Our Regional Director, Jacqueline, travelled to The Gambia for the fifth time this year to volunteer for two weeks at several hotels, training between 40 and 70 employees in housekeeping.
Five years ago, Jacqueline happened to cross paths with Triple M, the organisation behind the initiative. Jacqueline: "I spoke to an old colleague about this project at an event. It appealed to me so much that I said, 'If you want to give a training on housekeeping, you know where to find me.' Six months later, they called me, and shortly thereafter I was on a plane to The Gambia." It quickly became clear that we do things differently in the Netherlands than they do in The Gambia. "I deleted my PowerPoint presentation after day one. What they needed were easy-to-use strategies. Things like what's the smartest way to make a bed? Or how do you interact with each other? How do you check a room? What we consider normal, everyday things are innovative for them. For instance, the tip that you can use a piece of toilet paper to see if the fan is working was an eye-opener for them."
Listening and asking questions
Jacqueline often stays at the same hotel for 2 to 3 days. She spends the first day doing a lot of listening and asking questions. That way, she can find out where the needs are and how she can guide, train and coach them. Guest interaction, internal communication and efficient cleaning strategies are issues that often come up. In addition to on-the-job training, role playing is one of the forms of training she uses. Jacqueline: "Role playing really highlights to the housekeepers what they can do in certain situations and how the steps: listen, empathize, apologise and deliver can help them. The housekeepers really like doing it and often end up laughing a lot, because we know exactly what kind of issues they'll run into in the hotel." In Jacqueline's experience, playing out scenarios really helps. "I'm constantly weaving attitude and behaviour into all the training sessions. For example, at one hotel there was a lot was hanging around at the front desk while they were waiting. Not a very hospitable look. So, during the training, I started hanging around unannounced to demonstrate how it comes across to the guest."
Training housekeepers there is a long-term effort. Jacqueline: "The people are extremely enthusiastic and grateful for what you're teaching them. They basically drink in any information you have to give them. But that doesn't mean that if you come back to the same hotel, everything you agreed on has actually been put into action. A number of things will have fallen by the wayside, while other things took root. So, in the end, we tend to focus more on the things that shouldn't be done anymore."
Every year, the trip is evaluated and the volunteers all write up their recommendations. In addition to Jacqueline, who focused on housekeeping, a head chef, management trainers, a front office trainer, an F&B trainer, a swimming instructor and an office manager joined the trip. Things will be added or adjusted in future, based on their experiences. Jacqueline: "This year we did mystery visits to hotels for the first time, and that was really valuable. And my recommendation for next year is that we can help even more hotels around housekeeping if we bring extra trainers." So, Jacqueline isn't done sharing her knowledge with housekeepers in The Gambia. "Collaborating on this project brings me great satisfaction, but also brings me back down to earth with both feet. People in The Gambia often walk an hour each way to get to work. They do not have the same amenities that we have in the Netherlands, they work very hard and they never complain about it. It was wonderful to see and experience."
The smiling coast of Africa
Elma Niessen is the driving force behind the volunteer work in The Gambia. She is the program manager and consultant for this Triple M project and she also trains the management teams. Elma: "Sharing your knowledge in The Gambia is a very different experience. It's also challenging to give the training courses in such a way that they can actually be applied in practice. During our two weeks in The Gambia, our trainers share their knowledge. The Gambia is also called 'the smiling coast of Africa' because the Gambians want to be friends with everyone. We want to teach them how they can be hospitable in a positive way and the best way to deal with different types of guests. Our trainings produce results. The ratings for the hotels we've visited have gone up on booking websites, which shows that our training has a real effect. "
About Triple M
Triple M is a unique hospitality project in The Gambia that brings in hospitality experts for one or two weeks to train the men and women working in different hotels. Triple M stands for 'My country, my hotel, my guest' and is organised by Insights Benelux in cooperation with Tui.