Smart leadership & Smarter Workforce
• 6 thought-provoking sessions
• Delegates register from over 50 countries
• Over 40 speakers
• Asian Housekeeping Awards 2020
In the midst of a pandemic that has brought housekeeping to the forefront and made housekeepers heroes of ‘the war’, hospitality professionals from over 50 countries gathered to receive and share knowledge at the landmark virtual conference – 5th International Housekeepers Summit.
My congratulations to all the affiliates of International Housekeepers Summit 2020 on organizing an exceptional event on Smart Leadership and Smarter Workforce. This virtual conference came at an ideal time and attending this was an enjoyable experience. Substantively, it was extraordinary in its diversity and proficiency of speakers. Every panel we listened was engaging and perceptive. I was very impressed with the innovation and skill that the IHS2020 Team brought to this online event. Conducting a virtual conference is devilishly difficult, as so many things can go wrong. The IHS & VIS team did an astounding job of preparation for contingencies, and of keeping the session dialogue lively and full of life.
The Park Hotels
Hosted by the Asian Housekeepers’ Association, a federation of 18-country associations, IHS2020 witnessed over 1400 delegates joining online on December 18, 19 and 20, 2020 to listen and learn from speakers logging in from across the world. The International Housekeepers’ Summit, which has been previously hosted at Mumbai, Colombo and Agra, is organised by the VIS Group and is an initiative of Clean India Journal.
‘Good morning, good afternoon and good evening’ was the common greetings that bound each of the 40+ panellists residing in places as far apart as the US and Bangladesh, Netherlands and Macao. Many of them logged in before sun rise, and many others stayed long after the sun keenly listening to industry leaders addressing the most pertinent topics of concern for ‘Redefining Housekeeping – Smart Leadership & Smarter Workforce’. Such extensive participation would not have been possible without the active support and engagement of housekeepers’ associations of India, Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. IHS2020 took off on a positive key note by Martin Kubler Hospitality Veteran, Hotel GMturned-Industry Advisor & Consultant, Dubai, stating that it has been an interesting year for all of us in the hospitality industry. The hotels always counted on housekeeping, but this year, housekeepers and housekeeping took the centre stage. Guests and general managers both appreciated housekeepers as the people who will make the room clean and safe for the guests. Going forward, housekeeping professionals will be at the forefront. In these past months, they were at the front, they dealt with the worst of situations, and they helped the entire hospitality industry reopen after lockdown.”
Endorsing the role of housekeepers, Prabhat Shukla, President-Asian Housekeepers Association, and the Director Housekeeping at Intercontinental Doha The City, said, “We have moved from invisible cleaning to performative housekeeping, visual cleanliness to disinfection. Our systems are more refined now than they were six months ago. This is a make-or-break time for every organisation.”
A well-thought of Summit, IHS2020, was organised to bring together the housekeeping fraternity and encourage the contribution made by them in combatting Covid-19 with more learning. The sessions addressed select subjects for three-hour daily over three days. The credit of the success of IHS2020 largely goes to the speakers who were undeterred by the challenge of waking up as early 4am in the morning to be part of the Summit. Equally contributing were the delegates which had a large cross section of viewers from the hospitality, facility management, educational institutions, corporate houses and those in the housekeeping profession across industries. And, yes, our Partners who whole-heartedly supported the summit. Here is a glimpse of the topics discussed:
The session on ‘Relook Budgeting in Housekeeping’ (more on this elsewhere in his issue) was moderated by Tatjana Ahmed, Housekeeping Manager, Grand Hyatt, Dubai who tactfully engaged Aveek Sengupta, General Manager – Taj Ahmedabad, India, Ruvini Ranasooriya, Housekeeping Consultant, CEO – The Skills Developers, Sri Lanka, Dr. Meenu Tognatta, Divisional Housekeeper – ITC, India and Maria Vikakes, Executive Housekeeper, Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino, Egypt in a spirited discussion on how and why to plan housekeeping budgets in this era.
In the following chat on ‘Analysing Changed Cost Structure @ Pandemic’, Alena Miatlushka, Human Resource Manager – Hilton, Toronto suggested that “Asking everyone to multi-task, where everyone is a housekeeper and the front desk manager also wipes the front desk”, is one way to retain existing staff. Jan J Hartog, Vice President-Housekeeping, Galaxy Entertainment, Macao suggested getting staff to voluntarily go on unpaid leave, or cede some paid leave, is another way to rearrange costs.
Among the many speakers at the session on Newer Perceptions of Guest Management, Ahmed Kamel, Rooms Division Expert & Hotel Opening/Rebranding Specialist suggested that fine-tuning on how one communicates with guests through non-contact media like emails is critical. Annabella Gutermuth, Hotel Manager, Warwick Hotel, Doha suggested creating videos to demonstrate to guests the efforts the hotel is taking to sanitise their rooms. In Day 2’s first decision on Cost vs Benefit visa-vis New Technology, Anthony Poppe, Assistant Director – Sales, Knowcross, Singapore stated the universal truth that the adoption rate of contactless technology has increased everywhere. Justifying its use, Subhadip Hore, CPE – Soft Services, Compass India Support Services Pvt Ltd, India explained how ATP meters not only measure the level of surface contamination but also decide the level of cleaning required. Yean Fai Liu, Process & Service Excellence Consultant, India gave the example of how push notifications can be embedded in existing apps to inform guests about the status of their room’s cleaning.
International Housekeeper’s Summit 2020 was a perfect platform which saw industry leaders from 20 different countries come together to discuss, share learnings and best practices on the role that housekeeping can play in facilitating business continuity in hospitality post pandemic.
The quorum concurred that the strategies to drive business continuity in the space must be hinged on technology, contactless service, and good housekeeping. It was widely agreed that informed and healthy workforce, well-entrenched disinfection and hygiene practices, use of innovative technology to create safe surroundings, as well as touchless human interfaces will form the key pillars of good housekeeping as hospitality industry looks at revival.
In ‘In talks with the GM’, Md Al-Amin, GM – Six Seasons Hotel, Bangladesh warned that “While we are able to take all precautions now when demand is low, it will be difficult to ensure safety once business starts going up”.
While discussing ‘Creating Safe and Smart Workforce’, Nisha Chand, Hospitality HR Professional, Toronto, USA stated that jobs have been redesigned everywhere, and one-to-one or classroom training is no longer possible in the pandemic situation. Irene Daniel. HR Program Manager, Google (London) reminded everyone that it costs more to hire and train a new worker than to retain an existing one.
With a focus on laundries, Day 3 began with a panel on Critical Components of Laundry Management, in which Anil Shah, Senior Manager (Business Support) – Linencraft, Dubai stated that “In hospitality, laundry is considered an extension of housekeeping”. Anshul Gupta of Quick Clean pointed out that in hotels, sensorial cleanliness was more important than hygiene; if the bedsheet is white, it didn’t have to be bacteria-free. Akash Dharamsey of ADD Laundry Concepts advised everyone to use data that can help analyse process and control costs at this critical time.’ He strongly felt that hotels should focus on their core activities like rooms and food, and outsource laundry to professionals.
This was followed by virology expert Dr Nageshwara Rao Dunna’s comprehensive but succinct presentation on the virus itself, and how to protect oneself from it at an individual level. The concluding session was on ‘Outsourcing – How laundry service providers can ensure safe laundries’, in which Arunabh Sinha, Director, U-Clean Laundry and Ashutosh Goyal, Founder, Lavender Laundry & Dry-Cleaning Services agreed that old loyalties with traditional laundrymen are being forsaken for modern, transparent, hygienic laundry services.
The deluge of responses and compliments on social media is proof enough to spell the success of IHS2020, the much-sought-after platform of housekeeping professionals. As we step into the next year, we are already setting the stage for IHS2021 at Doha!