The Table Bay Hotel concierge tops AI | The Planner

Guests at the 5-star Table Bay Hotel cherish every moment of conversing with the real-life concierge and would not trade her for a bot.

As chatbots and robots begin to appear in society, personalised interaction with an interested, caring human will become a luxury experience.

Most travellers rely on online searches or word-of-mouth recommendations when deciding where to go and what to do – the benefit of having a real-life little black book on call usually only happens when you’re travelling five star.

A walking, talking map and directory for Cape Town

Ayanda Mhlambiso, head concierge at The Table Bay, describes herself as a “walking, talking map and directory for Cape Town” and has been advising guests at the five-star V&A Waterfront hotel for the past seven months.

“With the proliferation of AI, there is still a need for human attention to detail,” said Mhlambiso, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 22 years. She is currently completing her tour guide training. “My advice to travellers would be to do your research and then contact your hotel in the weeks leading up to your trip, asking for help in creating a step-by-step itinerary.”

Both Mhlambiso, her concierge team of four, and The Table Bay’s 11 porters all do regular restaurant and sightseeing visits. “There is no one on my team who is not able to book a taxi or recommend a restaurant,” she said.

You’ll always find her carrying a notebook where she records her discoveries, which range from arts and crafts, food and wine, to safari and swim, as well as where to watch a show or participate in a sport. “I also know about hidden gems such as up-and-coming art galleries or museums and can tailor activities to suit everyone.”

Tailoring experiences for guests

The concierge advice process starts with Mhlambiso asking if it is a guest’s first time in Cape Town, what they are interested in, and helping them according to what they had in mind.

“For a first-time visitor, I recommend starting on the City Sightseeing Red Bus, where the city tour will provide an overview of what is happening, which helps one to plan what comes next. Table Mountain is, of course, still the best place to visit, and you can choose between taking the cable car up or hiking it – or we can arrange a helicopter trip where you will enjoy incredible views of the city, Hout Bay, and the Twelve Apostles.”

“Sometimes clients come to visit Cape Town without having any plans. Others ask for help with reservations, which is where we can help. People want to know where the best restaurants to dine are, where to buy crafts to take home, or which wineries are the oldest. I’ve had requests for things that are illegal, but we don’t entertain such requests.”

However, should you wish to get a table at a popular restaurant that is fully booked, Mhlambiso has connections who can pull strings. “This is something that AI is not able to do and is just another way that a personal touch can make or break your holiday.”