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Christmas is when hotels pull out all the stops and tricks to create magical experiences for their guests. In this festive series, three hotel employees share how they do their bit to surprise and delight guests during the festive period. Housekeeping Manager Nur Azlan Apandi is the chief elf behind the elaborate decorations throughout the Fullerton Hotel, including a record-breaking Christmas tree.

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How long have you been in the hotel industry? 14 years.

How did you get your start in the Business of Happiness? Before getting into the industry, I actually used to be a hawker! But I’ve always wanted to work in a hotel, because I enjoy meeting people and felt that there were better career prospects in hospitality. So 14 years ago, I made the switch, mainly working on maintenance and technical repairs, and I have never looked back since. <

Having no prior experience, it was challenging at first getting used to the work, but the hotels I had worked at had very good systems in place to help me learn on the job and made sure I wasn’t left alone till I was ready. After a few years as a public area supervisor, I gained some skills about cleaning works and got into housekeeping, which is the department I have been in ever since.

What is different about working in a hotel during the Christmas season? The first thing you notice is that people look a lot happier. People come from all over the world, but you can see that everyone feels it – that Christmas spirit. There’s something special about the holiday season. Because it’s not just the guests, but all of us who work here also feel more cheerful because of the festive atmosphere. So, it’s a nice time to come to work.

You’re in charge of putting together your hotel’s Christmas decorations. Take us through the process of planning and executing a project of this scale. This is my 9th year working on the decorations. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

My role is to prepare the Christmas items. We have to gather them in the warehouse and bring them over to the hotel, before starting the work on the ground.

This is usually done overnight from 11pm to 4 am, with the help of 20 contractors and housekeeping team members. Together, we worked for nearly a month to put up everything that you can see in the Fullerton – from the entrance, to the lobby, to the Christmas tree.

What is unique or special about this year’s set up compared to previous years? This year, we have a national record-breaking five-metre tall Christmas tree decorated with Fullerton bears just outside our grand staircase. We used 500 bears to decorate the tree.

Anything in particular that you have to focus on when putting the set up together? My first priority is always the safety of my co-workers and team members. Next thing I have to consider is making sure we work discreetly. Because we work at night, we need to be mindful not to disturb our guests who are asleep.

What are some challenges you’ve faced during this project? I think the most challenging part is that before any Christmas decoration can be put up, everything is only on paper. My job is to take the hotel management’s plans, and translate that creative vision into what you see everywhere. So I need to be creative myself and very particular, because at the end of the day, it’s the little details that count.

How does it feel seeing guests appreciate your work? It’s very satisfying when all the work is done, knowing that I was there every step of the way from planning to execution. And it’s such a rewarding feeling when I see guests take photos in front of the decorations, or even come up to me to give compliments. I can’t help but smile when I see their reaction to our decorations.

If we can make the festive celebrations a little bit more special for our guests, it in turn makes Christmas even more meaningful for us.

What kind of qualities does a housekeeper need to have? You need to have a keen eye for details because during the day, you’re working on and maintaining the standards of many different areas of the hotel – from the restaurants to the rooms to the toilets. They each come with their own set of issues to look out for, and if you notice a problem, you have to deal with it right away. That’s why it’s important to be meticulous and take pride in what you do.

You also need stamina, because you’re on your feet a lot

What do you enjoy the most about working in a hotel? Getting to meet so many different people every day. Some are guests that I strike up a conversation with, and many of them also ask about the history of the Fullerton Hotel, because it used to be the General Post Office. It’s something I enjoy talking about, and I bring them to see the Fullerton Heritage galleries to find out more about the history of this place. A lot of them don’t know about it, so it feels nice that I can provide them with something unexpected during their stay. It’s these little things that keep me going