International History of Les Clefs d'Or
Officially registered as Union Internationale des Concierges d'Hôtels (UICH). Les Clefs d'Or is an international network of men and women with common interests and goals. They have their own mystique, a combination of their expertise sources of inside information, intelligence and communication. The Organization 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 tourist.
The first such association saw the light of day on 6th Oct 1929 when Pierre Quentin, Concierge at Hotel Ambassador in Paris and ten other Concierges from grand hotels 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 Founder General Assembly took place on November 27,1929 and saw more than one hundred members joining. 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 WW II.
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 (U.E.P.G.H.). Its 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”.
These nine founder countries were : Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.
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 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.
And 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, U.E.P.G.H. was changed to U.I.P.G.H., Union Internationale des Portiers des Grandes Hotels, thus making the Society of the Golden Keys a worldwide organization. Portugal 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 U.I.P.G.H. counted thirty nations.
On January 18, 1995 at 42nd International Congress held in Sydney, Australia, U.I.P.G.H. was changed into U.I.C.O. standing for Union Internationale des Clefs d'Or and grew more with China and Mexico joining in 1996, Japan and Malaysia in 1997, Russia in 2000, Turkey and Chinese Taipei in 2003, Thailand in 2005 and Korea in 2006
The Swedish section, one of the oldest Concierge association, had disappeared in the meantime. Today the Society's name is U.I.C.H. (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 U.I.C.H. as a society of professional hotel concierges. It counts 42 Member Sections representing over 50 countries with close to 4000 members.