Secret Concierge: Facing the new reality

Published: 1 June 2020 - 7:15 a.m.
By: Claudia De Brito

Two and a half months have passed since my colleagues and I asked to stay home. Our hotel took the decision to run its operations with ‘skeleton manning’ – one person in the front office, two people in in-room dining, a security guard and a few housekeepers – you get the picture, the absolute minimum manpower to operate a hotel in times of crisis.

During the first few weeks, when the 24-hour curfew was in place, our hotel’s training manager was sharing in our WhatsApp group interesting online books that staff could read and online classes we could take. Now, after 10 weeks, she is sharing videos of yoga classes which she suggests we “could practice at home with all the free time we have in hand”. I have never tried a yoga pose in my life and I could not care less about its benefi ts – frankly speaking, not my area of interest.

What I do believe would be of interest for many of our team members, is mental health – a topic which amongst many nationalities is taboo, as they’ve been raised with a ‘real men don’t cry’ mentality. Why aren’t websites, email addresses or telephone numbers of self help organisations where our staff could reach out to in desperate times, being shared by our hotel’s senior leadership team? Especially those food and beverage, housekeeping and front office team members who are living together with three other people in a small staff accommodation room like sardines in a tin, unable to leave the compound due to the 80% salary cut, which is not even enough to pay for their basic necessities such as toothpaste, let alone a taxi fare to the nearest beachfront.

Has our leadership team thought of all the trainings, information sessions and workshops, which could be held online for all the frontline team members – those who are facing the guests, especially the never-satisfi edalways- complaining guests coming for a staycation and refusing to wear a protective mask or neglecting the social distancing guidelines in restaurants? None of these frontline colleagues have received a proper training – from the basics, such as ‘do not hand the same pen with which you were just writing directly to the guest, before disinfecting it’. Also – if none of the guests using beach and pool facilities aren’t wearing masks whilst all the staff are, might affect hundreds around them. I understand it’s not comfortable in 40°C heat, but guests need to understand that those carrying the virus don’t have it written on their forehead and by not wearing a protective mask, might affect everyone else around. And in such cases, how far does the hotel’s liability go? Should we chase the rule-breakers around the property and ruin their good time? Facing the new reality Or should we allow these people neglecting the government-enforced guidelines to expose themselves and others to a potential hazard?

I do agree that hospitality firms are amongst the slowest to adapt and change – purely due to the number of approvals and time all worldwide training roll-outs require – from regional to corporate offices. But at the end of the day, this shouldn’t be an excuse not to train the frontline – especially as none of them have faced anything like this before. An on-job training session before or after duty should be a mandate, spearheaded by departmental trainers and managers.

I do hope the day will come, when hospitality firms will be able to be a step ahead of the curve – along with airlines and other quick-to-change-and-adapt industries out there. At the moment, this certainly isn’t the case. And whilst the majority of Dubai expats might fl ock the beaches and pools across hotels that are amongst the fi rst ones to lift the restrictions, I will stay at home and not rush anywhere. I know how things on the other side of the reception desk actually are.

Do you have something to say? To share your opinion anonymously, contact claudia.debrito@itp.com

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