As the hospitality industry has experienced significant growth in the past two decades, hotel engineering has emerged as a prospective career option. From providing better services to managing operations, a luxurious hotel involves an engineering unit.
In Kashmir, like the other places in the subcontinent, students choose traditional branches of engineering for career options, leaving hotel engineering as unexplored territory.
Kashmir valley, known for its scenic beauty receives a heavy tourist footfall throughout the year. This has led to the growth of the hospitality sector over the years in the valley which could provide jobs to hundreds of hotel engineers.
However, as very few people in Kashmir pursue niche-based courses like hotel engineering, there are people like Abdul Wahid who choose hotel engineering as his calling.
Wahid, after pursuing a bachelor's degree in engineering, has worked in top-grade hotels in Kashmir.
“Hotel engineering involves all the minute details. Everything is an engineer's concern. From equipment in the kitchen to the various control rooms, the engineers work to provide better services to the guests,” Wahid said.
Explaining the job of a hotel engineer. Wahid says given the threats of climate change it is important for the people involved in the hospitality sector to work sustainably.
“The work of a hotel engineer is to strive for a low carbon footprint, reduce the consumption of water, and provide for less-polluting energy sources,” he adds.
The strength of the engineering staff in a hotel depends upon its capital and size.
Usually, the engineering department is headed by the chief engineer who possesses experience in diverse fields. The Hotel Engineering Department plays an important role while working in tandem with other departments.
The work of hotel engineering staff ranges from maintenance work to civil, mechanical, electrical, safety, security, energy, waste management, etc.
“A hotel engineer should have multiple skills. His job doesn’t end at the construction but he has to keep an eye on routine operations in the hotel,” he says
Wahid believes that in this sector the engineers get a chance to explore places and cultures as they get to meet travellers across the globe.
“Tourists come to Kashmir to enjoy the majestic beauty but they should also find comfortable hotels to stay in. It is an engineer who with his skills makes the hotel attractive for the visitors,” he explains.
Wahid explains that a hotel engineer has to look after multiple sectors in a hotel like proper channelisation of sewage, water and electricity.
“For instance, in any hotel, there should never be a power cut. To avoid this crisis, we need to have proper backups installed in the hotels,” he explains.
He says that in every hotel, the staff strength of engineers and technicians depends upon the capital and size of the hotel.
Mohammad Rouf, another hotel engineer from the valley says while his job is a challenging and demanding one, it is also a source of fun and happiness.
“At work, we always remain on our toes. Every problem in our sector demands immediate action. The job is challenging and at the same time fun to do because you get to learn about a lot of new things,” says Rouf, who has been working in 4 points at Sheraton for the last 5 years.
Rouf feels that the winters and the harsh weather conditions add to the challenges they face at work. Despite huge challenges, Rouf feels there is greater scope for engineers in the sector.
“As a tourist destination, Kashmir provides a huge scope for those who aspire to come in this field. Hotel engineers here are paid a handsome package by the hoteliers.” Rouf added.
Muneer Khan, another hotel engineer said an engineer regardless of his branch of engineering can get the job.
“Engineering elements are like veins that run to every part of the hotel. A hotel engineer should know basic skills like carpentry, painting and also should know about technical aspects of various machines as well,” he said.
Talking about the scope and opportunities in the field he said, the state has a large number of hotels and many are also setting up in Kashmir.
He said, “Earlier there were few hotels but presently big hotel chains like Marriott, Taj, Radisson, ITC, Sarovar and many others are looking forward to anchoring their boats on the shores of Kashmir. Many options are opening for freshers and it’s a good sign. If they want to pursue, they should know what is happening around them.”
Some years later, Muneer started with Kyber Resorts at Gulmarg as a shift engineer. “In Gulmarg, it snows a lot. The trees fell on the wires and the electricity poles got uprooted. For some time we had to manage with the generators. There was a fault at the pole which was 30-40 feet tall and I and my colleague got on the pole and restored it ourselves. It was a challenge and we did it. In hotel engineering, one has to be ready for everything,” he said.
Muneer and the other hotel engineers are of the view that there should be some hotel engineering courses in hotel management studies. He said, “Many people don’t even know engineers work in hotels. They think every person in the hotel is from a hotel management background but that is not the case.”
Manoj, a hotel engineer currently working in Khyber Himalayan Resort Gulmarg said the scope of hotel engineering in Kashmir is good. In hotels, everything depends on engineering. “A person should be strong in his field then only he can easily acquire the knowledge about other fields as a hotel engineer has to be multi-skilled. Heating, water line, STP, WTP and RO are some of the things which cannot function smoothly without engineering,” he said.
Having worked outside the valley as well, he has experience with reputed hotel chains. He said the setup here is a bit different than outside because of the chilled atmosphere. He said, “Five-star hotels need professional engineers. A single skilled person cannot work there. This is a challenging job as decision making is important in this field. One has to be competent enough otherwise everything will be spoiled.”