Heading the Abad chain of Resorts and Hotels in Kerala as the Corporate Manager-Housekeeping, Bindu Pravish believes that investing in the housekeeping department is important to maintain the image of a hotel. In a brief interview with CIJ at her Kochi office, she discusses aspects and issues before the hospitality industry in Kerala.
A major part of the investment in hotel housekeeping is directed towards retaining and training staff in a holistic and congenial environment. “Today, we have around 500 people working in our properties. Hotel Abad Plaza in Kochi is the central training unit, where the staff is trained in various skills for two weeks and subsequently shifted to other properties,” says Bindu.
Considering the magnitude of properties, 11 hotels and resorts, the core challenges lie in hiring the bottom line staff, especially in Kerala where the literacy rate is high and everybody prefers a white-collar job. This is one of the main reasons for the increasing trend of outsourcing in the hospitality industry. “At times we get staff from outside Kerala too but the high attrition rate of around 30 to 40% is a big issue. They get trained and move on.
“Most of the attrition happens during off season. Keeping this in mind, we have delegated the job of training to senior housekeeping staff.” The training also includes operating on cleaning machines. “We are mostly using Roots Multiclean Ltd and Diversey products now, as there are not many cleaning equipment suppliers in this part of the country. Nobody else has approached us with good machines. The existing machines are on AMC and we have noticed that the after sales staff tends to replace a couple of parts every time they come for servicing. Some of the cleaning equipment that we purchased earlier is now lying in the backyard, as there is no after sales service available. Besides, we are not able to educate the staff about the technicalities of machines due to lack of clarity in terms of servicing aspect. Though, there are domestic machinery suppliers, there is a lack of proper services,” she laments.
Talking about cleaning chemicals, she says, “We buy Diversey products but also use local ones for external cleaning. While, most of what we use is eco-friendly, it is not effective in hard cleaning, especially in grease and oily areas. Further, green products are not affordable when it comes to cleaning large external areas.”
Abad Group has its own facility management wing which does carpet cleaning and other electro-mechanical jobs. For painting or carpentry, floor polishing or specialised cleaning like façade maintenance, it engages outside contractors with trained and certified staff. The housekeeping department is important but it has not got its due recognition. The fact that a major volume of staffing is done in this department, it has a bearing on the spending too. Besides, cost cutting has become an inherent part of the department, more so, as central purchase also falls under housekeeping.
The housekeeping department takes care of laundry and related segments as well. The Group has a big laundry unit at Cochin International Airport operated by a private contractor. It is equipped with four washers from Ramsons besides extractors and dryers. The contractor runs the unit and services the Abad Hotel chain in accordance with the SOPs set by the hotel. Here again, there are issues of spare parts which are expensive and not supplied fully. The laundry also caters to other hotels and washes around 5000 to 7000 pieces on a daily basis. “We use mostly Diversey chemicals and plan to invest on more machines, which would be a versatile mix of washer and extractor for better efficiency,” she added.