Ever Higher Standards: 25 Years in Housekeeping

By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, Jul/Aug 2009

Looking back 25 years ago, there have been many years filled with exciting learning experiences and rewarding opportunities working in Hawaii’s hospitality industry as an executive housekeeper and later as a contract cleaning consultant and training specialist.

Exactly 25 years ago in 1984, as the corporate executive housekeeper for Aston Hotels & Resorts, I was setting up the housekeeping operations for the opening of the 596-room Waikiki Hobron Hotel, which today operates as a condominium. Later that same year, housekeeping assignments took me to the plush Aston Waikiki Beach Tower to set up for the opening of 100 beautiful condo resort suites. The years followed with many more Aston openings and management takeover assignments on the mainland during 1987 to 1990 and to the neighbor islands from 1988 to 1991. There have since been other management takeover changes and property name changes.

Enhanced housekeeping technologies today through chemicals, tools and equipment, personnel, training and cleaning processes better service our Hawaii visitors and provide and insure for the unforgettable experiences of our aloha and ohana spirit.

In 1999, microfiber cleaning technology via professional cleaning cloths and flat mops were introduced to members of the International Executive Housekeepers Association, Hawaii chapter, at a chapter meeting. Interest and acceptance by housekeeping managers then were at a low and slow acceptance pace. In the past, common practice was to cut up and serge the edges of old and damaged terry and bed linens to create the key tool of the trade — a housekeeping cleaning cloth that was referred to, back then, as a “cleaning rag.”

Though it took awhile, today microfiber is highly utilized at many facilities. In the past, one would see room attendants on their hands and knees scrubbing and cleaning bathroom floors. Increased promotions and advertisements on the green movement, improvement in germ kill time of cleaning disinfectants and chemicals, and increased training and emphasis on hand-washing techniques, personal protective equipment and processes have seen cleaning results increase to higher standards. Green cleaning also has impacted guest room bath and bed linen changes, thus resulting in higher standards for in-house and off-premise laundry operations and services.

Other noted changes in hotel housekeeping operations today are mattress sizes, bed linen designs, thread counts and finished bed presentations. Duvets with enhanced coverlets are replacing bedspreads, and pillow counts per bed have increased in many hotels and resorts.

Most recently, housekeeping managers of the IEHA, Hawaii chapter, have been introduced to a new professional cleaning tool called Activeion. Tap water in a filled high-tech bottle is electrically charged and changes into an effective cleaning solution, which is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and tested with high germ kill results. Field tests were performed by many IEHA members. High schools have begun to show interest in Activeion for food management and service programs, health rooms and housekeeping special education life skills. A few high schools have since purchased the tool for students to use due to its safe, sanitizing and user-friendly results, as it does not require MSDS or HazCom training. Another new tool being introduced today is a germ measurement device, referred to as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) measuring of organic contamination. With higher concerns toward viruses, cleaning for health and safety comes before cleaning for aesthetics. The concerns of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and bed bugs require enhanced cleaning processes and implementation of best practices.

As a training specialist and consultant, I have noticed that training in cleaning programs, trends, technology and guest services has increased. With career development and placement programs in our high schools, focusing on travel industry management, food service and hotel housekeeping programs, we will be able to prepare for the betterment of a new workforce generation for our hospitality industry. To further enhance training and learning opportunities, in the very near future, a Professional Cleaning Institute of Hawaii will soon be an integral body of our Hawaii educational settings.

Yes, 25 years have brought many challenging and rewarding opportunities and new changes to the hospitality industry and professional housekeeping. We must continue to move on to remain at the leading edge of tourism.

Posted in Clean Talk Columns.

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