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The meaning of hospitality: do employees understand?

Maria Golubovskaya (Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Richard N.S. Robinson (Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
David Solnet (Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




This paper explores how hospitality frontline employees understand, interpret and practice “hospitality” in a hotel industry context.


Framed by interpretivist and phenomenological approaches a dual-stage semi-structured interview study design was conducted. A sample was drawn from hotel employees in Australia.


Findings support the proposition that the hospitality workforce tends to favor service management and service processes as the guiding paradigm. The essence of what it means to be hospitable, and the host-guest model, appears to be largely absent in practice.

Research limitations/implications

This paper contributes to a scarcity of literature exploring the understanding of hospitality, and how this understanding can translate into hospitable behavior, from the employee perspective. Our main implication is that service management terminology colonizes hospitality within a commercial context, while the essence of hospitality and the “hospitality” lexicon is concomitantly diminishing. The authors advocate for developing an inter-paradigmatic view of hospitality management.

Practical implications

While the study revealed that the majority of frontline hotel employees struggle with grasping and verbalizing their understandings and perceptions of the hospitality construct, although some acknowledged the importance of hospitality as being an integral component to service delivery. We identified consistent organizational practices and intrinsic employee traits that either enabled or obstructed hospitable behavior in hotel settings.


The study reveals tensions between the hospitality and service paradigms in hospitality literature and practice. We uncover hotel management practices that may help to conserve and foster the essence of hospitality in hospitality organizations.



Golubovskaya, M., Robinson, R.N.S. and Solnet, D. (2017), "The meaning of hospitality: do employees understand?", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 1282-1304.



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