When service with a smile makes all the difference
On Tobacco Bay beach in St George's, one new hospitality worker is learning just how important Bermudians are to the Island's tourism product.
Zarai White has been put through his paces since joining the Tobacco Bay management team in May. Beyond hauling kayaks and chasing down umbrellas, Zarai said, the first thing he learned was how to translate a grin into cold hard cash.
“When I first started off I wasn't that good at talking to people that I didn't know, but that is such an important part of it. You're trying to be friendly with your customers and push sales so they buy more stuff. It's all about service with a smile.
“Even when you're in a bad mood, you do your best to cover that up and just be friendly,” said the 17-year-old.
After less than two months on the job the Bermuda College student is already turning his eye towards a future in hospitality. But, unlike some, Zarai is optimistic about the future and the role average Bermudians can play in keeping tourists coming to the Island.
“Sometimes you just have to accept that sales aren't as high as they used to be. So I guess [the state of our tourism product] is not as ominous as you might think.
“I feel like the Government doesn't want us really interacting with tourists, you know, they push them more towards the beaches when beaches are everywhere. I think for the most part our biggest selling point is our culture. We should push them more towards interacting with us as Bermudians, experiencing our culture.
“There are beautiful beaches all over the world but Bermudian culture isn't everywhere, it's in Bermuda. We have rum swizzle. We like to party. Our culture is not like everyone else's, and I think that's the main reason why people travel here. I go to other places to experience different things, not to see things I could see anywhere else.”
An active sailor, a current member of Devonshire Colts football club and a former member of the Under-18 national football team, Zarai said he was most surprised at the sunny disposition of most tourists when he first started the job this summer.
“The tourists are really friendly. They're always open to trying new things. When you give them ideas about what to do, they listen, and I never really thought of them like that before. I just thought they were, you know, uptight, tense.
“They think we're all local experts. They ask a lot of stuff, and a lot of times we have no idea. Some things I've never even heard of.”
The trick, according to Zarai, is reciprocating that friendliness, even when that puts you outside your comfort zone.
“Sometimes I go into stores and people act like they don't really care about the business, and I just want to say, ‘Tourists are going to walk in here and they're gonna see you with no life to you. You should try and perk yourself up.' That's how I was when I first came. I wasn't used to speaking to random people out of the ordinary. I wasn't going out of my way to have conversations with people I never met.”
Perhaps more astute than his age would suggest, Zarai pointed out that the skills one learns in hospitality can be transferred over to many other aspects of professional life, “especially if you're looking to own a business. You have to show your employees how to speak to tourists, interact with customers”.
Zarai's boss, Tobacco Bay manager Belcario Thomas, held little back when asked about Zarai.
“He's heartening in his enthusiasm and passion for being a new entry into the hospitality field,” said Mr Thomas. “He's punctual, get's things done, is engaging. He's everything a young Bermudian hospitality worker should represent. The visitors love him. He's physical [and] he's got a natural smile; highly employable.”