Keeping Hotels Clean And Green

Mufi Hannemann
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October 19, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

(from left) IEHA members Gary Nushida, Ivy Kwok, Rose Galera and Angela Padigos with Mufi Hannemann

You leave your hotel room for the day’s activities; when you return, the bed is made, the bathroom is scrubbed clean and you have a supply of fresh towels. Maybe you want breakfast in bed or some extra clothes hangers. Ever wonder who vacuums the hallway carpets or keeps the lobby spotless? So much of what you’ve come to expect at a hotel is the domain of the housekeepers: those quiet, largely unseen hotel workers who can make all the difference in your hotel visit.

Keeping rooms clean is not the only aspect of housekeeping, to be sure, but it is a very significant one, and that has led to the formation of an association devoted to supporting professional standards, education and community service in this profession. That group is the International Executive Housekeepers Association, whose 3,500 members are housekeeping managers in commercial, industrial or institutional facilities.

The Hawaii chapter, founded in 1968, has become the parent organization’s largest, a status no doubt reflecting the state’s sizable visitor industry and the chapter’s outreach efforts to include professionals in such areas as health care, education, suppliers and cleaning businesses.

Working alongside housekeepers in the visitor industry in my position with the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association has given me an even deeper appreciation of their importance and commitment to ensuring the highest professional standards in their workplaces.

And at the IEHA’s Bosses’ Night I attended Oct. 7 at the invitation of forever young 75-year-old chapter president Rose Galera the members saluted their bosses for the support they received, although I know the bosses were more than happy to reciprocate the sentiments expressed by their housekeeping managers.

As if their work responsibilities weren’t enough, the IEHA members have taken on a number of community service projects. Members and students do a quarterly cleaning of the 100th Battalion Clubhouse, while the chapter recently adopted Washington Place as an ongoing cleaning project, with public-spirited businesses donating window and carpet-cleaning services.

On Nov. 2, the chapter will host a hospitality job fair at McKinley Community School for Adults. The event will include a hotel industry panel discussion and exhibitions, and give hotels an opportunity to reach out to adults seeking frontline positions in the travel industry.

Jin Lee

Past projects have been equally impressive, with members participating in high school career days, donating money to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in Japan, representing the IEHA at the annual Hawaii Lodging, Hospitality & Foodservice Expo, and donating supplies to homeless shelters and other charitable organizations.

It’s easy to take housekeepers for granted. Largely unseen, they are often overlooked. But I can’t think of a corps of visitor industry employees more deserving of our recognition and appreciation for their contributions to the success of travel and tourism in Hawaii and beyond.


Jin Lee

Position: Executive Housekeeper
Location: Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach

When Jin Lee moved to Hawaii 15 years ago, he was moved by the warmth and kindness of the local people. Today, as an executive housekeeper for the Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach, he does whatever it takes to reciprocate that hospitality.

Though he is now a supervisor, Jin spends little time in his office. Rather, the day can find him in the property’s corridors and public areas, a cleaning cloth in hand. He has lunch with his staff and brings treats to encourage team-building. When a major project to replace room amenities such as ice buckets, coffee trays and other items proved costly, Jin took it upon himself to refinish the items during his spare time in the end saving the hotel $80,000 in replacement costs.

Jin began his Marriott career as an intern, but a strong work ethic has earned him the respect of his fellow employees, plus a master’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University. He is active in his church, volunteers in the community and is a regular on the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk.


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