Wearing masks and face coverings has (hopefully) become an essential part of people’s day-to-day routine as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
It’s a well-publicized effort that’s key in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Masks, of course, have become an integral part of the travel and tourism experience – they’re mandatory in airports, on airplanes, in transfer buses and expected in the common areas of hotels and resorts.
Masks protect you and the people around you. It’s a sign of mutual respect for others – especially towards those working in frontline health care and customer-facing jobs.
But as the New York Times' Jacey Fortin argues, masks also hide a "small but important social lubricant: the smile."
Are people smiling under their masks? Unless you’re wearing one of those masks with the clear, transparent coverings, there’s no way of truly knowing.
Smiles build rapport and comfort around others and can reduce miscommunication, and confusion, when meeting strangers for the first time.
Smiles (and all facial expressions, for that matter) are also very important to people who rely on visual communication, such as deaf and hard of hearing individuals and seniors.
Personally, I find it difficult to sense emotions, follow visual cues and, well, get a clear sense of what people look like when their faces are semi-blocked by a mask.
The art of “smiling with your eyes” only goes so far.
I’ve tried this method in multiple social and professional situations, but most times I come across as something between a deer caught in the headlights and a Desperate Housewife that’s had way too many Botox injections.
In the world of hospitality, a smile is one of the most important assets an employee can possess. (As one who bartended for 12 years, I can attest to this).
Service with a smile, as the saying goes, is key to unlocking a warm and welcoming environment in a restaurant, hotel, plane, ship or attraction.
It establishes positive relationships with customers. It makes them feel good to be there.
And, when a customer can see a worker’s full face, they know exactly who to turn to when they need something. Facial recognition and trust go hand in hand.
So how has hospitality, where workers are mandated to wear masks (for good reasons), gotten around the smile conundrum?
Most businesses haven’t. I’ve seen clear plastic facial coverings in some establishments, but cloth masks, I would argue, are the hospitality industry’s barrier of choice.
(This, of course, recognizing that there are bigger problems in the world right now than smiles, and that businesses are just trying to stay afloat).
But some are rising to the challenge with creative solutions that reveal the faces of staff members without removing masks from the equation.
At Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, for example, a property-wide initiative was introduced to strengthen the bond between staff and guests.
All staff, in addition to wearing a mask and name tag, wear a button that displays a headshot of their smiling face, alongside a brief description of what their “Current Mood” is.
In a world where human interactions have never been more restricted, it’s a simple (OK, genius) solution to personalizing hospitality and service (or, as Playa Hotels and Resorts puts it, “service from the heart”).
As a guest, you can see (see!) the face of every team member that you're interacting with, simply by glancing at their button, all the while developing a deeper understanding of how staff feel about returning to work and, once again, welcoming back guests after months of shutdown.
All of this, without compromising anyone’s safety or wellness.
Here, at Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana, the mask barrier has been broken. All thanks to a tiny button.
(And to other resorts out there doing something similar, I applaud you, too).
PAX is on location
PAX is currently in the Dominican Republic, getting an exclusive look at how hotels are adjusting their operations to meet the needs of travellers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, and next, we’ll be reporting on location in palm tree-speckled Cap Cana from the family-friendly Hyatt Ziva and adults-only Hyatt Zilara – a mirroring, U-shaped paradise that Playa opened in November 2019 following a two-and-a-half-year construction schedule.
Our focus, in particular, will be on Playa’s health and safety program, Playa Safe Stay, which was launched in May in response to COVID-19.
The initiative is a “modernized approach” to cleanliness, sanitization and personal space, and PAX will be showing you everything this entails – using words, pictures and video – so you have a complete, on-the-ground picture of the resort experience.
And, oh, don’t be surprised if you start seeing more face-covered buttons appearing on staff at other resorts during the pandemic.
A good idea is a good idea – and the word is officially out!
Stay tuned for more of PAX's on-location coverage from the Dominican Republic.
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