Housekeeping will always remain the most important department in the hospitality industry. Without this department, none of the businesses will be able to run their operations properly and safely. The housekeeping industry in Bahrain is facing numerous challenges, along with a vast range of opportunities and a bright future ahead. The Kingdom's hospitality industry is growing at an unprecedented speed, with the country hosting a big number of visitors per year. This growth is a clear indication that Bahrain is fast becoming a prime tourism destination.
After more than three years of navigating the challenges of the global pandemic, the World Health Organization has ended the global emergency status for COVID-19. While COVID-19 remains a global health threat, Bahrain is well positioned and prepared to address the risk for any new strains of virus that may erupt through the evolving policies and procedures for cleaning, disinfection and sanitization within the hospitality industry.
Higher guest expectations
Going hand-in-hand with increased cleaning requirements, guests are coming to hospitality with higher expectations for their stay than ever before. As such, guests expect rooms to be properly sanitized and disinfected prior to their arrival, and they expect common areas to be pristine. This is unlikely to change in the coming years. Because of this, housekeeping may be one of the most critical elements of the hotel’s brand reputation and customer loyalty.
The talent retention and high employee turnover is another common challenge that most of the hospitality firms are facing within the housekeeping department. It is a very hard job with long working hours, low salaries, physically demanding tasks and a very high-pressure environment. All these factors lead to employees not wanting to stick to the housekeeping department.
Furthermore, the fluctuation in Business level and forecast in Bahrain between one month to another will not allow to have full manning of permanent employees. While we focused lately a lot on having outsourced labors to adapt to the business fluctuation, other challenges arise related to outsourced companies. It is very hard to find an outsourcing company that can keep promises to provide calibers (experience / language etc.), and well-trained candidates with all the legal requirements. When we stop those employees from working due to a business drop, it’s very hard to get them back. Therefore, we will need to invest in training new people and they will need at least one month to be fully productive and ready for the job which is again a loss of time and money.
Delivery period of supplies
Most of the operating and guest supplies are imported from Europe or Far East countries. The major challenge is the delivery period. Rather than the pandemic has ended, and navigation, aviation transports are almost back to normal, we are still having a lot of challenges in the delay of the product's delivery which affect the guest experience.
Opportunities and the future of housekeeping in Bahrain
For the opportunities and future of housekeeping in Bahrain, it is very important to highlight the sustainable Eco-Practice that started already and should be followed by all the properties. Sustainability is more than a trend; it’s a global necessity. Housekeeping is the best department for quick and easy implementation of sustainable, eco-friendly practices. It starts by embracing automation and reduce the property’s carbon footprint by enabling 100% paperless communication. The next step is to ensure using green, non-toxic cleaning products, creating a safer environment for both staff and guests. Towel and linen reuse programs are one of the practices and rends in Bahrain hotels, which allow guests to indicate when to change their sheets and towels. Lot of other practices are planned for the coming years related to ESG initiatives like swiping from single use plastic amenities to large format plastic free amenities, replacing the plastic dry amenities (Ex: Dentil Kit, Shaving Kit, Shower cap ect…) by plastic free dry amenities (using Bamboo, corn fibers or any biodegradable products). Another opportunity is replacing the plastic water bottles in the guest rooms and restaurants by glass bottles. We are lucky in Bahrain that we have few companies that introduced to many hospitality firms the Internal Plant Bottling concept. This project is under implementation in many luxurious properties in Bahrain and many others are following the same path.
Adoption of technology
Another focus in housekeeping in the coming few years will be using technology in training. No matter how experienced the housekeepers are, ongoing training will improve their performance, keep them engaged at work, and expand their skill set. Training is necessary for the seamless onboarding of housekeepers. The best way is creating digital content that helps trainees reference instructions whenever they need a refresher or detailed guidance. Photos and videos deliver the best training results because they clearly define work goals and show staff how to achieve them – all in incremental, easily manageable steps.
Lots of machines and technologies are being used during the pandemic and are considered currently as a must and a norm in the hotels and restaurant operations like Ozone Machines and air purifiers used to reduce transferring the viruses between guest & employees. Furthermore, UV light technology that shows while inspecting all the hidden bacteria and dirt that can’t be seen in the own eye will maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of the property itself.
Bahrain is on her way to introduce in some luxury hospitality firms the high-end intelligent automation system that helps connect all the hotel appliances and make it easy to control what the guests require. Example: Guests can close and open the curtains, turn on or off audio or TV from I-pad, guests can ask for cleaning service by pressing a button in his room ect…
One of the latest technologies that are designing the future of housekeeping is the commercial cleaning robots. They are rapidly becoming a lifeline for housekeeping managers in the hospitality industry. But with new technologies often come new challenges, including costs that must be budgeted for, hardware and software that must be learned, and routines that must be modified. The major question will be if the hospitality companies in Bahrain are going to invest in this technology?
At the end, housekeeping leaders in Bahrain should always walk aside all the changes and improvements that are happening within the hospitality industry. The pandemic was a learning curve that led to a huge evolvement on policies & procedures levels, cleaning & hygiene techniques and in the introduction of all the new technologies related to housekeeping that will enhance the experience and facilitate the life of the clients and employees.
In conclusion, while the Housekeeping industry in Bahrain may have its fair share of challenges, its significant growth potential makes it an excellent business opportunity in the coming years. Companies willing to invest in training, equipment, and effective recruitment policies can expect satisfactory returns in the long run. The future is without a doubt bright, and only time will tell if the sector will ultimately meet the demands of the Kingdom's increasing hospitality market.
About the author:
Pierre Renno is the Director of Housekeeping at Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.