.

Stress-free second-home upkeep around the world

From flying hot scones from Claridges to the Middle East on a private plane to attending board meetings in a client’s stead, London-based property-management company Caroline Baker takes luxury deliverables and private household upkeep to truly personalised levels.

Case in point: a regular concierge service or trusted member of staff will know when and where to send your dry cleaning. But once Caroline Baker is involved, your dedicated lifestyle manager “will know exactly where to hang your clothes; will spritz the place with your favourite fragrance or order your favourite flowers; and will even purchase a piece of artwork on your behalf, instinctively knowing that it is perfect for you,” says the company’s eponymous founder.

Baker says that about 70 per cent of the company’s clients are based in the Middle East, but conduct business across the world. Caroline Baker looks after their properties and priorities in London, Paris and New York. “Most of our patrons have multiple homes and they arrive at very short notice. “We are therefore used to working to extremely tight deadlines and meeting high-end demands.”

The company has its own house-building team for property maintenance, as well as on-hand staff who have been trained in such skills as how to best pack and unpack a suitcase, manage a wardrobe, lay a dinner table, and care for silverware, fine linens, jewellery and antiques.

Emirates World Club can get you VIP access to various events in the UAE. Getty Images
Emirates World Club can get you VIP access to various events in the UAE. Getty Images

High-profile networking

Romika Fazeli started the RF Event & Model Management agency in Dubai in 2009. In the interim eight years, the German-Iranian entrepreneur and her team have organised events for clients in the oil and gas, marine, automotive, luxury retail and construction sectors.

The camaraderie that she and her team developed with their customers meant that a patron would often consult Fazeli, even after an event was over, on far-ranging matters such as relocating to the UAE, the best interior decorators or language tutors in town, or locations and activities for corporate getaways. This led her to develop the idea for a luxury concierge service, Emirates World Club, which launched in Dubai last year. The club works on a membership basis: private membership costs between Dh18,000 and Dh35,000 per year, while corporate membership is Dh50,000.

“The platinum package within the private membership is our most exclusive offering. Members get their own lifestyle-management team, and all privileges are extended to a member’s family and visiting friends,” says Fazeli.

“In addition to our basic services, such as guaranteed restaurant reservations and VIP tickets for the UAE’s concerts, exhibitions, sport and cultural events, we also plan their parties and vacations, and fulfil any extraordinary requests they may have – one of which was to organise an underwater [marriage] proposal in just a few hours.”

Emirates World Club also offers two temporary options: a Traveller Package for tourists and short-term visitors, and a Short Business Stay Package for corporate trips, which includes organising everything from travel and accommodation to food, conferences and team-building activities. In fact, the corporate events proved so popular that the company introduced its Private Society Package earlier this year.

“This package is for senior management only and subject to approval from our team,” says Fazeli. “It entitles you to attend high-profile, by-invitation-only networking events, in the form of private dinners for groups of 15 members, and weekend getaways. This package aims to give our members access to, and network with, the most significant contacts, but on a casual basis.

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