The Kellys have a message for you. If you are looking for a hotel, keep in mind the working conditions and exploitation of employees before booking. A few weeks ago this group, named after an acronym for ‘those who clean’, raised enough funds to create its platform Kellys Reservation Center. Their own reservation page in which they will include the hotels that meet the minimum working conditions. And, incidentally, hotel maids have brought the need for sustainable, ethical and responsible tourism to public scrutiny.
The Kellys have brought to the table the need to create an ethical hotel platform. They have not been the first or the only ones but their initiative has served to remember the reality they face. The first and most important is the outsourcing of services, which causes a precariousness that makes a working day almost unbearable. In addition to the fact that housekeeping should be seen as an essential part of the hotel and should not be outsourced, claim the Kellys, outsourcing conditions are experienced every day.
For example, some contracts specify how many rooms must be cleaned in one shift. The Guardian explained that the cleaning between 25 and 30 rooms in a 6-hour shift. As it is an almost impossible task, hotel maids end up working overtime without pay. And if they do not meet the conditions agreed in the contract, they are fired.
Thus was born the Central Reservations
The idea of creating your own platform took more and more shape as the possibilities for change fell. First, because there are no strong measures to limit an outsourcing of these services. Second, because of the failure -for now- of the Fair Labor and Quality Seal which was approved by the Parliament of Catalonia in 2018. It was destined to combat the precariousness of the chambermaids but, 3 years after approval, it seems to have been left in borage water.
To all this panorama is added the interest of many guests to know which hotels meet the minimum conditions. “They asked us if we had a list of ethical hotels. We thought ‘let’s do it ourselves’. And so we started the campaign in Goteo to create the page,” explained Miriam, one of the spokespersons for Las Kellys Barcelona, to Hipertextual. At the end of August, the group raised € 60,000 for the project and now they exceed € 86,000. The platform is already a reality, but it won’t see the light of day until 2022. A few months for the Kellys to complete their list of ethical hotels in Barcelona, the city where this movement begins, which is expected to gradually reach other cities in Spain with the help of the chambermaids.
The Kellys Reservation Center can be an escape route from very precarious work situations, but also the stakes are high. Miriam, who prefers not to give her full name to this medium, acknowledged that many of her colleagues do not show their faces because they have fear of the consequences they may suffer later in your workspace. They go to the demonstrations, they are part of the project but they do it from the shadows. “When you are at work there is harassment, psychological and even physical abuse because they put the worst workload on you,” Miriam said. Therefore, some want to go unnoticed. “There is a lot of fear.”
Lack of civility is also a problem for the Kellys
The Kellys Barcelona
The only space where they can calmly share their opinions and work situation is in the WhatsApp group. It was precisely in a group created in 2014 that Las Kellys emerged, which later became its own union. It is not only a loudspeaker to give voice to the problems of the collective, but also to share the cruder aspects of your daily reality. Miriam stressed for CVBJ.biz that the reservation center “is based on respect, on the human and that this prevails before the commercial. We want quality and responsible tourism “. Precisely because their experiences show that sometimes the opposite is true.
This August, a tweet from Las Kellys Benidorm managed to go viral. It showed images of the state of a room at the Meliá. “And then they will want us to clean 23/25 in less than 6 hours,” the post read. Beyond the working conditions, the photographs showed lack of civility of many people who, Miriam continued, believe that just by paying for a room they can leave it as they want.
These are some of the room conditions that we can find @kellysbenidorm in 4-star hotels such as the Melia. And then they’ll want us to clean 23/25 in less than 6 hours.
Comply with the LPRL, control of work rhythms. pic.twitter.com/5JYrotL6T2
– Las kellys Benidorm (@kellysbenidorm) August 17, 2021
The tweet made visible the situation suffered by many Kellys every day. Although for them, seeing photographs like these is not something isolated and they use the WhatsApp group to share how some guests leave their rooms. Miriam stated that has seen “much worse” photographs than the tweet that went viral.
Beyond the Kellys: the other central reservation
The Kellys claim their own thing. From the state in which some people leave the rooms to the working conditions. There are many aspects to improve for this group but they are not the only ones that have put on the table the importance of sustainable, responsible and ethical tourism.
In Spain, the UGT, Comisiones Obreras and the University of Malaga launched the Fair Hotels project, paralyzed by the pandemic, to identify hotels that are socially responsible with their workers. In this case, however, hotels that outsource their services will be included, but as long as they apply the sectoral agreement. It is for this point that a union between the Kellys Reservation Center and Fair Hotels cannot be, for now, possible. “Our platform is unique”, clarified Miriam, “and they do not demand the requirements that we demand, such as the end of outsourcing.”
“We have to prepare the land before planting a tree, if not, maybe that tree will not grow. That is more or less what I mean, if you don’t start by eliminating outsourcing, which is our main problem, it is of no use to us.”
Fair Hotels regretted that they did not join forces, although it recognized that the ideas do not converge in many aspects. Gonzalo Fuentes, federal head of Hospitality and Tourism at CCOO told El País that it is difficult for the Las Kellys reservation center to float because with the money they are asking for will not give for anything. Instead, Miriam told this medium that with the amount they have obtained through crowdfunding they can bear all the expenses. Also “because they ask that services not be outsourced, but unfortunately the law allows it.”
Everything indicates that each one will go their own way. They are not, however, the only ones. In regards to The Kellys, the collective in Seville He also wants to publish a list of hotels on Facebook in the city that respect the labor rights of hotel maids and do not encourage outsourcing.
Ethical tourism, increasingly present
These initiatives are also part of a boom in sustainable and ethical tourism that is experiencing its golden moment since the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the power of Booking or other platforms such as Trivago, there are more and more pages that promote hotel reservations that take into account aspects such as zero kilometer gastronomy with local producers. For example, bookings at eco-sustainable hotels rose 237%, according to Weekendesk.es.
More and more clients are taking into account sustainable tourism alternatives
On the other hand, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism announced the Sustainable Tourism Strategy of Spain 2030, with which they intend to help in the transformation of tourism “towards a model of sustained and sustainable growth”.
Although this phenomenon responds to other aspects within sustainable tourism such as measures in favor of the environment or consuming zero kilometer products, the increase in demand for these types of hotels indicates that it is a good time for Las Kellys to launch their platform.
In addition to changes in the way of traveling due to mobility restrictions -for example, putting rural destinations and activities first-, the Kellys have managed to make a reality visible that until a few years ago was completely invisible to a majority of the population. First came the creation of the association in 2016, with different delegations in cities of Spain. The injustices they claim have come to cross borders and, in 2019, the German Institute for Tourism and Development (Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung) awarded the DO TO Award Human Rights in Tourism 2019 to Las Kellys.
During the pandemic, the demands of the hotel maids were not few. If tourism was the sector most affected by the coronavirus, the Kellys suffered the consequences first-hand. Many sin possibility of qualifying for an ERTE for their working conditions. Again, the outsourcing of this service highlighted the job insecurity of this group and is positioned as their biggest problem. Getting guests to respect their work and not leave the room as in the photographs of Las Kellys Benidorm is the other great stumbling block.