Supplier roundtable: Housekeeping matters

The latest trends, innovations, and news in the housekeeping vertical in hospitality

Roundtable: Meet the experts

Nalan Selcuk, founder and MD, Alina
Nalan Selcuk is the founder and MD of Alina AS in Ankara, Turkey and Alina Ltd in UAE. Since 1998 these companies have been providing soft goods of high quality to the hospitality sector. Nalan is supported by Zubeyde Azak, who is the area manager of Alina Ltd in Dubai, UAE. Zubeyde manages all the sales, marketing and after sales activities of the company.

Pinar Tunali, hotel project manager, Maya Tekstil
Pinar has a master’s degree in international business. She has been working for Maya Tekstil since 2012 and has been holding the position of hotel project manager for the last two years.

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Khalid Abu Sharia, marketing manager, SCA Hygiene
Khalid joined SCA in 2015 and leads the marketing for Middle East and East Africa. Prior to joining SCA, he held different positions at MNCs including Kohler. He also headed the marketing department at global cleaning equipment’s manufacturer Kärcher. He completed a masters of strategic marketing from the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Khuram Shaheryar, GM, GAGT
Khuram heads the hospitality division of Gulf Asian General Trading, a UAE-based firm that makes linen products amongst others for the hospitality sector. Khuram has worked with GAGT for nearly a decade, and has amassed 13 years of experience in textiles.

Robert Dupree, GM, Pacific Direct
Robert Dupree has been the general manager for Pacific Direct Middle East, Africa and India for the past 13 years. In 2015, the company became part of the Ada Cosmetics Group. Robert’s long-standing experience in the hospitality business has been a deciding factor in building Pacific Direct’s thriving Middle East, Africa and India division.

Rachael Towl, regional sales manager Middle East, Guest Supply
Rachael is a UK-born marketing graduate who has been working in the Middle East for more than two years. She has expertise of working with personal care branded products, having worked within the category in excess of 10 years. In her current role, Rachael works closely with hotels on their personal care amenity choices.

What are the latest trends in housekeeping in hospitality?

Nalan Selcuk: Sustainability, eco-friendly materials, fair trade products, packaging and elimination of wastage. More importantly, we see an increasing shift in our customers’ demand for quality products and service at competitive prices. Incorporating technology with housekeeping is a challenging trend.

Khalid abu Sharia: There is an increasing interest in finding smarter ways of working, using the power of the Internet of Things for instance. Hotels are looking for intelligent systems that enable its housekeepers and managers to efficiently offer increased quality of hospitality. As you know, there are many challenges that housekeepers face, especially during peak season. So, for hotels it is very important to find ways to deliver a higher and more consistent quality of customer experience.

Khuram Shaheryar: To ‘go green’ is an important trend in housekeeping. This, however, needs to be followed into every sector whether it’s bed or bathroom products, linen, F&B services and other amenities. Over the last two years, we have noticed that the introduction of waterproof pillow protectors, mattress protectors (100% waterproof, breathable, odourless, and environmental-friendly) has made a significant difference not only reflecting in costs, but proves to be a time saver for housekeepers. Moreover, 100% cotton bedsheets in the range of 300 thread count is in great demand across every five-star hotel along with 100% cotton towels range from 600 to 650 GSM. Microfibre duvets, pillow and toppers is another emerging trend to ensure guest comfort in luxury hotels.

Robert Dupree: The luxury experience is an ongoing trend; hotel groups are partnering with luxury retail brands and fashion designers to offer an exceptional amenities programme that differentiates them from the competition. The demand for niche fragrances is also growing in the retail sector which is strongly reflected in the hotel guest’s preference for fragrances in hotel cosmetics.

Rachael Towl: Travellers’ interest in environmentally friendly holidays and hotel stays continues to grow, and thus we have developed the Olive Branch Botanicals and Earth Tempo “Eco-Chic” guest collections, and we are proud to partner with brands such as Tara Smith & Korres to offer the consumer a natural product experience. In addition, we have partnered with Clean the World — a global recycling programme, and have a carbon offset initiative, providing our customers with a positive impact on the environment.

Could you tell us about the latest products you have launched?

Nalan: We have complemented our line of soft goods with olive oil-based natural soaps and beauty items with natural and healthy ingredients. Various Turkish hammam accessories, peshtemals and specifically, traditional handmade copper bowls have been added to our product portfolio.

Pinar Tunali: We have designed our hotel collection under our own brand Penelope Dorme, sub-categorised under four lines; basic, deluxe, exclusive, and soft, to meet the different kinds of demands of our customers. Besides our own brand, we offer a complete private label business to our partners.

Khalid: We recently launched the Tork Image Design line, a new dispenser range in stainless steel designed for premium washrooms. Until now, dispensers have often not been considered at premium washrooms, but with the combination of form and function in the new Tork Image Design Line, that is about to change. SCA also launched the Tork EasyCube system where cleaners can access real-time data from the application on their tablet, so they know where and when cleaning is needed. Managers have the benefit of smart analytics that help them manage and plan for improved overall operational efficiency, saving time and cost.

Khuram: We recently launched a fabric range imported from Spain, with upholstery, bed skirting and cushions from Italy. We have also introduced new Jacquard designs for bedsheets as an alternative to regular stripe sheets in thread counts ranging from 300 up to 600 in 100% cotton, satins and blends. SPA towels are in widespread demand and we have introduced a variety of five colour SPA towels covering different sizes to fit a spa’s requirements.

RELATED: Access Hotelier's first ever Housekeeping Report 2016 for in-depth insights into hotel housekeeping operations in the Middle East.

Robert: We launched Lalique, which is a design-led, global luxury lifestyle brand. The collection features a fragrance exclusive to the bathroom amenities range. It features a combination of bergamot, ylang and cedarwood. Additionally, we have also launched the Annick Goutal collection of perfumes.

Rachael: We are delighted to work with spa brand Institut Karité Paris, and have launched its first guest collection. The hotel line from Institut Karité satisfies all the skin needs with shea butter’s nourishing and restorative properties and has a key note of lemon verbena.

Crabtree & Evelyn has also launched two of its best loved skincare lines: La Source and Jojoba. The La Source collection contains ingredients to nourish and smooth the skin, with a crisp fragrance. Jojoba oil offers guests a stimulating experience with an infusion of jojoba, lavender and citrus.

What kind of research and development does your company engage in before launching new products?

Nalan: We have been good at listening to our customers, their ideas, expectations and try to be a long-term partner for their projects. We try to blend our products with their corporate identity and branding guidelines and work hard to fully understand their priorities. We constantly search for new materials and products and are happy to provide samples on request to receive valuable feedback from our customers.

Pinar: We always try to offer the best to our customers. It is very important to serve and provide new products with high comfort and quality. For this reason, we check and see the latest technologies and try to manage them according to our customers’ sleeping habits or preferences. It is crucial to understand and monitor customer needs.

Khalid: We enhance value creation in SCA through strategic and applied R&D starting from raw material till prototyping. We conduct a lot of independent research but we have also established research centres with academic institutions. That is why we are always on the lead with insights-driven innovations. R&D practices include study of paper technology, product quality, field testing and user acceptability.

Khuram: Our team is always in contact with housekeepers so we have an idea of what issues need to be addressed in order to enhance our product. We mainly focus on the raw material we use such as the yarn, dye chemicals and wash result. We follow a practice wherein we produce the sample considering the above parameters and then before going into any mass production we present our samples to housekeepers for their feedback. We keep on improving on our product at the sample stage until we get the desired result to meet the housekeepers’ requirement.

Robert: We have our own in-house, highly qualified research and development team. Before a launch, our experts (together with trend scouts and a marketing team) go through a detailed developing process. Market and customer demands are important criteria in this process as well as modern, effective cosmetic formula, high-quality raw materials, smart packaging etc. This process includes manifold safety and dermatological tests, as well as reconciliations with external experts and clients.

How important is sustainability for your product and service ethos?

Nalan: Our products are an important item in the housekeeping department, and are used by hotel guests on a daily basis. Therefore, we have to make sure they retain their softness, colour and quality throughout their lifetime. We have implemented green policies and procedures relating to waste management, recycling and reuse in the production stage. The chemicals used are treated with great care and, if possible, bio-based products are used. By using quality materials and crafty workmanship, we aim to increase the life of our products, which are subject to continuous washing, use, and wear and tear. In that respect, we believe sustainability is at the core of our business.

Khalid: As Europe’s largest private forest owner, SCA places considerable emphasis on sustainable forest management. Our forests absorb 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually — more than what’s discharged from SCA’s total production. This could be seen in the many awards and rankings the company has achieved (we are included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index). We are also listed on the FTSE4Good global sustainability index since 2001 and were awarded the highest rating in its industry.

Khuram: For Gulf Asian, sustainability is a top priority; as aforementioned we believe in developing a product which is sustainable and reflects our commitment of service with quality. That’s the reason we look into the minute details from the yarn we use to the finished product.

Robert: Being one of the first manufacturers of natural, eco-friendly cosmetics for the hotel industry it only makes sense to have a sustainable approach to our operations. Our ‘Green Collection’ range offers environmentally friendly cosmetic products for example, with fair traded ingredients or certified organic ingredients. Our commitment to sustainability and eco-conscious operations has led to further related activities. In 2008, we established our own sustainability philosophy as the foundation for its modus operandi in the areas of ecology, economics, employees and society. We are providing transparency for all company processes, which gives hotel clients — in particular those who demand eco-friendly development and manufacturing practices from their suppliers — an easy insight. Since 2012, we publish our substantial progress in our environmental report. In 2013, we were certified by ‘Green Globe’. And earlier this year we were awarded the ISO 14001:2015.

Rachael: There is always a demand for sustainable products and this is certainly very true at present. Budget of course is still a large constraint here; however, we work together to find a solution that works for the hotelier’s needs.

How do you determine the correct balance between price and quality with your products?

Nalan: Since our company focuses on quality and long-term relationships, pricing our products may be the toughest thing to do. We consider certain factors, including pinpointing our customers, tracking how much competitors are charging, and understanding the relationship between quality and price. We try to continually strengthen our financial resources and manufacturing practices to keep our costs low, prices competitive without resorting to inferior materials and workmanship.

Pinar: As a manufacturer, we have our own “integrated washing line” that helps us offer high potential and quality raw material for Down & Feather. And having this up our arsenal enables us to present qualified bedding products at competitive prices.

Khalid: Our value offerings balance between cost and performance, and we have a wide assortment of products that cover different market segments. When it comes to hand-wiping paper, for example, we have three tiers of quality: universal, advanced and premium. Based on the value each product offers, we set the right price to suit that market level. However, our long experience in the industry and our patented paper technologies enable us to offer high-quality products for reasonable prices to begin with.

Khuram: We believe in quality, and our recognition during the past 28 years is because of quality and service. We understand that price is an important factor but at the end of the day it’s quality which retains your position in the market rather than offering sub-standard products at low prices.

Robert: Through the merger with Ada our product portfolio has expanded greatly so that we are able to supply to various types of hotels who have different requirements. There are many variations of hotel cosmetics. There are variances in packaging types as well as in cosmetics where one can purchase high quality formulations or highly refined and multilevel cosmetic creations which improve product experience and results on the skin. The price difference in sourcing and manufacturing of these products of course vary and affect the prices.

Are you in touch with housekeepers and meet or listen to their requirements? If so, what are some of the key takeaways in recent times?

Nalan: In our industry and business practice it is inconceivable to not to meet or listen to our customers’ or housekeepers’ requirements. In the past we introduced new colour and material combinations, incorporated unique design details to our products, shortened our shipment times, added flexibility to our payment terms and so on — all initiated by our customers’ requirements. We see this communication as an integral part of doing business in the hospitality sector.

Pinar: Absolutely, we care about the feedback we receive from housekeeping managers to improve our service and production quality. This is why we held a meeting in January 2016 in Qatar and invited all the housekeeping managers to the St. Regis Doha. It is the main reason to explain who we are, what we do and the kind of products and services we offer.

Khalid: We have seen an added emphasis on hygiene by housekeepers. An additional number of hotels are empowering their hygiene management and developing excellent initiatives around hygiene. This not only creates a positive image but also portrays a thoughtful approach towards staff well-being, which is ultimately reflected on how staff treats customers.

Khuram: We believe in providing solutions customised as per their requirements and developments. Based on our expertise, housekeepers whom we with work regularly look for quality and efficient delivery.

Robert: We are always in contact with housekeepers and recently attended the Hotelier Middle East Executive Housekeeper Forum in Dubai. One of the key areas where we focus is forecasting, which is key in order to give the best service possible to our customers. What we have seen recently is that the hotels need more consultation during the selection process as the range of product possibilities continues to evolve.

RELATED: Hotelier's first ever Housekeeping Report 2016 is now live! Click here to access the report. 

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