Origins of the commercial hospitality industry: from the fanciful to factual

Kevin D. O'Gorman (Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Publication date: 2 October 2009



This paper aims to explore some of the different historical roots of commercial hospitality in three distinct epochs with the intention of promoting further empirical research and beginning an informed debate into the origins and evolution of the contemporary hospitality industry.


The paper is a report on empirical research based on texts, artefacts and archaeological evidence. Wherever possible all the primary sources were consulted in the original languages; all translations are the author's own unless otherwise stated.


Contrary to established and often fanciful rhetoric, commercial hospitality has at least 4,000 years of history in the area of investigation. The rich and incredibly diverse heritage of the hospitality industry is illustrated and the conclusions emphasise that hospitality research should focus on deepening understanding of the industry through empirical research: learning from the past helps to inform the future.

Research limitations/implications

The particular focus of this article is restricted to reporting to empirical studies of three epochs: Mesopotamia (c. 2000 BC), Pompeii (79 AD), and Middle Eastern Trade Routes (c. 700 AD onwards). These distinct time periods illustrate the different roots and highlight the need for further research into the evolution of the commercial hospitality industry.


The origins of commercial hospitality is an under‐researched area in hospitality management and this paper highlights the rich data that is available through disciplined empirical study.



O'Gorman, K. (2009), "Origins of the commercial hospitality industry: from the fanciful to factual", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 21 No. 7, pp. 777-790.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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