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SPOTLIGHT ON Gregory Maliassas, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Playa Resorts Management

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
1 November 2020
5 min read
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What is the recovery looking like in the Caribbean and Mexico?
First and foremost, there is recovery and the business has exceeded our initial forecasts.

From the moment we shuttered our properties, our goal was to create the safest environment possible for our guests while never losing sight of our brand of luxury and service from the heart. To-date, based on initial guest commentary and loud “applause” from our travel trade partners, we are succeeding, and the incredibly positive word-of-mouth is driving our early success.

In our destinations that have resumed operation, two trends are emerging:

  1. A slightly younger demographic most likely attracted by the value proposition as we bring resorts back online.
  2. An increase in World of Hyatt members and Hilton Honors members. Unlike our competitive set, our Hyatt and Hilton brand partnerships provide additional confidence for guests wanting a tropical escape and choosing a name they can trust.

How are you streamlining operations without impacting your guest experience?
The guest experience was always on top of our priority list when we started working on our guest safety protocols.

We worked very hard with our hotel teams to be able to ensure that despite the fact that our safety protocols would have been crucial to a successful reopening, the guest experience would not be inferior because of those protocols.

This was a combined effort between our operational teams, health and safety teams, entertainment teams and guided by our Quality Director. At every step of this initiative, once we had ensured that all safety protocols had been integrated, we asked ourselves the same questions: Are the guests going to have fun? Is this going to deteriorate their stay in any way? If we had the slight suspicion that this was going to be the case, we started from scratch – ensuring that the overall guest experience would have been a memorable one and not hindered by any of these protocols.

The safety of our guests and that of our associates was no easy task under these circumstances. We had to follow specific protocols, set by each local authority and integrate them into our brand protocols (Hyatt & Hilton). Once we had done that, we had to ensure that the Playa DNA in our guest experience offerings would remain intact as much as possible. Once we had achieved that, we were ready to release the Playa Safe Stay™ protocols.

Today I am proud to say that we have achieved an ultra-safe environment for our guests under these safety protocols. The feedback we are receiving since the opening of our resorts is that not only do our guests feel safer than back home, but the fun element and the overall experience of their vacation has not deteriorated because of those protocols.

How are you refiguring your F&B operations to comply with COVID-19 requirements?
Our number one concern was the buffet experience at some of our restaurants. We had to ensure that the guest would not be deprived from our legendary breakfast and dinner buffets because of Covid-19 protocols.

After several sessions of brainstorming, we decided not to get rid of our buffets as many others had done, but to create a concept which we called “assisted buffets”. We ensured that all our buffets were protected by glass but still allowed our guests to pick and choose whatever they wished for, by indicating it to our chefs behind the buffet in full PPE.

The buffet always looks clean and neat, it is only handled by our fully trained staff who are wearing gloves, face masks, as well as face shields. The experience is still the same and to a certain extent, better, as the food visually always looks at its best, which is usually difficult to achieve in a buffet setting where each guest serves themselves.

The other challenge was that we had to eliminate our typical restaurant menus that were considered unhygienic under Covid-19 protocols. As a result, we created QR codes for all our restaurants and bars, whereby the guest could simply download the menus and proceed to the ordering of their food to our staff wearing full PPE.

Room Service has been operating within strict protocols where food is placed in various containers and served in a paper bag, ensuring its quality and safety from the moment it leaves the kitchen, until it arrives at the guestroom.

What changes have you made to the check-in process to ensure enhanced safety for staff and guests?
For the check-in process we wanted to collect as much information as possible prior to the arrival of the guest, in order to ensure a fast and seamless check-in process.

Our guests do not favor automated check-ins, although available at many of our properties, because they are here on leisure and they are eager to hear what kind of facilities and activities the hotel has to offer during their stay. This is amongst one of the first points of contact our guests have with our associates and it’s an important one, therefore we decided to keep it but make it as safe as possible. We rolled out specific protocols, such as glass partitions between the receptionist and the guest, QR codes where the guest can discover information on all the facilities, activities and F&B venues the resort offers. Our associates are in full PPE which includes a facemask and face shield. The physical touchpoints during the check-in process is limited to a minimum and wherever possible, paperless.