Pampering guests hinders the Hospitality Industry from becoming more sustainable

24 May, 2017
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Are specific characteristics of the Hospitality Industry, hospitality itself, and in particular the host-guest relationship, causing the Hospitality Industry to lag behind in sustainable development? Pampering and indulging guests hinders hospitality from a true and fuller engagement with sustainability.

Hospitableness and sustainable development
Hospitality is often defined as “a feeling of being welcome”. It is about “welcoming the stranger: a person who comes today and stays tomorrow”, or “a stranger who is treated like a god”. In the current paradigm on the concept of “genuine hospitableness”, the authors see a host indulging his guest. This hospitable host does not want to bother the guest with complex issues of climate change or scarce resources but rather wants to treat him or her as a “god”: The host acts as “a servant”. This view on genuine hospitableness might hinder sustainable practices in hospitality organisations, especially if the (perceived) wishes of the guest are not sustainable.

New responsibilities and demands in the host-guest relationship
Hotelschool The Hague researchers Mr van Rheede and Ms Dekker argue that the current paradigm where the host is pre-eminently preoccupied with pampering and indulging the guest is one of the forces holding hospitality back from a true and fuller engagement with sustainability. In the published article, they propose to replace the current paradigm with the idea of the “host as a shepherd”, a paradigm emphasising that hosts are not only responsible for the present guest, but also for future guests, the local community and the environment: sustainable development.
Additionally, the authors also see sustainable practices as being hindered by a disconnect between genuine hospitableness and the execution of this idea in hospitality service skills.

Research was done as part of the research on Smart – Sustainable – Hospitality; a project that is integrating the topic of sustainability in the curriculum, the facilities, behaviour, research and advice of Hotelschool The Hague and is a shared project with the research group Hospitality Personality and Behaviour.

This article was published in Research in Hospitality Management and is written by Mr van Rheede & Ms Dekker.

Click here to read the full article

About the author

Arjan van Rheede

Arjan van Rheede, Senior Research Fellow in Sustainability

Dr. Arjan van Rheede looks at Smart (Sustainable) Hospitality: How is value created in organisations by positive impacts on environmental, social and economic sustainability?

Stakeholder's experience on sustainable practices in the hospitality are key. Currently he works on:

  • How can insights from organisational development and change help organisations to implement sustainable practices more successful?
  • How do organisations appropriate concepts of sustainable development in their value systems: Do we see climate conscious identities in organisations?
  • Especially hospitality has a strong tradition on customer centricity. Does this lead to conflicts with sustainability initiatives in companies?
  • What is the contribution of labels and sustainability reporting on the impact hospitality organisations have on sustainability?

He gained his Ph.D. from the Faculty of Management & Organization Groningen University with research on the appropriation of innovations. Previously, he worked as a researcher at IOWO, an independent educational consultancy. At The Nijmegen School of Management at Radboud University he conducted research on improving the effectiveness of organizations via organizational learning. He did his M.Sc. at Radboud University at the Nijmegen School of Management on Environmental Policy.

He started his research at Hotelschool The Hague on labour market and HRM-related issues in the hospitality industry.

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