Sylvia Darvi, the Director of Housekeeping at Atana Hotel has been a part of the hospitality industry for 20 years, now. Over time, she has consistently established plans of character, integrity and quality resulting in long-range growth and profitability of premier hotels across Oman, United Arab Emirates and India. Sylvia has displayed paramount efforts in innovating and benchmarking housekeeping and laundry concepts and standards as well as addressing guests’ needs and concerns to continuously improve service standards, quality and profitability. In her work environment, she has been resourceful in evolving budgets, effective procedures, establishing service standards and operational policies with proven skills in reducing operational costs through effective cost control. But that’s not how her journey began…
As a child I always wanted to be a Chef, but that did not happen and my path took me in the direction of housekeeping. To be honest, getting into the hospitality industry was a stroke of luck. When I got married and moved to Oman as a new bride, I wanted to work and thus, started applying for jobs. It was a stroke of luck that I landed a job at Grand Hyatt Muscat in the housekeeping department, and then as they say, the rest is history. I did not look back, and now after all these years, the hard work, the experience, the know-how and expertise, led me in the direction that I was destined for – a journey that had many paths of learning, training that gave me in-depth knowledge and expertise in my chosen industry.
As the director of housekeeping, I steer the entire housekeeping function by implementing worldclass housekeeping and laundry systems to the hotel with 828 keys, 3 outlets, a ballroom, 6 meeting rooms and 327 parking areas with emphasis on high levels of profitability and guest satisfaction. I currently lead a team of 160 staff members and monitor the daily laundering of 13 tonnes of linen.
My role involves providing all guests with quality service while maximising room occupancy rate, revenue and productivity through effective coordination with the front office department. I have generated large revenues by building effective relationships, with an emphasis on rapid growth and profitability and a keen focus on building a strong corporate culture. I have trained and motivated professionals to work and enhance their skills in alignment with the organisation’s vision. The focus has always been accelerating productivity and developing careers.
Being an innovative leader has been my main focus. I am professionally skilled in hospitality management, pre-openings and operational opening of hotels, (Holiday Inn, Byblos Group in Abu Dhabi), Emaar (Southern Sun), Grand Hyatt, Ramada and Al Hamra (now Hilton Hotel)) renovation, refurbishments, laundry, budgeting and the front office.
I am very meticulous and believe in paying extraordinary attention to detail. My main motto has always been to ensure that our guest accommodation and all areas front and back of the house are maintained in a spotless condition at all times. I also oversee the hotel laundry and valet services. The primary responsibility of this role is to ensure that the hotel standards are met through the effective management of my housekeeping team, ensuring that labour and other costs are controlled without compromising on quality, and coordinating with all other departments of the hotel.
What drives the passion?
Guest satisfaction is my top priority at all times. It drives me to do better. I am passionate about my work, my team members. My demonstrated ability to lead a multicultural team along with my strong operational rooms division background and relevant experience of 20 years in chain and branded hotels has driven and given me a strong foothold in my career bringing me up the ladder in the corporate world as the Director of Housekeeping. My goal is to follow the three core values of hospitality - a passion for excellence, an essence of pleasure and a spirit of openness.
Your biggest accomplishment I oversaw the successful renovation and rebranding of an independent hotel (Sands) to an international brand - Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi. That is an accomplishment that shaped my career.
The best part of your job
Work that benefits other people and is engaging, like handling guest complaints; and managing, supporting and training multicultural team members; maintaining costs; achieving laundry revenue. It’s a flow of effortlessness where your skills, attention and focus perfectly match the challenge at hand.
The most challenging aspect of your job
The most challenging thing is to handle and control staff turnover and on-board qualified team members. In addition to this, controlling expenses in line with operational standards, maintaining quality suppliers and goods, dropping room rates - all of these are challenges, which I constantly face.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
As applied to ecology, sustainability has been expressed as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation. Many hotel guests want to stay in a ‘green’ hotel, as it allows them to know that they’re helping to protect the environment, and the green efforts also save the hotel’s money in the long term. So an investment in being more environmentally friendly not only results in more customers but also more savings. In the long run, sustainability is cost effective, has better guest experience, improves the brand image and builds a corporate image that attracts talent.
The best housekeeping practices you believe in
I strongly believe in making the staff feel valued. I offer them 2 days of training in a week. I also practice making rooms in 20 steps, provide checklists and resources, conduct quality control inspections. All of these directly lead us to a better hotel reputation and also instills loyalty and brings repeat customers. Then again, housekeeping is an area where members of staff are performing physical tasks continuously. Their health and safety is my responsibility. In addition to these, I focus on staff retention, environmental sustainability, security and laundry maintenance. I try to maximise communication and conduct team-building sessions. Empowered staff members lead to maximum guest satisfaction.
The latest technologies in use
• Room operation systems improve room attendant productivity by up to 20 per cent, saves up to 40 per cent of floor supervisor time and eliminates 80 per cent of phone calls between the front office and housekeeping, besides optimising cleaning schedules throughout the day.
• Automating the room allocation process at the push of a button also allows for a fairer spread of workload amongst housekeeping team members and saves at least two hours every morning.
• Being able to see in ‘real time’ if the housekeeping team is ahead of schedule, on time or behind schedule
• Forecasting staffing needs with pinpoint accuracy based on real data specific to the PMS
• Providing a ‘real-time view’ of room availability to streamline check-in/check-out at reception
• Tracking lost and found.
Innovations that will help in improving cleaning
• The Cleaning Management System – Electronic / Mobile Platform provides continuous insight into the real-time processes and the cleaning status. Cleaning staff and other users are connected throughout the day and can view the progress of specific processes, quality control, the cleaning status of beds and rolling stock e.g. planning, technical issues and protocols. Maps of rooms and buildings are updated in real-time, allowing detailed day-today planning of cleaning activities. Cleaning staff can report back on completed tasks using comments and photos.
• Equipment Management System SMART Trak gives realtime visibility of cleaning and maintenance equipment. It can identify the location of each machine, when it has been used and how long for. It also provides detailed information about maintenance schedules, equipment security, battery and motor performance, and service deadlines. This information can be accessed remotely from any PC, tablet or smartphone and also includes easy-to-follow on-site training via video links.
The future for both the industry and you
In terms of the industry, artificial intelligence (AI) is the future of housekeeping. We already have hotels where human resources are replaced with robots. In the coming years, this trend may achieve more popularity as more hotels implement the same trend.
For me, I have been thoroughly passionate and motivated about housekeeping for 20 memorable years, now. My hard work has seen success and a bright and promising future. It has been a journey full of hard work, each with its own phases of highs and lows, but I have always taken it in my stride. It has been my endeavor to give the best years of my career to the work that I have loved, and I am still continuing with good faith and spirit.