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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hospitality is the relationship between a guest and a host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. that is, the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, with liberality and goodwill. Hospitality frequently refers to the hospitality industry, which includes hotels, restaurants, casinos, catering, resorts, membership clubs, conventions, attractions, special events, and other services for travelers and tourists.

"Hospitality" can also mean generously providing care and kindness to whoever is in need.


Meaning of Hospitality

The word hospitality derives from the Latin hospes, which is formed from hostis, which originally meant a 'stranger' and came to take on the meaning of the enemy or 'hostile stranger' (cristal-hostilis) + pets (polis, poles, potentia) to have power. The meaning of "host" can be literally read as "lord of strangers."[1] Furthermore, the word hostire means equalize or compensate.

In the Homeric ages, hospitality was under the protection of Zeus, the chief deity of the Greek pantheon. Zeus was also attributed with the title 'Xenios Zeus' ('xenos' means stranger), emphasizing the fact that hospitality was of the utmost importance. A stranger passing outside a Greek house could be invited inside the house by the family. The host washed the stranger's feet, offered food and wine, and only after the guest was comfortable could ask his or her name.

The Greek concept of sacred hospitality is illustrated in the story of Telemachus and Nestor. When Telemachus arrived to visit Nestor, Nestor was unaware that his guest was the son of his old comrade Odysseus. Nonetheless, Nestor welcomes Telemachus and his party lavishly, thus demonstrating the relationship between hostis, "stranger," and hostire, "equalize," and how the two combine in the concept of hospitality.

Later, one of Nestor's sons slept on a bed close by Telemachus to take care that he should not suffer any harm. Nestor also put a chariot and horses at Telemachus' disposal so that he could travel the land route from Pylos to Sparta rapidly, and set his son Pisistratus as the charioteer. These illustrate the two other elements of ancient Greek hospitality, protection and guidance.

Based on the story above and its current meaning, hospitality is about compensating/equalizing a stranger to the host, making him feel protected and taken care of, and at the end of his hosting, guiding him to his next destination.

Contemporary usage

In the contemporary West, hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival, and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's in-group.

The hospitality service industry includes hotels, casinos, and resorts, which offer comfort and guidance to strangers, but only as part of a business relationship. The terms hospital, hospice, and hostel also derive from "hospitality," and these institutions preserve more of the connotation of personal care.

Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.

In the western context, with its dynamic tension between Athens and Jerusalem, two phases can be distinguished with a very progressive transition: a hospitality based on an individually felt sense of duty, and one based on "official" institutions for organized but anonymous social services: special places for particular types of "strangers" such as the poor, orphan(s), ill, alien, criminal, etc. Perhaps this progressive institutionalization can be aligned to the transition between Middle Ages and Renaissance (Ivan Illich, The Rivers North of the Future).

Hospitality around the world


Biblical and Middle Eastern

Abraham offering hospitality to angels

In Middle Eastern Culture, it was considered a cultural norm to take care of the strangers and foreigners living among you. These norms are reflected in many Biblical commands and examples.[1]

Perhaps the most extreme example is provided in Genesis. Lot provides hospitality to a group of angels (who he thinks are only men); when a mob tries to rape them, Lot goes so far as to offer his own daughters as a substitute, saying "Don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." (Genesis 19:8, NIV).

The obligations of both host and guest are stern. The bond is formed by eating salt under the roof, and is so strict that an Arab story tells of a thief who tasted something to see if it was sugar, and on realizing it was salt, put back all that he had taken and left.

Classical World

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, hospitality was a divine plight. The host was expected to make sure the needs of his guests were seen to. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation.

An example of the importance of hospitality in the classical world is the tale of Baucis and Philemon. In this tale, the ancient gods Zeus and Hermes are visiting the town of Phrygia disguised as simple peasants. Their search for a meal and a place to stay for the night meets a lot of closed doors, until they arrive at the house of Philemon and Baucis. Though poor, the couple acts as good hosts by giving the little they have to their guests, and when they realize their guests are actually gods in disguise, they even propose to slay the one goose which guards their house. As a reward, the gods grant them one wish, besides saving them from the flooding of the rest of the unhospitable town.

Hospitality in Celtic Cultures

Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.

A real-life example of this is rooted in the history of the Scottish Clan MacGregor, from the early seventeenth century. The chief of Clan Lamont arrived at the home of the MacGregor chief in Glenstrae, told him that he was fleeing from foes and requested refuge. The MacGregor welcomed his brother chief with no questions asked. Later that night, members of the MacGregor clan came looking for the Lamont chief, informing their chief that the Lamont had in fact killed his son and heir in a quarrel. Holding to the sacred law of hospitality, the MacGregor not only refused to hand over the Lamont to his clansmen, but the next morning escorted him to his ancestral lands. This act would later be repaid when, during the time that the MacGregors were outlawed, the Lamonts gave safe haven to many of their number[2].

Hospitality in India

India is one of the oldest civilizations on earth, and like every culture has its own favorite stories including quite a few on hospitality. That of a simpleton readily sharing his meager morsels with an uninvited guest, only to discover that the guest is a God in disguise, who rewards his generosity with abundance. That of a woman who lovingly cooks up all the Khichdi she can afford, for everyone who is hungry... till one day when she runs out of food for the last hungry person to whom she offers her own share, and is rewarded by the god in disguise with a never ending pot of Khichdi. Most Indian adults having grown up listening to these stories as children, believe in the philosophy of "Atithi Devo Bhava", meaning the guest is God. From this stems the Indian approach of graciousness towards guests at home, and in all social situations.

Cultural value or norm

Hospitality as a cultural norm or value is an established sociological phenomenon that people study and write papers about (see references, and Hospitality ethics). Some regions have become stereotyped as exhibiting a particular style of hospitality. Examples include:

Hospitality ethics

The term "Hospitality Ethics" is used to refer to two different, yet related, areas of study:

  1. The philosophical study of the moral obligations that hold in hospitality relationships and practices.
  2. The branch of business ethics that focuses on ethics in commercial hospitality and tourism industries.

Whereas Ethics goes beyond describing what is done, in order to prescribe what should be done; Hospitality Ethics prescribes what should be done in matters related to hospitality. Hospitality theories and norms are derived through a critical analysis of hospitality practices, processes, and relationships; in various cultures and traditions; and throughout history. Ultimately, hospitality theories are applied, and put to practice in commercial and non-commercial settings.

As a standard of conduct, hospitality has been variously considered throughout history as a law, an ethic, a principle, a code, a duty, a virtue, etc. These prescriptions were created for negotiating ambiguous relationships between guests, hosts, citizens, and strangers. Despite its ancient origins and ubiquity amongst human cultures, the concept of hospitality has received relatively little attention from moral philosophers, who have tended to focus their attention on other ethical concepts, e.g. good, evil, right, and wrong.

Yet hospitality as a moral imperative, or ethical perspective, preceded many other prescriptions for ethical behavior: In ancient Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman cultures, the Ethic of Hospitality was a code that demanded specific kinds of conduct from both guests and hosts. One example: Chivalry required men of station to offer food and lodging to any men of station that requested it.

In many ways, these standards of behavior have survived into the present day in the commercial hospitality industry, where descendents of the ancient ideas continue to inform current standards and practices.

Hospitality Ethics in practice

Ethics in commercial hospitality settings. Applied ethics is the branch of Ethics which investigates the application of our ethical theories and judgments. There are many branches of Applied Ethics: Business ethics, professional ethics, medical ethics, educational ethics, environmental ethics, and more.

Hospitality Ethics is a branch of Applied Ethics. In practice, it combines concerns of other branches of Applied Ethics, such as business ethics, environmental ethics, professional ethics, and more. For instance, when a local hospitality industry flourishes, potential ethical dilemmas abound: What effect do industry practices have on the environment? On the host community? On the local economy? On citizens' attitudes about their local community; about outsiders, tourists, and guests? These are the kinds of questions that Hospitality Ethics, as a version of Applied Ethics, might ask.

Since Hospitality and tourism combine to create one of the largest service industries in the world, there are many opportunities for both good and bad behavior, and right and wrong actions by hospitality and tourism practitioners. Ethics in these industries can be guided by codes of conduct, employee manuals, industry standards (whether implicit or explicit), and more.

Though the World Tourism Organization has proposed an industry-wide code of ethics, there is presently no universal code for the hospitality industry. Various textbooks regarding ethics in commercial hospitality settings have been published recently, and are currently used in hospitality education courses.

See also


  1. ^ (Exodus 22:21, NIV)
  2. ^ Charles MacKinnon, Scottish Highlanders (1984, Barnes & Noble Books); page 76

Further reading

  • Christine Jaszay. (2006). Ethical Decision-Making in the Hospitality Industry
  • Karen Lieberman & Bruce Nissen. (2006). Ethics in the Hospitality And Tourism Industry
  • Rosaleen Duffy and Mick Smith. The Ethics of Tourism Development
  • Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison. In Search of Hospitality
  • Hospitality: A Social Lens by Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison
  • The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg
  • Customer Service and the Luxury Guest by Paul Ruffino
  • Fustel De Coulanges. The Ancient City: Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome
  • Bolchazy. Hospitality in Antiquity: Livy's Concept of Its Humanizing Force
  • Jacques Derrida. (2000). Of Hospitality. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Steve Reece. (1993). The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Mireille Rosello. (2001). Postcolonial Hospitality. The Immigrant as Guest. Standford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Clifford J. Routes. (1999). Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Immanuel Velikovsky. (1982). Mankind in Amnesia. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

External links


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