Officially registered as UICH “Les Clefs d’Or” (Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or”), although most often know simply as: “Les Clefs d’Or”, this association is an international network of professional hotel Concierge with common interests and goals. They have their own mystique, a combination of their expertise sources of inside information, intelligence and communication. The association is non-political, non-religious and definitely not a trade union of any sort but is based on friendship between members to assist international travellers and tourists.
The first such Concierge association saw the light of day on 26th October 1929 when Pierre Quentin, Concierge at Hôtel Ambassador in Paris and ten other Concierges from the grand hôtels of Paris realized that they could operate more effectively as a team than individually. If they could join forces, they felt, they could make their services more useful and indispensable. The founding General Assembly took place on November 27, 1929 and saw more than one hundred members join. The two oldest associations are the French and the Swedes. The Dutch chapter was founded in 1937 and other countries associations date from about the same time. Many were the result of the depression in the late twenties and early thirties. The associations were allied to help each other on unemployment, illness and adversities. There was however, no real sign of any intentional cooperation until after the Second World War.
On April 25, 1952, delegates from nine countries met in Cannes to hold the first congress and created L’Union Européene des Portiers des Grands Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or” (UEPGH “Les Clefs d’Or”). This international association’s creation was made possible by Ferdinand Gillet, then Chef Concierge at Hôtel Scribe in Paris, and the industry recognises in him the ‘Father’ of “Les Clefs d’Or”. The nine founder countries were: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Great Britain.
The second congress, held in San Remo, Italy in December 1953, saw the creation of the journal “Revue Européenne” and the adoption of the society’s insignia and badge, the Golden Keys. This congress which is held yearly in different member countries has become a major feature in the Concierge calendar as a venue to renew and make new contacts and share experiences and ideas. Sweden joined the association that year.
As the years progressed more countries joined the European Union: Austria and Netherlands in 1957, Norway in 1956, Morocco in 1964, Greece in 1965 and Israel in 1970. Sixteen countries were members of the association.
On November 15, 1972 at the 20th International Congress in Mallorca, Spain, UEPGH “Les Clefs d’Or” was changed to UIPGH “Les Clefs d’Or”, Union Internationale des Portiers des Grandes Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or”, thus making the Society of the Golden Keys a worldwide organization. Portugal also entered the association.
Then came along Canada in 1976, the U.S.A. in 1978. Finland (1980), Australia (1981), Hong Kong and Hungary (1985), Singapore (1986), Luxembourg (1988), Romania (1990), Brazil and Czech Republic (1991), Philippines (1993) and New Zealand (1994); The UIPGH Les Clefs d’Or counted thirty nations.
On January 18, 1995 at 42nd International Congress held in Sydney, Australia, UIPGH “Les Clefs d’Or” changed its name to: Union Internationale des Clefs d’Or (UICO Les Clefs d’Or). China and Mexico joined the association in 1996, Japan and Malaysia in 1997, Russia in 2000, Turkey and Chinese Taipei in 2003, Thailand in 2005 and Korea in 2006. In 1998 the official ‘universal’ uniform crossed golden keys were created in partnership with Swiss jeweller Bucherer.
Today the Society’s name is UICH Les Clefs d’Or (Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels “Les Clefs d’Or”). The word ‘Concierge’ appears in the name as a way to strengthen the brand-name recognition of UICH Les Clefs d’Or as a society of professional hotel Concierge. The association now counts 42 Member Sections representing over 50 countries and close to 4000 members.