Hospitableness and sustainable development: New responsibilities and demands in the host-guest relationship

DOI: 10.2989/RHM.2016.
Author(s): Arjan van RheedeResearch Centre, Hotelschool, The Netherlands, Daphne Maria DekkerResearch Centre, Hotelschool, The Netherlands


How does the current paradigm of the host-guest relationship cause the hospitality industry to lag behind in 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. The authors argue that genuine hospitableness needs to be redefined and the concept of the host needs to be expanded to “host as shepherd”. The metaphor of a shepherd emphasises the extended responsibility of the host, in which the host not only takes care of the actual guest, but does so in a more comprehensive way. This includes the future guest, the local community and the environment. 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.

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