Felix Perez welcomes guests to the La Concha Renaissance Resort in San Juan. (Photo: Luis Marin)
When guests arrive at the La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort in Puerto Rico, they’re often astonished by the glowing, personal reception they receive from the resort’s infectiously good-natured doorman, Felix Perez. With his trademark smile stretching from ear to ear, Felix, who hails from the San Juan arts district of Santurce, has become something of a celebrity in the hospitality space due to his stellar reputation for friendliness and exemplary service.
This busy father of three (he has a second job as a tour driver) took some time out of his jam-packed day to talk about his work and about why Puerto Rico is such a wonderful place to visit.
What drew you to the hotel business?
My mother and my uncles were hoteliers. When I was a kid, I admired my family. That was my inspiration. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the hotel industry. I started with Marriott in 2007 and work as a doorman now. I’ve also worked in other guest services areas — at the front desk and as a concierge agent.
Has anything ever surprised you about your job over the years?
I had a surprising experience with guests who stopped on the island on a cruise ship — but they weren’t staying with us in the hotel. They came all the way from Old San Juan to Condado [where the hotel is located] just to meet me. And they said hi and I said hi. I was very surprised. They congratulated me because they saw so many great comments and reviews about me on TripAdvisor.
How do you go about delighting, or surprising, hotel guests?
Well, when a guest arrives for the first time, I read their luggage tag without them knowing, and I greet them by their name. They’re very surprised [and ask], “How do you know my name?” Then I tell them my name is Felix, and I give them my famous high five, which makes a distinctive noise. They’re very happy and excited. They’ve come from thousands of miles away, from every part of the world, and they’re tired. They need something fun and different. I greet them with a high five, and I call all my guests “familia.” Everybody knows me for my familia because I treat my guests like real family.
You’re often called “the happiest man alive” by people who know you. What’s your secret to happiness?
I love my family, and I love life. I just love what I do, and I do what I love. I always look at the bright side of things!
What advice do you give tourists visiting Puerto Rico for the first time?
Get ready to have fun! That’s my greeting. “Mi casa es su casa!”
What are some of your top recommendations for things to do in Puerto Rico?
I recommend El Yunque National Rainforest in Río Grande and the historic sights in Old San Juan. In southern Puerto Rico, I go to a town called Guánica, famous for its seafood, beautiful little islands, hotels and beaches. It’s very relaxing, right in front of the beach. It’s my favorite place. [El Yunque was heavily damaged in the September 2017 hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. Please check with your hotel concierge for information about current access to the rain forest.]
When it comes to local cuisine, what experiences do you steer people toward?
Mofongo [fried plantains mashed with garlic and oil, paired with meat, seafood or other delectable goodies] is definitely my favorite Puerto Rican dish. And Guavate — that’s known as the “Piggy Route.” Guavate is a town in the mountains in the heart of Puerto Rico. There’s a long street there with a lot of restaurants and live music where locals go for entertainment and traditional Puerto Rican roasted pork.
Any final thoughts about your job and Puerto Rico you’d like to leave us with?
I’m really passionate about what I do. Honestly. I will always welcome people to Puerto Rico with open arms — and I’d like everybody in the world to know that “Puerto Rico does it better!”