“Housekeeping is not monotonous work. You get an opportunity to serve & interact with people around the globe with different tastes & preferences, have diverse teams & can think out of the box to create an experience for the guest which sometimes goes under our best practices & sometimes have to pass it.”
- Prabhat Shukla, Director of Rooms & Quality ( Acting), Intercontinental Doha the city & Intercontinental Residence suites
Prabhat Shukla is a hospitality professional and a hotel aficionado who brings 21 years of extensive experience in housekeeping. He started his journey in India and then moved to the Middle East - Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait. His passion for impeccable housekeeping led him to great heights in the hospitality industry. Here’s taking a brief look at his journey.
About you, your experience and years in the industry
I studied hospitality management in India before working for Jaypee Group of Hotels, Hyatt & IHG where I served in various roles. After my pass out, I started my journey in India from Agra (City of Taj Mahal), from there later moved to New Delhi followed by a stint in Mumbai. Later on, I moved to the Middle East - Dubai, Kuwait & Qatar.
How you got into the hospitality industry and how you’ve grown since then
I got inspired by one of my friends, who was perusing hotel management (later he left the industry to start his own business). He persuaded me to get enrolled for the entrance exam & once I got in rest is history.
Being a passionate hotelier I look forward to every day being a new day with new challenges & accomplishments which always keep me & my teams on toes; it’s a super joyous moment when you lead a seamless operation with your superior service culture that emanates through people & systems those teams follow.
An accomplishment that shaped your career
It was a conversation with my General Manager who is very people & team-oriented. He suggested I share the little knowledge & experience I had acquired over the course of years with my fraternity & should find a platform to make people understand & recognize the efforts of rooms division to create a guest experience as rooms operations are for many guests still the vital experience of a hotel, and the other are optional extras and may or may not be used. This led to forming Kuwait Housekeepers association in 2008 & my journey to the President of the Asian Housekeepers Association is continuing.
The best part about your job
It’s not monotonous work. You get an opportunity to serve & interact with people around the globe with different tastes & preferences, have diverse teams & can think out of the box to create an experience for the guest which sometimes goes under our best practices & sometimes have to pass it.
The most challenging part of your job
Today there is paramount pressure & competition between hotels for customers & their loyalty, and hotels are expected to get the optimum value for their money, comfort, cleanliness and technology to their guests. So there is huge financial pressure on executive housekeepers, as the expectations from the hotel owners for a return on their investment is very important. The owners are looking at constantly reducing margins for errors and mistakes as well as making more money. Executive housekeepers are constantly looking for new ways to run their departments more economically and efficiently. Keeping costs down while delivering consistently high standards is the main goal. So as global labour costs rise, there is an ever decreasing staff to guest ratio, even in luxury properties.
Why sustainability is so important to you?
Sustainability is the mantra of global citizens to reduce carbon footprints. All international chains are now committed to working responsibly & efficiently through “reduce- reuse - reproduce”. Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem and preserves natural resources for future generations. Going green and sustainable is not only beneficial for the company; it also maximizes the benefits from an environmental focus in the long term.
Your work and profile at your current establishment
Currently working with Intercontinental Doha the city & Intercontinental Residence suites an Iconic 225-meter tower in heart of Doha’s business west bay hub, working in the capacity of Director of Rooms & Quality ( Acting).
Housekeeping practices you follow
Housekeeping is not everybody's cup of tea. Right professionals with a caring attitude, high adaptability and willingness to serve are criteria for selection in this field. This is followed by intensive core competencies and skills training. People are the principal asset and therefore the key to success; hence a lot of emphasis is given to selection, training, performance development, and a regular flow of communication is maintained. Discussing new ideas, working as a team and caring for each other are some of the common characteristics of the housekeeping department.
Specific housekeeping challenges
Cleaning a tower of this size is not an easy job; it takes a minimum of 25-30 days to clean the whole tower. At ground level, the wind doesn’t make much of a difference, but once you go above 50 metres, its force is very strong and makes cleaning difficult.
To maintain a property of this size with your own resources is not easy; you need to have more hands to help you out. You can do some of the tasks yourself, but there are certain tasks that someone else can do better than you because they are specialized in it and even have a license for it.
For example, facade cleaning using a cradle will not work at such heights; it is sensible to give the job to someone who knows exactly what to do. Consequently, the in-house team is supported by 12 sub-contractors who come in to do their jobs from time to time.
The contract with each vendor - which may be annual or on-call - is very specific and detailed. The florist, for example, knows on which day of the week the flowers need to be changed, where they need to be placed, as well as the monthly colour scheme, well in advance. The vendor for horticulture knows he has to come in thrice a week for watering the plants; he will also follow up on his own if the hotel needs something specific. Those in charge of cleaning the car-parking area come in every evening. Carpets are mostly tended to by the in-house staff, but for vast areas like ballrooms, & outlets an external help is required.
To make sure these tasks are accomplished to perfection, a team of supervisors monitor all areas -- high- or low-traffic -- to ensure quality control.
This depends on the checkouts. There are days when there are 300+ checkouts back to back and some days when all rooms need to be serviced in one day. Periodic cleaning is scheduled for once every six months, seasonal cleaning on a monthly basis, and then there is daily cleaning.
The average room size is 42-65 square metres, each of which takes 30-45 minutes to clean. On the other hand, four-bedroom apartments (186 Sqm. - 195 Sqm) can take up to three hours to clean if it is occupied. When such an apartment is finally vacated after a few years, it takes 1-2 days to clear the marks of the previous guests, 3-4 days to paint the room fully, preceded by engineering and maintenance repairs.
The latest products (chemicals & equipment) that are in use
Degragerm from Johnson Diversey (detergent, disinfectant and deodorizer for floors and surfaces) is the current rage due to our cleaning protocols during these unprecedented times & electrostatic sprayer to use it. They are handy and show good results. Aqua Vacuum is the rage among housekeepers as its effective cleaning system, whilst only using half the electricity & usage of water filtration system Instead of bags or cylinders sets it apart from others. Its dual-task cleaning & working as an air purifier is attracting housekeepers of the region. Plus it is a green practice.
Training provided to the cleaning staff
Training is an integral part of our day to day operations. It is required 24 X 7 & 365 days to put brand & culture in the DNA of our team members as hotels take advantage of an increasing array of technologies to improve the guest stay. The role of housekeeping is enormous as far as the comfort and preferences of a traveller are concerned.
With software’s such as Optiikeeper and HotSOS which are showing a growing presence in the market, technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in Housekeeping Operations and the staff will need to cope with that in the future with the way guests are travelling nowadays, I observed more of a 24-hour cycle of check-in and check-out rather than traditional arrival and departure times is adapted. The whole operation needs to be very dynamic and adaptable. As guest expectations get higher and higher and the market becomes more competitive, our staff will need to deliver equally high-quality services and will be required to have far more guest interaction and language skills than ever before in order to communicate better with the guest.
What kind of innovations do you think will help in your cleaning processes
We are looking for chemical-free & water-based cleaning agents that are effective, easy to use & eco-friendly.
What is the future of the cleaning industry?
The future of the cleaning industry is challenging & exciting as new cities & architectural designs are coming up to upkeep them is the responsibility of the cleaning industry. Many big players are emerging as cleaning specialists to maintain and guide with new technologies to keep sparkly clean.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic should be dealt with (in terms of housekeeping)?
The Housekeeping Army has dealt with great courage & determination around the world with this pandemic situation from nowhere to be Master in sanitization & disinfection with following local & their brands cleaning protocols has been a learning curve for everyone. today a Housekeeper is not only knowledgeable but also confident to deal with the situation.