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Economic production in hospitality and tourism industry: How do we compare to other services?

Amit Sharma (School of Hospitality, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Victor Eduardo Da Motta (School of Hospitality, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jeong-Gil Choi (Hotel Management Department, Kyung-Hee University, Seoul, Korea)
Naomi S. Altman (Department of Statistics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




Economic production analysis can provide critical perspectives on an industry’s performance. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the factor input intensity of hospitality and related industries, namely, accommodation, food service and amusement, gaming and recreation (AFAGR), compared to other service industries.


This paper compared AFAGR with other industries categorized as services by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS code of up to four digits was used to collect data (US Census Bureau).


Results of this paper confirm extant literature that food service is more labor-intensive than other service industries; however, this was not true of accommodation and AGR industries. Similarly, while food service industry was relatively less intermediate input intensive than other service industries, accommodation and AGR were not. There were no significant differences between hospitality and other service industries (AFAGR) in their capital intensity. Another important finding was that while accommodation had constant results to scale, AGR had increasing returns to scale and food service industry was found to have decreasing returns to scale.

Research limitations/implications

This investigation only looked at the four-digit NAICS-coded industries. International differences could also be investigated in the future.

Practical implications

Based on theoretical arguments, high labor intensity together with low intermediate input in food service industry suggests that efficiencies could be gained in these businesses. This may also be evident by the decreasing returns to scale that this paper found for the food service industry. These comparisons could guide additional research about the causes, consequences and potential sources of improvement of efficiency of economic productivity in AFAGR. Managers in AFAGR would find it valuable to understand how they might be able to enhance economic output, particularly in the context of the role of labor. Furthermore, any changes in one economic input would have implications on other inputs and possibly on productivity.

Social implications

Any future recalibration of input intensity in hospitality industries could have both social and economic consequence.


This paper enhances our understanding of how hospitality industries use economic factors of production. Labor in AFAGR is viewed as a given. This study suggests that food service industry may need to reevaluate its labor productivity, the way it is measured and how it might affect efficiencies. Such understanding could better inform the sources and causes of economic efficiencies in AFAGR industries. Until now, this understanding has mostly been based on relatively scarce comparative systematic analysis.



Sharma, A., Motta, V.E.D., Choi, J.-G. and Altman, N.S. (2016), "Economic production in hospitality and tourism industry: How do we compare to other services?", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 1026-1050.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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