Guest room is the key product of a hotel. In order to meet room standards and satisfy customers, the hotel needs housekeepers. It is no exaggeration to say that the person doing the housekeeping is the silent “hero” standing behind but has a direct influence on the hotel.

As soon as entering a room, visitors can partly evaluate the quality and image of the hotel they stay in. Clean, neat and fragrant rooms will easily leave a good impression that makes them consider coming back. The staff in charge of the room will directly take care of customers by arranging, cleaning and even decorating the room . They are also the ones handling all the remnants of the previous guests and making sure the rooms are clean for the next guests. Therefore, housekeepers play a very important role in creating the hotel’s impact on tourists.

Nevertheless, they often work behind the scenes like silent “heroes”, making the room organized but rarely showing up. Recently, Destination Review had a chance to talk to two people who have bonded and developed along with the housekeeping career to better understand this job.

When assigned to a room, housekeepers must handle everything such as bed making, decoration, floor cleaning, bathroom and toilet cleaning, garbage removal, etc. Giang Qui Cuong, Room Division Manager at Alba Wellness Valley Resort By Fusion, shared that housekeepers are usually unconfident because there are some preconceptions about them such as not good at communication, not highly qualified or only manual labor. However, in fact, they can do much more than that.

Getting a promotion from housekeeping position and spending more than 15 years in the tourism industry, Qui Cuong has worked all around the world from Macau to Dubai, Europe and then back to Vietnam. At the moment, he is working in Thua Thien – Hue province. With his diverse knowledge and extensive experiences, he has trained his staff as many skills as possible. Gradually, they no longer just clean and tidy the room, but know more foreign languages and IT, know how to arrange flowers, decorate rooms and communicate more confidently with guests. “Some staff from other divisions even asked to join the Room division,” said Cuong. Now, his staff are comfortable communicating in English basically related to business. Some of them choose a second foreign language such as Korean, Japanese or Chinese to learn. In addition, they can also come up with their own room decoration ideas for honeymoons, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

For Nguyen Trung Kien, Housekeeping Supervisor at Muong Thanh Luxury Ha Long Centre, bed decoration and setup is his outstanding ability. About the story of “the profession chose him”, Trung Kien said: “Initially, I applied for a cooking major in Ho Chi Minh City. However, because there were not enough students, the school canceled it and I was moved to the hotel management major. I didn’t think of following this career, but thanks to my teacher’s enthusiasm, I gradually felt the meaning of housekeeping.”

In 2016, Trung Kien accidentally watched a clip on Facebook about how to create a towel’s shape for a hotel room and was immediately attracted. Since then, he has always taken advantage of his little free time to practice with towels instead of resting. After uploading his products on social media, Trung Kien received many good responses and comments to improve. Many new opportunities have opened up for the young man born in 1998 such as the offers to be a trainer for the hotel’s housekeeper team. “I refused them a couple of times because I thought I was not good enough, still very young and had not been in the industry long enough, so I was not confident to take on this position.”

When becoming more proficient, getting to a higher position and achieving success in professional competitions, Kien has accepted training for hotel housekeepers in other places such as Vung Tau, Nha Trang as well as made advertising photo sets for hotels. “My main purpose when accepting these offers is to connect with others and learn more. What makes many people like me is that I don’t hide my skills, but I’m very willing to impart everything I’ve learned,” affirmed Trung Kien.

Similar to Trung Kien, Qui Cuong also wholeheartedly inspires and gives his personal experiences to his colleagues. “I don’t want to keep everything I have without sharing or giving it to anyone. My job becomes more meaningful when I can convey messages, knowledge and positive energy to those around me.”

According to both of them, cleaning a hotel standard room inherently requires professional skills which need to be well-trained at college. Besides, a hotel housekeeper also needs to be patient, hard-working, honest, a good listener, and have keen observation ability in order to meet the strict requirements and standards of hotels.

“Housekeeping is not just about cleaning hard from this room to that room, then coming home,” Trung Kien asserted. “I have my own property including the creation of towels, good relationships with many seniors and colleagues in the industry, and trust from many people.” As a supervisor, he has helped his subordinates improve day by day. Thanks to Kien, they learn how to create shapes with towels, to clean the room faster but still ensure the good quality, etc.

Qui Cuong also shares the same spirit, which is sharing and supporting everyone in housekeeping. For both, giving is receiving. “I often tell others to imagine we are fingers of a hand. Levels and skills may be different, but we are all in the same hand. We need consensus to develop,” said Cuong.

Because of the work, hotel housekeepers are prone to varicose veins and spinal pain. According to Trung Kien, he had to clean 10 to 13 rooms each day on average when working in Ho Chi Minh City. In Quang Ninh, due to the limited staff, a housekeeper has to clean at least 14 rooms per day. After years of “struggling” and finding his health weaker, Trung Kien himself tried to find working methods and postures to reduce the impact on health, a quick-beautiful-standard and easy way of cleaning rooms.

Working in the wellness sector which is extremely focused on health, Cuong always advises his staff to drink enough water and laugh more to be physically and mentally healthy. “I also show them the postures they should apply at work, how to roll the garbage bag so that it does not harm their sense of smell. When doing laundry, to avoid cloth dust, and keep guests’ clothes clean, they should wear masks, gloves and glasses,” he said.

After the pandemic broke out, Trung Kien resigned at a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and decided to come to Ha Long, accepting to start over. Still full of enthusiasm, he continued to diligently improve his skills and then participated in the Quang Ninh provincial housekeeping competition 2020. In order to be eligible for the competition, Kien even asked for the signature of the hotel’s Board of Directors he’s working for. “Every day, I spend about one or two hours practising and consulting with my colleagues. Maybe many people don’t believe it, but in all three rounds including theory and bed making; aptitude and presentation; and situation test, I was the one with the highest score and won the first prize. I’m very proud but still have to improve more because for me, studying is never enough,” said Trung Kien.

In addition to achievements at competitions, in daily work, being remembered by guests is also a great happiness for Trung Kien. One time, a customer had Kien decorate the room to celebrate her younger brother’s birthday. He stayed there late, discussed with the guest’s wife and then waited for the right time to enter the room to prepare lights, flowers, and nice decorations to surprise the guest on his birthday. The next day, the couple asked the receptionist to transfer the tip to the housekeeper named Kien.

Meanwhile, Qui Cuong’s joy is more usual. Living in nature, and receiving gifts from nature such as hot mineral springs or precious herbal resources are the best things for him. At first, he felt quite sad because of staying amidst the forest, and far away from entertainment points, but it didn’t take long for him to fall for Hue as well as Alba Wellness Valley Resort by Fusion. “Two years ago, I was never as interested in photography as I am now. I’m also gradually used to drinking water made from medicinal leaves every day. Whenever I feel unwell, I’ll bathe in the hot mineral springs. Thanks to that, my health is very good and people often compliment me for my beautiful skin,” he said with a bright smile.

In the early days of their careers, they could not avoid situations of “the old hand bullies the greenhorn”, being given too little time to clean, being assigned messy rooms or many check-out rooms, etc. that they bursted into tears. However, it’s all in the past now. Cuong said: “Looking back, I have to thank the people who treated me like that so I could have more experiences to share with the next generations. I can limit the situation between old hands and greenhorns in the division, and know how to properly assign tasks, solve problems skillfully and avoid making them stressful. A manager does not mean to always show his power or scream loudly.”

In the future, Qui Cuong will continue managing and training his subordinates, helping them be more versatile and confident in their career. He also wants to open up new perspectives for them to get a promotion. While Trung Kien, the youngster in both life and career, is still actively learning more, simultaneously guiding other hotel housekeepers. He proudly said: “In the upcoming professional competition, I will not take the competition anymore, but train my staff to do it. Winning or losing is not important, all I want is that they have more knowledge and experiences. I also want to become a lecturer teaching about housekeeping in my future.”

It’s not compulsory to save the world to be called a “hero”! Entering a hotel, we can meet the “heroes” quietly spreading each bed sheet, covering each pillow, wiping each stain of dirt,… to offer customers the best stay experiences. Through the stories of the two guys mentioned above, it can be seen that many housekeepers have been trying to improve, to learn and complete themselves. They silently prove that despite being back office workforce, standing at “backstage”, they still shine bright and have their own values as those on the “stage”.

#Not-So-Ordinary Jobs is a series unfolding indelible moments, the gain-loss and the joy-sadness of the people in tourism.

Housekeeping and the unfold stories of the silent “heroes”

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