Verena Anger has been working in hotels since she was 16. Thirty-eight years later she still has the same enthusiasm and commitment to excellence working in Melbourne as she did on her first day at work in a small hotel outside Stuttgart, Germany.
Hospitality has taken her around the world. She now calls Australia home after meeting the man she calls her “beautiful Aussie husband Marty”, almost thirty years ago while working in Dubai.
“He is a surveyor who helped build the Burj Al Arab, the great hotel that looks like a sail,” Verena said. Now a Quality and Training Manager at ahs hospitality, Verena, is one of the company’s longest-serving team members. She started work scrubbing floors in a family-run 50-room hotel near Stuttgart in 1985 and learned the business from the ground up.
“I worked in Dubai for about five years but when Marty’s contract finished in 1999, we came to Australia and settled in Melbourne,” she said. “Then I started working with ahs hospitality as a housekeeping supervisor in November 2000.”
For the first 14 years Verena worked at Mantra on Russell and became the Housekeeping Manager there before moving to the Crown Towers, where she spent five years. She has seen her share of international celebrities in her time but says her favourite guests are the hard-working mums and dads who save up to stay in a luxury hotel and are grateful for the opportunity.
“I like down-to-earth people. Celebrities can be high maintenance and demanding and keep us on our toes”, Verena said.
“We had a high profile fashion celebrity stay and put a pair of expensive boots outside her room for the ‘Shoeshine Service’. One problem, we did not offer that service and the boots disappeared. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the boots were returned!”
Working at Crown sparked Verena’s passion for quality and training. As the newest Quality and Training Manager at ahs hospitality, Verena introduced the prestigious, “Forbes standards” rating qualification.
“I feel like this was my career-defining moment,” she said. “I became the ‘Forbes guru’ in the hotel, leading the charge in implementing and training our team to meet the high standards of personalised service.”
The Forbes standards relate to a very up-market butler service. “It’s something suited to only the best luxury hotels,” she explained.
Another joyful milestone for Verena, was the reinstitution of the close partnership of ahs hospitality with Crown’s hospitality training college.
The college offers certifications in hospitality at levels 3 and for supervisors’ level 4, which proved to be a game-changer.
Verena said: “It paved the way for countless team members to climb the career ladder like me, transforming our lives and enriching our department with a wealth of talent. Not everyone wants to stay in housekeeping but if I find that ‘gem’ who is worth mentoring it’s great. I’ve found so many in my career and these qualifications really help them.”
In July 2019, Verena was offered a position as one of ahs hospitality’s Quality and Training Managers, supporting their operations in Victoria, and soon after COVID-19 hit. The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to Melbourne, which saw some of the world’s most rigorous lockdowns, seven of them totaling 232 days.
“Safe to say, all our lives changed,” Verena stated. “I’ll never forget those numbers but thanks to Job Keeper, we were able to keep my job. Working from home, I lent a hand to the ahs hospitality Human Resources and Safety team, assisting with their new projects and administrative tasks.
“People arriving from overseas had to spend two weeks in quarantine and there were 12 quarantine hotels in the city. Guests were tested every day and if they tested positive, they were moved to what was called a ‘health hotel’.
Then we had to disinfect those rooms, we developed very safe methods to deal with COVID-19.” When lockdowns lifted and hotels started to re-open, occupancy rates surged but a dire shortage of workers due to the pandemic led to setbacks.
“We strived to accommodate eager guests while navigating these intricate challenges,” Verena said. “At one stage in Victoria, we had 880 vacancies for room attendants but now it’s down to about 30.”
ahs hospitality has successfully re-adjusted to the post-pandemic era according to Verena. The “Train the Trainer” development sessions have resumed, and Verena teaches other managers to coach their staff. The mechanics of housekeeping have not really changed since working as a teenager in Stuttgart.
“I’m still waiting for the invention of the self-making bed,” Verena joked. “Although the physical side of the work has not changed the technology has.
“But we still have vacuums, trolleys, and mops… for now!”
Grantlee Kieza OAM has won three Queensland Media Awards, two Australian Sports Commission Awards and has been a finalist for the Walkley and News Awards and for the Harry Gordon Award for Australian sports journalist of the year. In 2019 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his writing. You can find more of his work in our AccomNews & Resort News print magazines.
He has written 22 acclaimed books, including bestsellers Hudson Fysh, The Kelly Hunters, Lawson, Banks, Macquarie, Banjo, Mrs Kelly, Monash, Sons of the Southern Cross and Bert Hinkler.