At the Housekeepers Connect during the 38th edition of EF&H Expo in Hyderabad, exceutive housekeepers of leading hotel brands shared that while technology can assist in routine housekeeping functions, the human touch is
By Akshay Nayak
On the third day of the Express Food & Hospitality Expo in Hyderabad, the dais saw executive housekeepers of renowned hotels in Hyderabad discussing the topic, Man vs Robots. The panelists included Kiran Kumar Reddy, executive housekeeper, Novotel Hyderabad Airport; Seema Chaturvedi, executive housekeeper, ITC Kohenur; Saravan Kumaran, director of housekeeping, Oakwood Residence Kapil Hyderabad; Hemant Rana, housekeeping head, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Hyderabad Banjara Hills and Medhatithi Bhattacharjee, rooms division manager, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Hyderabad Banjara Hills.
Beginning the panel discussion, Kumaran said technology can be used for various touchpoints and getting real-time information about your guests. “We are synced with the guest right from the time they land at the airport, wherein, they receive a welcome message from the hotel. We also have a nodal chat assistant through which the guest’s different queries regarding in-room housekeeping can be addressed with the exchange of just a couple of messages, hence cutting out the hassle for the guests and making their stay experience seamless,” he explained.
Radiofrequency identification tags, otherwise popularly known as RFID tags have been gaining popularity for tracking inventory of linen and towels and also their shelflife, laundry status and location. However, Chaturvedi pointed out that although the benefits are innumerable, cost-wise RFID tagged linens are expensive. They need to be made more economical until then they are not coming to India anytime soon, she opined.
Keeping guest preferences in mind and to offer them a seamless experience, there is a need for technology, but a human touch is also needed in this industry, and being in India, our hospitality is celebrated across the globe, noted Rana.
Reddy highlighted that when it comes to using technology in hospitality, people working in housekeeping are much more tech-savvy than those in other operations. “Earlier, we used to maintain a book and keep a record of guest preferences and used to convey the same to our branded hotels in different destinations. But now all the guest preferences can be fed and stored in a central system accessible to each member hotel. AI is a prospective feature, but India is not that active into it. Robots are being used for various purposes like cleaning swimming pools.” He reiterated Rana’s point, “The personalised touch can connect with the guest in housekeeping, which robots can’t.”
Tech for experiences
While the modern-day guests are short of time for most of the tasks such as dialing for laundry services, waiting, etc, with technology, people don’t have to invest time in everything, said Chaturvedi. “At ITC Kohenur, we have ipads in the room through which a guest can get everything that they need right from food, laundry, and other requests. In the case of laundry, they need to drop the items in the basket and after six hours they receive a mobile alert about the laundered clothing. Also, the light in the wardrobe remains lit depicting that the laundered fabric is kept in the wardrobe. Hence, technology is used significantly for housekeeping operations at ITC,” she informed.
Bhattacharjee said that technology can be used to record guest preferences and maintain the data, but machine learning isn’t accurate every time. “If a particular person loves a product in the toilet, a robot cannot know what the preferred merchandise of the guest is. With the human touch, the experience becomes more seamless,” he explained.
Although technology has come a long way, be it using aerators in faucets to save water, to less power consuming smart washing machines/dishwashers, etc, wastage and sustainability is something that guests must also be aware of and shall be participating voluntarily.
Speaking about the modern-day guest’s responsible approach, Kumaran said, “As associates, yes we have assessed the new travellers and their in-room activities like usage of water, linens, towels, etc; we have learnt that the youngsters are much more responsible now.”
Reddy said that the Green programme is always there in hotels, which is helping very much. “The guest is also aware of it and minimise wastage of water. We are getting rid of the plastic amenities and using recyclable amenities. Consumption has become less, the guests support our cause,” he affirmed.
With so much of exposure on social media about sustainability and environment-friendly practices, the guests are well-read now about the management of wastage, informed Chaturvedi. She expressed, “As a move against single-use plastic – ITC’s commitment for the environment was quite evident to the citizens of India. Also, glass bottles are much feasible. We are going to have our water plant to become self-sufficient.”
Rana added to Chaturvedi’s viewpoint, saying, “We at Radisson are also investing in glass bottles. We believe awareness about the cause both at the hotel level and guest level is the most important thing.”
Bhattacharjee added that the guests aged 20-30 years are the people that are rapidly changing sentiments of the elderly. Nowadays, they inform the elders about reducing water wastage; using eco-friendly detergents, etc. Radisson Hitec city has completely started discarding single-use plastic. Kumaran concluded, “Plastic is the misadventure of manpower. Its misuse has got us here. Shifting focus is required. Glass bottles to be sealed and promoted is the need of the hour which shall change the scenario significantly.”