Hotel Engineers: Hidden Assets

Mufi Hannemann
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
August 17, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

The hotels you visit may differ in appearance by city and country, but the people who work in them have similar jobs. I speak of bellmen and valets, front desk staff, housekeepers, chefs, groundskeepers, and food and beverage personnel.

All are essential to a memorable stay. But there is a cadre of very important hotel employees who go largely unseen and unappreciated by guests, but who are vital to the successful operation of any property. It’s the engineering staff.

Engineering in the hotel industry doesn’t have quite the same meaning as the traditional definition. These are not people designing roads and sewers. Rather, a hotel’s engineering staff is responsible for the infrastructure of a property. It is the engineering staff that ensures the electricity and plumbing are working, that swimming pools and fitness rooms are clean and safe, that emergency systems function, that all of the myriad repair and maintenance services of a hotel aspects that we take for granted are provided seamlessly and efficiently.

Members of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association recognize the importance of these professionals, and each year honors the state’s top engineer and maintenance persons through our Na Poe Paahana (the hard-working people) awards program.

In addition, under the auspices of HHLA, engineers have established the HHLA Engineers Advisory Council to enable engineers to bone up on the best practices, new government laws and regulations, and new technologies available to the hotel industry. This council offers an excellent opportunity for engineering teams from Hawaii’s many lodging properties to network with others in the industry and neighboring properties, as well as gain insights into improving daily operations and embarking on capital projects.

Dues are $50 a year for HHLA member properties and $100 for non-members. Non-members also pay a $30 per person meeting fee.

Membership is exclusively for lodging engineers, assistants and maintenance personnel. For more information, contact Engineers Advisory Council coordinator Tina Yamaki of the HHLA at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

A sampling of past seminars and workshops sponsored by the council provides a glimpse into the dynamic environment of the profession: ensuring that hotels are prepared to comply with new laws requiring designated parking spaces for electric cars, controlling pigeons that enter outdoor dining areas, maintenance issues affecting everything from pumps and sumps to kitchen equipment and airconditioning, fire safety and coordinating responses with the fire department, grease traps and recycling cooking oil, cyber security and advancements in environmental design. And at a recent HHLA-sponsored seminar, compliance with the new standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act was covered. A session with Hawaiian Electric Company exposed engineers to opportunities to increase the use of renewable energy, incentives to adjust energy use, and taking advantage of new technologies and electricity pricing programs.

Keeping our hotels running efficiently, safely and successfully falls on the shoulders of many people in the visitor industry, and none more so than the engineering staff. Our “Tourism Hero” this week is, appropriately, a member of a Hawaii hotel’s engineering corps and offers welldeserved accolades to professionals who serve and contribute with such dedication and aloha.


Position: Electrical Foreman

Location: Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

Electrical foreman Henry Tu considers the historic Moana Surfrider a second home and his co-workers as his extended family. It shows in his work.

As a key member of the engineering staff, Henry recently found a way to accommodate new sound system needs for the entertainers in the Banyan Courtyard, a solution that also involved easier maintenance for the staff. He’s always looking for ways to cut energy costs, such as by evaluating and installing fluorescent and LED lighting fixtures, an effort that earned the hotel recognition by the state government. He’s available to lend his expertise to providing unusual power and lighting requirements for banquets and events, as he did when the White House press corps used the hotel ballroom as a media center during a recent visit by President Obama.

Henry shares his expertise with the community as well, planning and coordinating the electrical requirements for the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk in Waikiki, a task he’s handled during his entire twodecade career with the Moana Surfrider. He also does the same with the Aloha Festivals’ Ho’olaulea, setting up sound and lighting for the musicians’ stage in front of the hotel.

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