The hosts with the mosts

The hosts with the mosts

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VTC instructor Joseph Tsoi Yan-chi tells our junior reporters about how to make a bed properly while a student from VTC is demostrating the procedure.
VTC instructor Joseph Tsoi Yan-chi tells our junior reporters about how to make a bed properly while a student from VTC is demostrating the procedure.
Photos: Chris Lau/SCMP
Tens of millions of tourists flood into Hong Kong each year. In the frontline receiving them are a group of unsung heroes and heroines making sure this amazing city puts on its best face for visitors. Our junior reporters went along to the Vocational Training Council's Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre in Pok Fu Lam to find out what it takes to be a first-class hotel housekeeper …

The art of room-keeping

Joseph Tsoi Yan-chi is a housekeeping instructor. His job is to teach students all the tricks of the trade to ensure that rooms are made perfectly clean at top speed.

"Each hotel bed consists of five layers," he explains. "They start from the bottom, which is the bed racker, then the mattress, mattress protector and, lastly, two bedcovers on the top."

Tsoi points to the corner of a mattress on a demonstration bed where a note reads, "March, July, November". He says: "These are the months that you're supposed to flip over your mattress. A mattress should be turned every season because this can counterbalance the pressure on each side and make it more durable."

Most bed sheets and covers in hotels are white, but why is this? "If bedclothes are coloured, their colours may fade after intensive use. White bedclothes do not fade and can be conveniently bleached," Tsoi explains.

To make every bed perfect is a challenge. However, Tsoi explains how that neat, crisp finish to hotel beds can be achieved in little more than a blink of the eye. First, hold the edge of the bedcover and stretch it to both sides as tightly as possible. "You then lift it up and quickly pull it back down. The pressure will push the bedcover towards the bed and flatten it for you automatically," he says.

And to quickly pop pillows into pillowcases, his tip is to fold the end of the pillow in half before inserting it into a pillowcase. "That way you won't have to waste too much energy forcing the pillow in," he says.

Students are expected to make the beds within a strict time frame: three minutes for a single bed and five minutes for a king-size bed. In practical assessments, the appearance, skills, and time taken are all taken into account. Professionals can finish an entire room within half an hour, and service as many as 17 rooms each day.

Janet Tam

The science of floral arrangement

Flowers are very important to hotels. Their scent can help customers relax, and they bring a sense of occasion; for example, daffodils represent Lunar New Year, while poinsettias symbolise Christmas. Consequently, learning how to create floral arrangements is a vital part of the hotel management curriculum.

Before you start cutting branches and throwing flowers together, a detailed plan ensures you don't waste any effort. Instructor Polly Ng Po-yee says the first thing to go on the list is to identify where the arrangement is going. In a guest's room, a tall, large bunch of flowers is a good option because it is eye-catching. In corridors, subtlety is best, so smaller bunches are more suitable.

The second step is to decide on a theme. For special occasions, such as Christmas and Lunar New Year, the arrangement should be simple and neat to complement, rather than overpower, all the other decorations already in place.

Next are the flowers themselves. Here, colours and style come into play. For instance, for Lunar New Year, red and purple flowers are great choices. Style refers to the length and abundance of the flowers.

Then there is the vase. For instance, a short-square vase will be a symbol of simplicity and keep the room uncluttered and looking fresh.

Although floral decorations often go unnoticed in hotels, they serve as pieces of art that help guests feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

Gabrielle Chan

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