Carlo Tila de Guzman, the Executive Housekeeper at Armani Hotel Dubai - a 160- room and suite hotel with 144 residences located in the iconic Burj Khalifa - shares an interesting tale with us that shaped his career. After he completed his studies in 2002, he joined Mandarin Oriental in the Philippines as a Housekeeping Attendant. Within a year, his entire peer group was moving to the UAE for better opportunities, and he followed suit. And, that’s how de Guzman landed in Dubai – the maximum city - to join his first hotel property. He started his Dubai career with One&Only Royal Mirage Dubai as the Housekeeping Attendant. A Bachelors in Hotel and Restaurant Management from La Fortuna College, de Guzman recently celebrated 17 years of work experience with various luxury hotel brands including Mandarin Oriental, One&Only, Grosvenor House JBR and Le Meridien at JBR previously managed by Starwood, Address Hotel, The Meydan Hotel and Armani Hotel.
In the initial days of my career, the UAE hospitality business was undergoing a boom. Although I was not very keen on moving out of my home country, I suddenly realised that I was the only one who had not left my comfort zone for better career opportunities. Now Dubai is like home!
My Dubai journey began with One&Only Resort group after which I joined the Grosvenor House, JBR to work as the Housekeeping Order Taker and later got promoted as the Housekeeping Administrator. Soon after, I moved to join Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, which was earlier owned by the Starwood group, and after a four year stint with the group I moved to the Address Dubai Marina as a preopening Housekeeping Coordinator and left with the position of Asst. Executive Housekeeper. Then later, for two plus years, I worked with The Meydan Hotel as the Housekeeping Manager, before joining the Armani Hotel.
Drive and passionMy passion to work in the hotel industry has evolved ever since I completed my degree course in the hospitality segment. Beginning my career as a room attendant, I have grown through the ranks, and today I am proud to be the Executive Housekeeper at the Armani Hotel Dubai managing a team of over 100.
I am driven by results - I like the feeling when you’re able to achieve something great every time. For example, here at the Armani, the staff is always dedicated to achieve their departmental goals in Leading Quality Assurance, mystery shoppers, guests and staffs satisfaction surveys – year by year and breaking the earlier records. I also like leading my team – I enjoy being an example for them; in fact most of them consider me their mentor.
In addition to the daily cleaning, we have introduced a periodic cleaning programme in order to maintain the standard of cleanliness. In this programme, all housekeeping tasks place a strong focus on deep cleaning specific areas. The focus changes regularly as per schedule to make sure no areas are being missed out. In the past, the housekeeping practices were quite different when compared to cost-saving initiatives, budgeting and periodic cleaning regimes. For instance, in the past, we were able to block an entire floor for periodic cleaning, but now, we cannot practice that. We have to ensure that the cleaning process is being carried without disrupting the hotel’s operations.
Managing time, expectations, people (both the staff and the guests) are some of the challenging aspects in our department. Of course, you learn from the experiences and will always get a chance to overcome it with time. The Armani hotel reflects the pure elegance, simplicity and sophisticated comfort that define the style of the brand. Also, our beautiful interior decor, furniture, supplies as well as hotel amenities are imported from Italy, and this takes time; we have to plan beforehand to ensure we have control of our inventory while we pay attention to maintaining the assets in the highest order.
Housekeeping is not restricted to one particular department of a hotel - we do interact with the guests, work towards offering the best guest experience on the other hand we do have to look into the hotel supplies along with the hotel operations. And this makes us responsible to inculcate sustainability practices in all daily practices as our contribution is huge and has a great impact in protecting our environment. In fact, we have also achieved the Green Globe International Standard for Sustainable Tourism certification in 2017. Besides, we are a part of the Soap for Hope initiative; we practice recycling and believe in conserving water and energy.
Around 10 years ago, the operations in hotels, especially the housekeeping department, were very different – all the hotel operations were mostly manual – and now we are gradually moving towards newer technologies and practices. It is great when you understand both methods – it gives you a deeper understanding. And, I am lucky enough to go through both the processes. Earlier, we used to clean our large areas such as the main entrance, pavilion, pre-function and outlet terrace using a walk-behind scrubber. Earlier this year, I introduced the ride-on scrubber, and thanks to the technology, not only is the housekeeping attendant’s time saved, but it is economical both in labour and maintenance. Such cost-effective solutions help us achieve our financial targets.
We organise training programmes every month, i.e. we have a training calendar with a focus on guest engagement, machines, cleaning practices and health and safety. We also introduced training videos two years ago, which was very well received by the team – this is one of the best practices behind the successful scores in our targets.
Investing in a learning academy for housekeeping will benefit both the staff and the management so that before they join the property, they know their role and the job well. Also, this is where they’ll learn about the chemicals, machines, terminologies, different areas thus understanding the cleaning process cleaning and the services we offer to our guests.
Nowadays, with the fast evolving technological innovations, cleaning processes can be easily replaced by machines. But, we have to be careful because housekeeping plays a crucial role in offering memorable experience to the guests. Thus, housekeeping not only contributes to this but provides an emotional attachment, too, that can never replaced by any technology. Passion for the job can only be developed, but not taught.