With the hotel’s 20th birthday on the horizon, we thought it would be a great idea to interview some staff and reflect on their memories from over the years. Who better to start with than someone who has been here since the very beginning? Executive Housekeeper, Maureen Jolowicz has been at this hotel since day one, so I caught up with her to find out her fondest recollections and stories through her time here.
Q: Tell me about working in the hotel, at the beginning of your time here.
A: I commenced my career with Radisson on the 2nd of May 2000, for an opening on the 1st of July 2000. The pre-opening office was in Park St. There was a showroom on-site, but we had to wear hard hats and walk up the fire stairs. Obviously, being in Housekeeping, the bedrooms were very important to me and I had to get my head around the whole set up as quickly as possible.
Accordingly, we moved on-site about 3 weeks out from the opening… and we had to do the final clean and set up of areas whilst all the furniture, beds, linen and supplies were arriving for all areas. Procedures were established and training taking place, all while builders were on site – as you can imagine, very hectic!
Q: What did Sydney look like in 2000? What was going on around Sydney?
A: Sydney has changed dramatically since 2000, just compare the skyline then and now! Mobile phones were not widespread, no walking about the city having to dodge people on their devices. There were even free newspapers handed out for the journey home, remember those? I recall at the time, there were lots of Japanese tourists and not so many cruise ships. There was also a good buzz about the city with the Sydney Olympics coming in September, it may have been busier – but still a positive!
Q: What was it like being part of a hotel opening?
A: Hotel openings are like nothing else, they are a very special time. Although chaotic, sometimes frustrating and exhausting, it is still great fun. It’s truly a bonding time for the team. I took great pleasure in going to a floor and calling out the name of the person I wanted to see at the top of my voice. This was never to be repeated once the hotel opened!
Q: What did your career look like prior to Radisson opening in Sydney? What made you apply?
A: Prior to opening the hotel, I was the Director of Hotel Services at the Mater Private Hospital, North Sydney for 5 years. I was responsible for housekeeping, food services, security, and car parking. Prior to that, I had many years in Hotel Housekeeping, having opened in Sydney; the Southern Cross Hotel, The Park Hyatt and The Sheraton on the Park. I even travelled to Argentina to open the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. After 5 years in a private hospital, I wanted to go back to my roots and the opening as Executive Housekeeper for Radisson in 2000 was perfect — we were not Radisson Blu at the time.
Q: What have been your fondest memories from your time at the hotel?
A: Hospitality is a people industry. My fondest memories are of observing and assisting Housekeeping team members to reach their full potential. We have over the years had many team members promoted within the department also moved to other departments and even move to other hotels with a promotion. It is just wonderful when they acknowledge how important the department was for their personal growth. The hotel industry is clearly all about people. To me, it is all about the various winning teams within the hotel. Teamwork really inspires me.
Q: What has changed the most since the hotel opened?
A: Technology and the environment are the biggest changes by far. The Housekeeping team work with devices that provide them room statuses and task management updates, all in real-time. No more need for paper! Environmentally we are proud of our contribution, reducing chemical usage and saving over 1 million litres of water a year. We recycle as much as possible and we also collect used soaps that we send to charities in developing countries, in turn saving lives and that’s very rewarding.
Q: What can be the most challenging thing about working in a hotel?
A: Again, hotels are about people, guests, team members, suppliers, and owners. Being human, we can’t get everything right all the time. Perfect communication is impossible and that leads to challenges. Within the Housekeeping team, we’re close-knit and know each other personally, so when a team member has a challenging situation they must deal with, we all feel it.
Q: What is the strangest request the housekeeping department has ever seen a guest request?
A: There are two that stick out. Once, there was a request for someone to be a witness at a wedding. Another one was a Housekeeper looking after a very young baby whilst a distraught mother had a shower – the lady was quite exhausted and needed a hand!
Q: What is your most memorable moment since working at Radisson Blu Sydney?
A: The surprise party for a significant birthday of mine, organised by the Housekeeping team which included my husband. It also featured suppliers and housekeepers from other hotels – so special! Also, being nominated for a global Radisson award, winning and being flown to Las Vegas to receive it!
Q: What’s the best thing about working in the hotel industry?
A: The industry is vibrant and exciting. No two days are the same. It is so interesting, you get to interact with so many people from different cultures and backgrounds. Never a dull or boring moment and the time goes so quickly! You can make a difference and get so much satisfaction from making people happy, be it guests or team members.
Q: And lastly, do you have any funny stories from your time here?
A: We have had some creative guests [over the years]. One time, a long stay guest set a mathematical puzzle for the Room Attendant. The correct answer gave a code for the safe. When opened, there was a prize inside. (see photos)
There was also a guest who went out for a run and she returned with the Room Attendant cleaning her room. The guest realized she had misjudged the time and she was an hour late. Whilst the guest had a shower, the room attendant ironed her clothes for her!
Many things may have changed throughout the last 20 years, however, some things will never change, like the 5-star service and friendly staff which our hotel values very dearly. Stay tuned for our next blog, continuing the celebration of our hotel’s 20th anniversary.