Usmaan Ibrahim – Executive Housekeeper at Barceló Whale Lagoon Maldives

As we celebrate International Housekeeping Week, we are honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Usmaan Ibrahim, an esteemed figure in the hospitality industry currently serving as the Executive Housekeeper at Barceló Whale Lagoon Maldives.

With a remarkable journey spanning over two decades in the field, Usmaan has achieved significant milestones and made substantial contributions to the world of housekeeping. His dedication to professional advancement, commitment to excellence, and active involvement in the Maldives Housekeepers Association make him a true luminary in the industry. In this interview, we will delve into his inspiring story and gain insights into his experiences, leadership philosophy, and the evolving landscape of housekeeping in the post-pandemic era.

Tell us a bit about your journey in the hospitality industry and how you found your passion for housekeeping?

My hospitality journey began after finishing my GCE O’ levels at Meemu Atoll School, initially working as a speedboat crew member. My interest in tourism led me to pursue a hospitality career through comprehensive training. I started as a villa attendant at Chaaya Lagoon Hakurahura in February 2004 and over the years, I progressed through roles like Housekeeping Supervisor, Senior Housekeeping Supervisor, Housekeeping Manager, Assistant Executive Housekeeper, and currently, Executive Housekeeper. I also pursued diplomas in hospitality management and MBA programs.

Currently, I hold the role of Executive Housekeeper at Barceló Whale Lagoon Maldives, while also serving as a Senior Executive Committee member of the Maldives Housekeepers Association. Throughout my career, my driving goal has been to create pathways for professional advancement within the industry, firmly grounded in the principles of respect and integrity for all, regardless of their roles.

You have an extensive background in various housekeeping roles across different resorts. Could you share how these experiences have shaped your approach to leadership and guest service?

My journey in housekeeping, from a training villa attendant to Executive Housekeeper, has equipped me with valuable experience in various roles at different resorts. This diverse background has shaped my leadership style, focusing primarily on exceptional guest service.

Through my career, I’ve learned the intricacies of each role, allowing me to effectively support and guide my team. I provide them with comprehensive training to excel in tasks like time management, supply maintenance, and inventory management, which are crucial in housekeeping.

Fostering trust and strong relationships within my team has helped me create a positive work environment and motivating consistent high performances. A successful leadership is a collaborative effort driven by my dedicated team and I’m grateful to Mr. Santi Rodriguez-Bustelo, General Manager of Barceló Whale Lagoon Maldives, for recognizing my contributions and enabling my growth in this role.

Why is it important to support young talent in housekeeping, and what do you do as part of the Maldives Housekeeping Association?

As an Executive member of the Maldives Housekeeping Association (MHA), I am dedicated to supporting and nurturing young talent in the field of housekeeping. Recognizing the importance of developing the next generation of professionals, we at MHA offer specialized training programs and workshops tailored to provide them with essential skills.

Our commitment extends to organizing housekeeping competitions, which not only encourage innovation but also offer valuable exposure to emerging talents. Moreover, we actively collaborate with hospitality companies and educational institutions to facilitate internships and mentorship programs. These hands-on experiences are instrumental in building confidence and honing their skill sets.

In essence, MHA’s mission is clear: to inspire and empower emerging housekeeping talent, ultimately raising industry standards and contributing to the overall success of the hospitality sector in the Maldives.

You have been a part of several pre-opening teams. Could you share some insights into the intricacies of setting up a new resort’s housekeeping operations and ensuring a seamless start?

Being part of pre-opening teams is engaging and demanding. It involves a lot of responsibility, meticulous planning, and extensive preparation. We don’t just prepare guest rooms but also all resort facilities, including public areas. Setting up a clear organizational chart is our first step, followed by budget preparation to ensure we have the right workforce for deep cleaning.

We also handle tasks like ordering supplies, drafting SOPs, and creating job descriptions while maintaining operational and inventory checklists. Close collaboration with the Engineering department is crucial, with daily meetings to assess readiness and progress. Cleaning involves three stages: General Deep Cleaning, Deep Cleaning, and Detail Cleaning, with ULV fumigation for pest control.

After cleaning, we align guest rooms and public areas with brand guidelines. The resort undergoes inspections by the Ministry of Tourism and the MNDF, both before and after opening, and it’s my duty to ensure we pass seamlessly. Throughout this phase, teamwork is essential as we motivate the team to exceed expectations of guests and management.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work? And what do you like most about it?

In my role, I encounter several significant challenges, including managing a sizable team, ensuring the cleanliness and upkeep of guest rooms and public areas, addressing guest complaints and requests, efficient planning for turnover and occupancy, and adhering to budgetary constraints.

However, it’s equally important to highlight what I find most appealing about my work. It involves upholding consistently high standards of cleanliness and hygiene, creating a pleasant and comfortable environment for our valued guests. I derive immense satisfaction from training and developing our staff, enabling them to excel in their roles. Overseeing the seamless operation of housekeeping services and witnessing the positive impact of our efforts on guest satisfaction and the overall success of the resort operations is truly rewarding.

The pandemic has reshaped the hospitality landscape. How has your role as an Executive Housekeeper evolved in response to the new safety and hygiene standards, and what lessons do you think will endure in the post-pandemic era?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the hospitality industry, requiring a significant evolution in my role. With extensive physical contact in our department, ensuring guest and staff safety became paramount. We implemented strict safety measures, including personal hygiene practices, PPE use, and specialized equipment for safety protocols. We developed and monitored SOPs for both team members and guests, ensuring a safe environment.

While the pandemic has ended, its legacy is a heightened standard of housekeeping policies and procedures that continue to prioritize safety and well-being. These enduring lessons reflect our ongoing commitment to guest satisfaction and community health.

What advice would you give to aspiring individuals looking to enter the field of housekeeping or hospitality management?

First and foremost, invest in your education and training. Consider pursuing a degree or certification in hospitality management or a related field. Seek out specialized training programs that offer hands-on experience. These programs can provide you with practical insights and expertise in housekeeping and hospitality management, giving you a competitive edge in the job market.