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Housekeeping has tremendous potential to employ even the physically challenged people and is capable of harnessing the best out of them. At Lemon tree Hotels, over 10% of the group employees are from this segment of the population,” informs Navina Singh, Executive Housekeeper, Lemon Tree, Ahmedabad. Excerpts of her conversation with Suprita Anupam…

Conservative estimates put the population of persons with disability (PWDs) in India at 70 million of which 12 million (or 1% of India’s population) are speech and hearing impaired. Less than 3% of PWDs are gainfully employed compared with between one third and half in the developed world. Lemon Tree Hotels has been hiring PWDs (100% speech and hearing impaired people – mostly from BPL communities) since 2007. Currently, over 10% of group employees are from this segment of the population. The group plans to increase this number to more than 10% of total employees by end 2014-15. Lemon Tree has also developed a standard process to induct people with disabilities into all its hotels pan India, including remote places like Muhamma in Kerala. “We are confident that our well trained differently enabled team members will delight guests more than other employees. We have seen these people have got equal recognition from guests for their services in various channels.

Servicing Guests

Nowadays, travellers have become very particular and sensitive to cleanliness and it is highly challenging to cater to different expectations of guests. We overcome this by providing personalised service to individuals and make a note of minute details and preferences to ensure they feel comfortable every time they stay with us. With increasing cost of manpower, we have to push 14-15 room attendants to perform where ideally 20 should be in place. This is certainly adding tremendous pressure on them.

The supplies and chemical costs for housekeeping and laundry respectively are increasing constantly. We have to work within a very tight budget and deliver high quality standards. With the upcoming trends in equipment and technology, hotels will see highly efficient & productive housekeeping services and maintain highest possible standards with minimised costs.

Stepping into Outsourcing?

Before initiating talks with a service provider, we first check their reputation and performance with competitors who are already engaging their services. One will have to accept the fact that, in an outsourced model, the service standards may drop a bit.

However, strict monitoring on the work carried out by service providers is a must; benchmarking system put in place before getting into a contract and scrutinizing the vendors identified by them for building long-term cooperation.

Eco-friendly Practices

We have tent cards placed in the guest rooms which denote the amount of water saved if the linen is changed on an alternate-day basis creating awareness among guests. Use of bio-degradable bags, LED lights, occupancy sensors and use of green fuels (CNG instead of LPG) are some other techniques that have been introduced.

On a larger scale, LEED certification is being made mandatory for all the hotel organizations. We have STP on premises and treated water is being reused in gardens. We are also trying to lower the cement’s carbon footprint by using eco-friendly ash cement which in fact is stronger than regular one in building structures.

Increased Housekeeping Activities

Recent role of housekeeping in hospitality is increasing. Housekeeping personnel usually interact with guests to create a rapport, understanding their likes, dislikes and preferences. Activities such as training new employees on board, learning operations of new equipment and eco-friendly practices have become coherent part of housekeeping activities.

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