Housekeeping: The heart and soul of the sector

Shelley Besser is the executive manager of housekeeping at the Radisson Red hotel.

Executive housekeeping manager at the Radisson Red hotel at the V&A Waterfront, Shelley Besser, said it was important to honour housekeeping staff because without them, the success of the hotel would be doomed.

A spotlight was shone on housekeeping staff as the unsung heroes at Radisson Red hotel as Tourism Month, marked annually in September, drew to a close.

“Guests expect cleanliness at any and all establishments, and the housekeeping staff makes sure of this.”

Ms Besser, who is from Uitenhage in Gqeberha, but now lives in Blouberg, ended up joining the hospitality industry after deciding not to continue with university. “I actually wanted to be a lawyer,” she said.

She has been in housekeeping for almost 40 years.

Throughout her career, Ms Besser has worked at 13 hotel establishments, trained staff, developed an in-house housekeeping training programme, and travelled to numerous countries aboard cruise ships while still maintaining the same passion for her job as when she first started.

While Ms Besser did not recall why she decided to do housekeeping, she said her parents taught her to treat people the way she wanted to be treated and to respect all walks of life. “This is a lesson I carry with me in my everyday life.”

She joined the Radisson Red team in 2017.

She said she wants industry players to know that housekeeping is about so much more than the cleanliness of a hotel.

“The biggest misconception is that we only manage the cleaning of the hotel, and that is far from the truth. We, as executive housekeepers, are responsible for the expenses, cost controls, education, and management of the correct protocols within the industry, as well as the training and on- boarding of new staff members.”

Housekeeping is described as being responsible for cleanliness, maintenance, and aesthetic upkeep of rooms, public areas, back areas, and the surroundings.

Ms Besser’s role includes the management and mentoring of her staff. She takes great pride in the up-skilling of the junior members of her team.

She said while each hotel has its own housekeeping ways, all hotels generally follow the same housekeeping protocols.

However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, cleanliness had never been more important. She said it required all housekeeping staff to change the way they approached their work.

“Housekeeping has always played a vital role at the hotel but during Covid-19 guests were very concerned about health and safety issues. The spotlight was placed on the housekeeping staff and guests were looking to us for reassurance that every precaution had been taken.”

Housekeeping teams, she said, were the custodians of hotel and accommodation brands, and the heart and soul of the tourism industry.

Should they fail in their task, no amount of smiling service and good food elsewhere in the establishment can fully rebuild the guest’s trust.

For this reason, Ms Besser said she loves being in a position that can make an impact in people’s lives for the better.

“People may overlook a bad meal and delayed check-in, but a dirty room and interference in their personal space will not be tolerated. And therefore to all housekeeping staff, we salute you,” she said.