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Responding to organizational identity change: ethnographic insights from multinational hotel subsidiaries

Sandra Sun-Ah Ponting (L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology

ISSN: 1757-9880

Article publication date: 2 September 2021

Issue publication date: 4 March 2022




This paper aims to use an organizational ethnography perspective to explore how subsidiary hotel properties of a multinational hotel corporation experience planned organizational identity (OI) change instituted by headquarters.


This study uses a multi-site approach to collect ethnographic data on organizational change from six hotel subsidiaries in California, USA. Over three years, multiple sources of data were collected including: 31 interviews with hotel subsidiary leaders; more than 100 participant observation hours including job shadows, conferences and meetings; and photographs and internal communication materials.


Multinational hospitality companies face struggles between corporate standardization and subsidiary localization. This paper reveals that when headquarters plan changes focused on employees at their subsidiaries, the ways the latter initially accept and resist change are significantly impacted by the organizational memory and history of subsidiary leaders. However, as time progressed, properties with strong financial performance continued to operationalize new identity initiatives while properties with poorer profit margins played a balancing act between headquarters’ visionary identity and subsidiary ownership’s revenue expectations. Additionally, the situational realities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all properties which amplified practical and emotional challenges of organizational ethnography in hospitality research.


This paper contributes to hospitality literature by introducing an under-researched concept, OI change and advances understanding of the struggles in managing multinational company change. More importantly, this paper is a stepping stone for future hospitality management to embark on organizational ethnography.





本研究通过多点民族志方法收集了美国加州六个附属酒店关于组织变化的数据。在三年中本研究收集了多种渠道的数据, 包括:1) 31份关于酒店领导层的访谈资料; 2)100多个小时对职业见习和会议等的观察数据; 3)图片和内部沟通资料。


跨国公司面临来自集团总部标准化和附属子公司本土化的挑战。本研究发现当总部计划对附属公司的员工进行改革的时候, 员工初始的接受或者反对会显著受到组织记忆和附属公司领导层历史的影响。然而, 随时间变化, 财务业绩较强的附属公司会继续奉行新的组织身份计划, 然而财务业绩较差的公司会采取平衡的策略来调节总部期待的愿景身份以及附属公司本身的收益预期。此外, 新冠疫情导致的所有产业停滞的局面也增大了运用组织民族志在酒店管理研究的实践和情绪方面的挑战。


本文通过引入新的概念——组织身份变革, 以及通过推进关于管理跨国公司组织变化挑战的理解对酒店研究领域做出了贡献。更加重要的是, 本研究为今后的酒店管理研究领域的组织民族志学的研究创造了跳板。



Ponting, S.S.-A. (2022), "Responding to organizational identity change: ethnographic insights from multinational hotel subsidiaries", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 14-33.



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