What It Takes to Become a World-Class Receptionist


A Front-Runner In The Annual World’s Best Receptionist Award 2022, Hajar Jeljalane Followed Her Dream And Took Front Desk Duties To The Next Level

In 1995 the World’s Best Receptionist competition was founded by the AICR (International Association of Front Office and Hotel Managers) as an annual competition to encourage best practices in the industry across 4- and 5-star hotels. Now, it’s expanded its reach to include the Wild Card Competition accessible to any receptionist in the world who doesn’t have a national competition to enter. Its purpose is to celebrate the hidden talents that take a luxury hotel experience from excellent, to exceptional. The men and women who can make or break a stay with their insider knowledge of a destination, attention to detail, and ability to hone into, and respond, to the needs of an individual. Enter Hajar Jeljalane, a receptionist at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech, who is among 19 hopefuls for the award being handed out on 23 April 2022 in Baden Baden, Germany. We catch up with her to find out what it takes to make the cut.

How did you get into hospitality in the first place?

While I was doing my baccalaureate in accountancy, I went to a hotel in Ouarzazate with my sister who was working there at the time. The receptionist left a lasting impression on me. I spent a lot of time with her because she was really my only friend in the city, and I was very inspired by the way she was able to forge very special relationships with guests. It was then I realised that I wanted to do something similar, so I refocused my studies on hospitality, specifically the receptionist profession, and got my first job at the Barceló in Marrakech in 2015. I joined the Royal Mansour in July 2019, and looking back I now see the huge importance of what I learned in Ouarzazate. Creating unique relationships, so that guests feel truly special and at home, is what it’s all about. Morocco is known for its hospitality, so in many ways, as a Moroccan, it’s in my bones. 

Why did you choose reception over another department of a hotel?

Being at reception puts you very close to the guests, and if you get it right, it evolves from a guest and employee relationship, to something that is more like family, especially if it is not their first or second stay. It’s an amazing moment when you first meet someone who you have been helping to put a trip together for, and you know you can make a real difference to their experience.

How do you ensure guests feel at home?

The Royal Mansour welcome is one of our unique features. When we pick up at the airport we get a first call from the driver when they are leaving the airport, and another call when they are five minutes out. This enables the core team to be ready at the main entrance to welcome the guests, and then I will personally continue the journey with them to the riad to get them settled in. They won’t even see the reception desk on arrival! Basically, we’re always one step ahead of the guest to ensure their comfort every step of the way.

And how do you make them feel special?

It’s about taking care of their needs not just in the hotel, but before they arrive, and after they go. This is how you build an everlasting relationship. First, the reservations department needs to ask the right questions through emails and phone conversations, but after this is done, we ask another layer of questions from any food allergies they might have, to what they want to do in Marrakech, to anything they might be celebrating during their time with us. We spend a lot of time really getting to know and understand them before arrival so that they don’t need to ask or repeat themselves when they get to us, and we can tailor-make our service to each guest. We’re constantly working on building our guest profiles, because it’s our most valuable tool and it helps ensure they come back. In the end, it’s the details that make the difference.

What happens if a guest is unhappy?

You have to understand there is no one-size fits all, which is crucial, especially if something has gone wrong. Every guest has a different experience – a long and bumpy flight, delays, or simply an unpleasant day for whatever reason - so we have to respond to each of those scenarios uniquely. The main goal is that guests feel immediately safe, comfortable and released from the stresses they may have had.  We are here to take that away from them.

What do you love most about your work?

A lot of it is that I’m surrounded by an amazing team who are there to bring out the best in me, to guide me on the right path and help my dreams come true in terms of my career ambitions. That’s pretty special. It’s very exciting to wake up every morning and know it’s never going to be boring. Every day brings new goals, challenges and opportunities for learning.

How did you come to enter the World’s Best Receptionist competition and why is it important?

Usually the competition is in each country, but because we don’t have a national competition yet in Morocco, I was honoured and very excited to win the Wild Card 2022, which takes me to the finals. In Morocco, most people think a receptionist is just someone who answers the phone, replies to emails and gives the room key to the guest. But this is not what reception is, and I think through this competition we’re really showing that it has a lot more to offer as a career than that.

I also didn’t realize there was this whole network of exceptional receptionists all around the world. It’s given me the chance to get to know my international colleagues, to learn how they do things, how they innovate, and provides a window onto the rest of the world. Everyone has their own story to tell and it’s a huge source of information, knowledge sharing and networking that we didn’t have before. It’s not just a competition, in the end it’s become a beautiful friendship network and we help and support each other.  When I think about it, it’s the kind of thing that has existed for chefs, bartenders and general managers for a long time, and now it’s something for front desk too, which feels really important.

What advice would you give to somebody wanting to start out in this career?

First be committed to what you are doing. There’s no room for arrogance in this job, you need to be able to disseminate the information that you are gathering, listen to others, learn from them, and think positive. This is all super important at the start of your career, but so is having fun and creating nice memories during the process.

What is your dream for the future?

I want to be a major league example of a receptionist for others, especially to those who have a very stereotypical idea of what the role is. Maybe I’ll get to be a room division manager in five years’ time, but right now my passion is to teach others and to show that this can be a great career: you get to know people from all over the world, and learn from them, and that is a really beautiful thing.



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