A royally good Hotel Ambassador
You were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for your ‘services to the hotel, tourism and hospitality industry’. How were you told of this honour and how did you feel when you learnt about it?
A letter from the Cabinet Office arrived on June 6th 2019 – the same day I flew out on a two-week holiday to Scandinavia, so I had no idea! When they didn’t receive a response, the Cabinet Office contacted Claridge’s who then called me. The moment I learnt the news, it became the biggest honour of my life and the highlight of my career.
Had you attended the Palace before?
No, I had never been to Buckingham Palace. However, I had been to St. James’s Palace in 2010 for a party thrown by Lady Elizabeth Ansen.
Do you remember how you thought you would feel when the Lord Chamberlain called your name?
It was such an honour, so I imagined I would feel quite overwhelmed. But proud, very proud.
Have you ever looked after guests at Claridge’s who have been staying at the hotel ahead of their own investiture?
Yes, over the years we have looked after many guests who have either stayed at Claridge’s or dined here to celebrate their investiture.
My family were with me on the day and we celebrated with lunch at Bellamy’s – said to be the Queen’s favourite restaurant.
What are some of your fondest memories of your 40-year career at Claridge’s
I think what I have been reflecting on mostly is how lucky I am to still be doing a job I love after so many years. I can honestly say that I look forward to coming in here every single day.
I have so many good memories, but one standout recollection was the day that I met Audrey Hepburn and her son. It was 1986 and Phantom of the Opera had just opened in the West End. Tickets were like gold dust, and Ms. Hepburn wanted to go. I managed to get two – just.
What’s the secret to your own success? Is there any advice you’d share with a concierge who is just starting out? And what makes an excellent concierge?
Put simply, a great concierge has the ultimate discretion. You must love what you do. After all, this is more of a vocation than a job.
What’s changed over the past 40 years in the world of hospitality – and what has stayed the same?
Obviously technology has moved on hugely since I started out as page boy, although I’m still quite old-school. For me, the art of hospitality hasn’t changed much at all. You must take the time to greet, talk to and read guests. I always come around from our concierge desk to speak with them – and would never have a conversation across the desk. Small gestures like these mean so much.
Follow a day in the life of Martin Ballard MBE, who has been at Claridge's for 40 years.
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