By Nicole Di Tomasso
TORONTO — Hosted and presented by Hotelier magazine, this year’s edition of the annual Housekeeping Forum was held virtually for the first time on May 26.
The event, sponsored by The Fairmont Royal York Hotel, brought together more than 150 housekeeping professionals and focused on enhanced hotel-cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace-safety procedures that shape COVID-19 recovery in one of the hardest-hit industries. The recovery plans aim to meet new industry standards to ensure both guests and employees are confident in the safety of hotels once travel resumes.
The first panel, moderated by Hotelier editor and publisher, Rosanna Caira, featured four GMs: Bonnie Strome, GM of the Park Hyatt Toronto; Jean-François Lincourt, GM of the Hilton Quebec; Anne Marie Johns, GM of the Fairmont Mont Tremblant; and Gaurav Dutta, GM of the Hazelton Hotel Toronto. The panelists addressed important steps in their hotels’ cleaning and disinfecting processes, including intensive training programs for staff, partnering with accreditation programs, implementing new technologies, re-evaluating amenities and enhancing communications with guests.
“In our situation, we had to go back to the basics in terms of training,” said Lincourt. “Even team members coming back to us, despite having multiple years of service with us in the past, have been through a robust training program in order for them to truly understand the new protocols and perform in a safe manner.”
“Hyatt has partnered with GBAC [Global Biorisk Advisory Council], which is an accreditation group that’s been mandated now for all Hyatt Hotels. We’ve begun our process to become accredited already in advance of opening the hotel, and the process is all encompassing, from the GM down. We’ve appointed a hygiene and wellness champion that would be on site, so it really involves all areas of the hotel,” said Strome. “Obviously, the housekeeping department plays such a pivotal role in executing those elements to maintain the accreditation, which will provide comfort for our guests moving forward. We want to be completely transparent with them as to the levels of hygiene and sanitation that are expected of the hotel.”
“From our colleagues’ arrival to work, we currently have security checkpoints in place, including handwashing stations, temperature checks and a series of questions about their health and well-being,” says Johns, GM of the Fairmont Mont Tremblant. “These checkpoints are a part of the daily routine and communicate that we’re accepting them into an all-safe environment for work. As we see measures relaxing, these are certain standards that will be maintained because the safety and well-being of our colleagues is certainly our key priority.”
The first panel was followed by a Rapid-Fire discussion about hotel recruitment and retention, featuring Cayley Dowe, founder and CEO of Thrivity; Mandie Abrams, executive director of the Hospitality Workers’ Training Centre; and Sarah Gardiner. Each participant shared key initiatives that their organization offers to hospitality workers for heightened training and skills development in a changing environment. With the majority of hotel employees laid off due to COVID-19, it’s critical for hotel owners to implement effective recruiting strategies to retain their top-performing employees to save costs required for training new staff.
The second panel — The View from Here — moderated by Hotelier managing editor, Amy Bostock, featured housekeeping professionals, including Mike Pilolli, VP Operations and Commercial Laundry at Coinamatic; Nicole Stewart, Housekeeping director at the Fairmont Royal York; and Disha Mehra, executive housekeeper at the Marriott Toronto City Centre. The panelists outlined new health-and-safety measures housekeeping departments will adopt, for example, re-configuring public spaces, increasing the frequency of cleaning practices, enforcing use of face coverings and updating visual indicators of sanitation and physical distancing. They also emphasized the importance of staying connected with housekeeping teams through virtual meetings or social media discussion forums to strengthen relationships and preserve mental health.