Amarnath Kumar is a living example of a small town boy who grew up by leaps and bounds in both life and career. Having grown up in a village in North India and started his career in South India after completing his hotel and hospitality management from eastern India, today he is the Executive Housekeeper, Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Hotel, Dubai. Amarnath currently oversees the entire housekeeping and laundry operations of 481 guest rooms of the iconic property, connected to the world’s renowned Mall of the Emirates. Let's take a look at his journey.
My name is Amarnath and I am from India. Just as I completed my plus two, professional courses started gaining momentum in India. I love interacting with new people. Hence, I was all prepared to go against my father’s will of me becoming an Engineer and opted for a hotel management course. After completing my hotel management degree course, I joined The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, and then I never looked back.
I am a self-motivated person, I read lots of motivational books, and this added to my success in this very demanding industry and profession. I am a very passionate individual who constantly looks for ways to improve internal processes, coaching the team with a strong focus on guest services and attention to details. I love travelling and experiencing new cultures and cuisines.
Your experience and years in the industry
My journey started in 2010 as a pre-opening team in The Westin Hyderabad Mind space, India where I was selected in the campus interview during my college academics. There wasn’t a moment where I hesitated to work as a room attendant and it paid off well. The rigorous and detailed training provided at The Westin helped me to shape my outlook and understand the importance of training and engagement during the process.
After spending a year in Westin, I moved on to take on the challenge as Guest Service Supervisor in Taj Banjara, Hyderabad where again working for the world class hospitality encouraged me to focus on leisure luxury guests to understand and deliver service, which exceeded their expectations every time.
A very interesting opportunity came my way when I was working in Taj Banjara, to join the grand opening of Vivanta by Taj Hyderabad in India. In July 2012, an opportunity came to work abroad in Dubai to rebrand an ultra-luxury hotel, the H Hotel Dubai from the Monarch Dubai as Housekeeping supervisor. Without batting an eyelid, I hopped on to the aircraft and landed in the City of Gold, Dubai, and UAE, which I have called home for the past 9 years.
After spending two years in the H Hotel Dubai, I got an opportunity to work in 5 star Dubai’s leading luxury city hotel with 536 room’s inventory Media Rotana under the great leadership of Ms. Ute Knott and general manager Mr. Rabih Melhem as an Assistant Housekeeper. In 2016, I took a transfer again, this time to lead the Nour Arjaan by Rotana in Fujairah to lay the foundation of a strong rooms operation.
2017 was an amazing year when I got selected for 5 star Luxury hotel with 1608 rooms, 26 meeting rooms, and 16 restaurants-World's tallest 5 star hotel. The housekeeping function in this hotel is diverse and dynamic as the operations are super busy and spread out across the 75 floors of each tower. With a total manning of 350 associates plus outsourced labor, it takes a lot of planning and thoughtful ideas to run the operations seamlessly.
I took a transfer again, this time to lead the Dubai Marriott Harbour hotel and suites housekeeping team as an executive housekeeper with 232 well-appointed guest rooms and suites. Finally, in July 2021, I joined Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Dubai with 481 room’s inventory as an executive housekeeper, which is where I work now.
What drives you and your career?
The most important factor which drives me and my career is passion for what I do. Enjoying my job has always kept me highly motivated and committed. Besides that, there are also other attributes, which have kept me on track to succeed: passion for people, willingness to serve, being able to inspire others and contribute towards change and empowerment.
My main career driver lies with the feeling of ownership, and the feeling of pride, recognition and the sense of accomplishment. All of these factors make me do more.
An accomplishment that shaped your career
I cherish each and every task I have completed successfully. There is always a sense of pride when you achieve your targets. Especially if there were hurdles and challenges faced.
Being part of the pre-opening teams of prominent hotels such as The Westin Hyderabad Mind Space, Taj Hotels in India and working with legend and my mentor Mr. Sajan Pallipurath in JW Marriott Marquis helped me to showcase my talent. Being certified cleanliness champion in Marriott international and being awarded as a spirit to serve award by Executive chairman and president of Marriott international always makes me proud.
The best part of your job
Meeting and interacting with guests and employees from all across the world makes me really happy, I feel happy when I see my team happy. My day becomes better when the team achieves consistently great results in overall cleanliness and guest satisfaction in Guest voice (Medallia) and my team members are recognized by the guests.
The most challenging aspect of your job
Consistently maintaining high quality service levels and adding special touches to guest rooms within a limited budget is a challenge. Also, working with a contract workforce who speak and understand limited English and come with little or no experience in housekeeping, let alone having an understanding of luxury is a difficult task. Being the largest department in a hotel, I strongly believe if you can successfully manage a housekeeping team, you can manage any operational team in the hotel.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability is very much important to us as it increases efficiencies by changing behaviors and focusing on operational improvements. Sustainability- enhancing projects that might be to achieve certain certifications may qualify for rebate opportunities and can also lead to returns on investment that reduce operating costs over time. As part of Sustainability and Social Impact, we are playing very important roles in the hotel industry. Some of our initiatives are:
Green Key International
The Green Key is the world’s leading eco-label for hotels and other tourism facilities with more than 3,000 awarded establishments in more than 60 countries. The program aims to change the practices and behaviors of the tourism industry and to encourage environmental best practices throughout the hospitality sector. The Green Key has designed its criteria to be easily understood by tourists, practically implemented for the tourism industry, and clearly verifiable through audits.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
LEED certification is recognized across the globe as a preferred mark of achievement in green building, promoting best-in-class strategies and practices for design, construction, operations and maintenance.
The EarthCheck Certified program is designed to empower tourism enterprises to take ownership of sustainability goals and build on local initiatives. In our properties, employees are trained in how to use chemicals correctly and how they can save water and electricity while doing their tasks. We focus on key factors like minimizing wastage, reduction of plastics and supporting and reinforcing green housekeeping programs for guests. We have implemented practices like proper monitoring of linen change data of guest rooms and bath rooms following “respect the towel program”, wall mounted toiletries for our rooms in progress, reducing carbon print, color coded bins and many more are our main key initiatives. With global environmental concerns becoming a top consumer issue, Marriott International has committed to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. The phase out of plastics supports our Serve 360 initiatives.
Housekeeping practices you follow
We ensure that our guests and associates have a safe and clean environment. Continuous training is a part of the job, and we ensure that our new associates undergo the training programme before they are being deployed to perform the daily tasks. In keeping with Marriott’s Commitment to Clean programme, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have made several enhancements to our cleaning practices throughout our property. These include:
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection, particularly in public areas with high touch point areas including restrooms, elevators, and room keys as well as providing more hand sanitizing stations.
- Staff members wear face masks and gloves based on the activities they are performing and based on direction by the local authorities.
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place to sanitize rooms after guests depart and before the next guest arrives.
- Increased frequency of cleaning in the Back of House where hotel employees work behind the scenes.
- Increased associate health, safety and knowledge efforts, including hand hygiene protocols and specific COVID-19 related training on a regular basis.
- Included commitment to clean training slides in daily stand up meetings with associates, supervisors, managers and excoms.
The latest products in use
Considering the current COVID-19 situation, we have added an electrostatic fogging machine into our operations for disinfection. We also use Hyla machines for our deep cleaning procedures in our guest rooms. We have sensor-based sanitizer machines installed in all places and in back areas of the hotel. Part of the guest amenity includes a hygiene kit with antiseptic wipes, a pair of gloves, face mask and hand sanitizer in every room.
Our properties have implemented a GXP (Guest experience platform) software wherein all communications involving operations are centralized making it easy for team members to attend to any guest request. With this all guest requests are attended to faster and tracked.
Challenges you have faced
I have gone through many challenges in my career such as delivering targets in a short period of time with limited resources. Many times during pre-opening a hotel or big group bookings, I have been under pressure to rush the housekeeping operation in between early check-ins and late check outs.
To keep the team motivated during challenging situations is a challenge in itself. It becomes difficult to get the work done with certain limitations, and at the same time we must keep the team happy and motivated. We organise various activities to keep them going. We conduct a lot of training programmes for the staff to enhance their skills and to impart work ethics.
The future of the cleaning industry
As the overall concept of housekeeping is changing day by day, it is becoming so much more than just cleaning and maintaining the product. Due to COVID-19, we have seen a huge demand and importance of housekeepers for cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas from time to time.
Housekeeping teams are getting more and more involved in budgeting and in cost control, as well responsible for choosing the right people, training and nurturing the team members. We are also equally involved in maximising the usage of available resources effectively and efficiently.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic should be dealt with?
Excellent housekeeping has always been an essential aspect of running a hotel. In fact, according to a survey even before COVID-19, 86% of hotel guests cited cleanliness as the top criteria they look for when reading online hotel or holiday rental reviews. The survey also revealed that eight out of ten guests would rather give up internet access for the duration of their stay than stay in a dirty hotel or rental.
To earn guest confidence now, hotels will have to demonstrate that they provide a clean and safe environment and are following specific disinfecting protocols. As part of this new dynamic, the ability to develop and implement proven strategies to meet these new cleanliness standards will be critical to combat competition. Through the right hospitality solutions, hotels leverage an organised cleaning procedure with a tailor-made checklist to cover every nook and cranny of the property, from guest rooms and restrooms to cupboards and curtain drapes.