Face Mask Effects During COVID-19: Perspectives of Managers, Practitioners, and Customers in the Hotel Industry

Pui Keung Kong, Jae-eun Oh, Wai Man Terry Lam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Purpose – The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has completely changed the landscape of the hospitality industry. The World Health Organization does not officially recommend wearing face masks in the workplace.
Wearing face masks is controversial worldwide, however it has been widely adopted in Hong Kong society. Hospitality practitioners have worn face masks to work and serve customers for almost a year long, matching the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper proposes a conceptual model of face mask effects and also discusses and evaluates the effects of wearing face masks during the pandemic.
Design/methodology/approach – A convenience sampling method is employed to investigate hospitality operators using in-depth and focus group interviews with managers, front-line staff and customers.
Findings – The perspectives of both hospitality practitioners and customers are included in this study. The concepts of (1) invisible care, (2) sense of safety and (3) service trust have been introduced in this study. These provide valuable insights for the service industry when facing a large-scale health crisis, now and in the future.
Research limitations/implications – This paper analyzes interview data collected from 35 respondents –14 managers, 6 practitioners and 15 customers – in order to understand the critical effects of wearing face masks during the pandemic and the perspectives of both hospitality practitioners and customers.
Practical implications – For the hospitality industry, wearing face mask in service has already become a “new normal”, face mask effects might create an impact on service design, service delivery and service quality.
Originality/value – The findings show that wearing face masks turns hygiene and safety into a form of invisible care in the Asian hospitality industry. Practitioners’ perspective regarding the necessity of a smile is less important to Asian customers, showing a discrepancy between the two parties. Customers do not believe that service quality has dropped due to the wearing of masks, but that the level of hygiene has risen. Unlike customers, practitioners are more concerned about not providing good quality service. However, the interview
data show that respondents generally agree that mask wearing is a gesture and symbol for the hospitality industry to make tangible a new form of caring, professionalism, safety concern and communication.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Hospitality Review
VolumeSpecial Issue
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


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