Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Article publication date: 30 August 2011



Madera, J.M. and Kapoor, C.E. (2011), "Editorial", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 3 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/whatt.2011.40803daa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Volume 3, Issue 4

This issue explores workplace diversity in the US hospitality industry. I should like to thank Juan Madera, Camille Kapoor and their team of contributors for a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities for the future.

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to hospitality and tourism development and we seek to do this by using a key question to focus attention on an industry issue. If you would like to contribute to our work by serving as a WHATT theme editor, do please contact me.

Richard TeareManaging Editor, WHATT

What are the challenges of diversity management in the US hospitality industry?

As a result of immigration and demographic trends, today’s American hospitality workforce is becoming increasingly diverse and ethnic minorities are the fastest growing groups in the USA. Further, by 2015, approximately one in every five employees will be over the age of 55 (US General Accounting Office, 2001). As such, the hospitality workforce is comprised of people who bring diverse social identities to their jobs. The diversity of the hospitality workforce brings challenges for management and employers, such as language barriers and communication gaps related to age, ethnicity, or culture. In this context, the purpose of this theme issue is to examine the challenges of managing a diverse workforce and to consider how hospitality employers can improve their communication practices with their employees. This is an important issue considering the reality and complexity of diversity. By highlighting the current challenges of diversity management in the US hospitality industry, this themed issue provides practical implication for practitioners, and concurrently provides ideas for future research.

To investigate these issues, we invited researchers and industry experts attending the 2010 Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute (Hidi) conference to participate. Hidi is a non-profit organization that participates in research, education and advocacy related to the hospitality industry. Hidi uses its annual conference to create a bridge between academic researchers and hospitality industry practitioners by providing a forum for sharing best practice and research on diversity issues and to identify industry challenges and future research projects.

As WHATT seeks to integrate primary and secondary analysis with practitioner perspectives, the theme issue contains articles from academic researchers and industry practitioners. The first four articles provide an overview of important topics related to diversity in the hospitality industry from both practitioner and academic perspectives. The first paper, by Camille E. Kapoor, examines how diversity is defined and how the definition of diversity has changed over time to focus on internal characteristics and differences in addition to external differences. This is followed by Joseph Larry Jackson’s article in which he provides an overview as to how to bridge academic research with problems faced by the hospitality industry. Jackson argues that if academic research is to be valued by industry, researchers should focus on providing empirical-based solutions to the practical problems faced by industry operations. Camille E. Kapoor and Juan M. Madera then summarize the outcomes of an industry panel at the 2010 Hidi conference. In this article, the industry panelists highlight important diversity-related issues for hospitality practitioners and pose questions for the audience that included other practitioners, academicians and graduate students. In the fourth paper, Camille E. Kapoor and Nicole Solomon provide a thematic literature review on generational issues in the hospitality industry. With the aging of the American workforce, generational barriers to workplace communication is an emerging line of research and presents challenges and opportunities for hospitality operators.

Funded by Hidi seed grants, the next set of articles relate to empirical investigations of language barriers due to immigrants’ lack of English skills. One out of four food-service employees speaks a foreign language at home; as such, hospitality managers must find ways to effectively communicate with their employees. Using experimental methods, Mary Dawson, Juan M. Madera, and Jack A. Neal identify effective non-communication strategies for food-service managers. Immigrant employees with limited English also face communication problems and challenges at work.

In an exploratory, qualitative study, Po-Ju Chen, Fevzi Okumus, Nan Hua and Khaldoon Nusair consider effective communication strategies for Spanish-speaking and Haitian-Creole-speaking employees in hotel companies and provide solutions to language barriers. After this, Juan M. Madera and Yin-Lin Chang examine how language barriers can negatively influence the extent to which immigrant employees report work injuries to their managers and they also consider the implications for practitioners and future research. Judy Waight and Juan M. Madera examine a tool that is commonly used to manage a diverse workforce, namely, diversity training. Specifically, the authors examine ethnic differences in organizational attitudes as a function of offering diversity training.

Finally, Theme Co-editor Juan M. Madera summarizes and reviews the outcomes of this WHATT issue. The goal was to help fill a void in the hospitality management literature by examining the challenges of managing a diverse workforce and providing hospitality employers with practices to enable them to improve communications with their employees. Given the increasing number of immigrants in the US hospitality industry (National Restaurant Association, 2006); the research highlighted in this issue of WHATT primarily takes an American focus rather than a global perceptive. However, in cities around the world, especially in Western Europe, Australia and the Persian Gulf, immigrants play a pivotal role in the labour force (Benton-Short and Price, 2007) and therefore, the research highlighted here provides important implications for international operations that are also facing demographic changes in their workforce.

About the Theme Editors

Juan M. Madera is an Assistant Professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston. He has published more than 15 papers and book chapters in the areas of diversity and discrimination as a function of human resources practices. He is the recipient of the 2010 Conrad N. Hilton College Dean’s Award for Research and has been awarded a number of research grants and awards from the University of Houston. He is currently a board member of the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous hospitality and psychology journals.

Camille E. Kapoor (née Robinson) is a Lecturer at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston and the former Director of the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute (Hidi). She was instrumental in the rebranding of Hidi and its current focus on bridging the gap between industry needs and academic research. She has published articles and book chapters in the areas of diversity, consumer behavior and relationship marketing. During her graduate education, she received the Dean’s Award as the top graduate student of her graduating semester. Her thesis was funded by grants from several hospitality companies.

The Theme Editors would like to thank Nicole Solomon and Blake H. Keener, graduate students at the University of Houston, for their contributions to the organization and development of this issue.

Juan M. Madera, Camille E. KapoorTheme Editors


Benton-Short, L. and Price, M. (2007), “Immigrants and world cities: from the hyper-diverse to the bypassed”, GeoJournal, Vol. 68, pp. 103–17

National Restaurant Association (2006), “Restaurant industry facts”, available at: www.restaurant.org/research/ind_glance.cfm

US General Accounting Office (2001), Older Workers: Demographic Trends Pose Challenges for Employers and Workers, US General Accounting Office, Washington, DC

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