MAINTAINING HOUSE: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CHEDI LUSTICA BAY’S HEAD OF HOUSEKEEPING
Below is an interview with Jankovic Milica, the Executive Housekeeper that leads and mentors the team that maintains the pristine quality of the Chedi Lustica Bay.
1. BESIDES CLEANING GUEST ROOMS IN THE CHEDI, WHAT MAKES THE HOUSEKEEPING DEPARTMENT AN ESSENTIAL PART OF EVERY HOTEL?
The major part of revenue in hotels originates from its rooms. Therefore logically, their upkeeping is a top concern. I like to call it the “heart and soul” of any hotel.
In addition to the basic ABCs of housekeeping, there is, for sure, much more that goes into our work. For instance, our cleaning ladies must show pride, kindness, and of course, discretion. Their work is connected to our guest’s most intimate quarters, and consequently, need to follow standard operational procedures to maintain the utmost quality that ensures an outstanding Chedi experience.
Other team members in charge of public areas, along with our laundry and dry-cleaning facilities are trained to provide swift, organized, and efficient service to our guests.
Like in all homes, when you welcome guests, you are always prepared to have some special, and often unexpected, requests! Therefore, we must ensure that our team is always available to find solutions whenever faced with any request and solving it with ease and finesse.
It is important to state that the housekeeping team is not only responsible for cleaning guest rooms, public areas, restaurants, and event spaces, but also for cleaning behind-the-scenes: Consequently, proper planning and a precise cleaning schedule are essential to ensure that our duty is done to meet the Chedi standard.
2. HOW DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
A typical day for me begins with a walk around the hotel and through all public areas. Afterwards I lead our daily housekeeping briefing with our housekeeping supervisors. Later I meet other managers to review the day’s VIP arrivals, projects, and anything else that is important for that day. The rest of the day I spend checking VIP rooms, dealing with administrative tasks, and attending meetings with suppliers and the landscaping team. The Chedi, like any hotel, is a living organism, and every day is a story with many episodes re-written on the go.
3. DO YOU ALSO OFFER OTHER SERVICES WITH YOUR HOUSEKEEPING TEAM BESIDES THOSE DESCRIBED FOR?
It is my firm belief that we can always bring more to the table, especially as we are not a city hotel; we challenge ourselves by providing all services that guests may need. To give you a concrete example: Currently, we are preparing a small tailoring corner and our guests can send their clothes to be tailored or adjusted as per their request.
Our dry-cleaning service provides linen and laundry service not only to our hotel guests but also to residents, retailers and yacht crews in Lustica Bay, as we at the Chedi believe that we can enrich the lives in our small community.
We also provide a childcare program/babysitting service with committed, skilled and trained nurses that ensure our guests can thoroughly enjoy their time without having to worry about their little ones.
Another new addition is the flower corner - we prepare all types of flower arrangements by request, for any occasion, whether it is for a romantic evening or a fully-fledged event.
Lastly, we provide Deep Cleaning Services (DCS) for residents, retailers and yacht owners in Lustica Bay, provided by highly skilled personnel and high-tech equipment. Since the Chedi is becoming a sought-after location, we always strive for perfection and never stop looking for additional services we can offer to the community in our little piece of paradise.
4. WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR JOB?
Essentially, it is finding a balance between providing immaculate service and optimising costs, a challenge that any executive housekeeper faces.
Another significant challenge we face on a national level is finding trained staff willing to go the extra mile during their shifts, meeting our standards and those of our guests. I usually watch out for individuals with an expansive capacity for learning, organisational skills, a tourism-focused mind set and positive attitude.
5. HOW DID THE CHEDI IMPACT THE MONTENEGRIN TOURISM SCENE?
I can proudly say that the Chedi is creating a renaissance to the golden age of Montenegrin tourism in the 1970 and 1980s.
To elaborate, during those years everyone in hospitality was doing their jobs proudly and with a high-level of commitment. My whole family was working at the best hotels from that period, the Hotel AS, Sveti Stefan and Avala. I was always filled with pride when I entered these hotels and seeing them smiling at the front desks, concocting culinary feasts at the open kitchen or buffet, housekeeping staff when emerging from behind the scenes - all groomed and with genuine smiles, performing their skills with unmatched mastery.
I remember that most of our guests came from Western Europe and Great Britain, and characteristically for those years, friendships with local people were formed that last until today.
Today, these golden years are what drives me and my staff, to revive this level of service, to train and lead my team to that level of commitment. Sometimes it is beneficial to look back if we want to go forward.
6. AS A PART OF THE PRE-OPENING TEAM, WHAT WAS THE HARDEST ASPECT UNTIL YOU WELCOMED YOUR FIRST GUESTS?
Quite honestly, after the 4-minute firework display during the grand opening, I forgot all the difficulties we faced! But I do remember how grateful I was for being part of something that we built from scratch. Creating the teams, SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures), placing inventories, deciding on best set-ups for each item, bonding with one another, team-building and investigating the market to find the best solutions for The Chedi, as well as finally organizing this beautiful hotel to provide the best of traditional Montenegrin hospitality, have all been experiences that I am genuinely grateful for.
7. WHAT ARE THE ABILITIES THAT A HOUSEKEEPING EXECUTIVE HAS TO HAVE?
First and foremost, you have to love what you do, and this is the essence. You must have pride in keeping a hotel clean and comfortable. You also have to add some empathy and strong leadership to the mix, along with organizational and time management skills. Moreover, there should be a sense of immaculate cleanliness, superb symmetry, and of course, the ability to provide a welcoming atmosphere and to ensure a high-level of reliable service from all staff in the department. Finally, always being open to learning and pushing the team to never underestimate their importance and contribution to the overall success of the hotel.
8. HOW MUCH COMMITMENT DOES WORKING IN 5-STAR HOTELS NEED?
I have been working in the hotel industry for 17 years now, and for sure, whether it is a five star hotel or less, working in this industry is a never-ending job. As I said, every hotel is a living organism; very often, especially during high season, you can get business calls during the night: from the Front Desk in case of an emergency, a supplier who is having problems with delivery, or employees with sudden health issues which forces you to find solutions as soon as possible to prepare for the next morning’s shift. Hotels are a 24/7, 365 days a year commitment, and to succeed, you need to have plenty of support from your family and team in order to achieve the best of Montenegrin hospitality.
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