Why are hospitality and tourism linked

Ursula Oehy Bubel, freelance lecturer and communication trainer, works on the project "Strengthening Hospitality in Central Switzerland".

2015 was the year of hospitality in Central Switzerland. The "Guest Festival" was celebrated around Lake Lucerne: a festival in honor of 200 years of tourism history. An interdisciplinary project of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences was attached to the "Guest Festival", which addressed various questions of tourist hospitality 1 dedicated.

So it was not just a question of honoring history, but also of conducting a discourse on the hospitality that has been experienced and experienced in the region. And this with the aim of deriving concrete knowledge for tourism practitioners. In this mountainous region in the heart of Switzerland, people were literally looking for a tightrope walk between scientific standards and practical everyday life.

Well, the Gästival is history, but the findings of the project are recorded on a homepage and can and should continue to have an effect in the future. In the following I would like to introduce you to some aspects of it:

Do you remember how the hotel and tourism industry came about?

It all began with commercial travelers and pilgrims who knocked on strange doors in search of accommodation or food. At that time, their wish was granted for free, but today we are dealing with a globalized, multi-billion dollar branch of industry. The first thing to do is to distinguish between traditional hospitality, which is anchored in the culture of a people, and professional hospitality, as it is lived in tourist companies. In the various workshops and discussions that were held with employees and managers in tourism, hospitality was undoubtedly a prerequisite for successful tourism. And yet the realization shimmered through here and there that in the search for this very virtue one reached limits in oneself and in others. What are the reasons for this?

'Hospitality' is a combination of two opposites

A closer look at the term reveals astonishing things: The term “guest” goes back to the Indo-European “ghostis”, which means “stranger” and was used, among other things, to mean “enemy, hostile warrior”. Originally we find here the name of a person who was viewed critically and defensively, who posed a threat. The term “friend”, on the other hand, has the old meaning of “blood relative” or “tribal comrade”. This is used to describe someone who is very close to you. Strictly speaking, the term “hospitality” is a combination of two opposites: the foreign and the related. Why do you think these terms were linked together? It seems as if it were the expression of an endeavor, a cultural act, to consciously practice to encounter the stranger as a relative. The tourism industry has to face this claim and the overcoming of this extremely clear paradox anew every day. It is nothing banal, but a contradiction that you have to face consciously and reflectively.

That brings us to an extreme example: A lot is being done in Switzerland to attract guests from the Gulf States. They stay longer and spend more than others on their vacation at an average of CHF 500 per day. A well-known department store on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse has set up a prayer room especially for Muslim customers. This means that believing customers can keep the times for the prescribed prayers without having to return to the hotel. Almost at the same time, in the same country, scenes are taking place that could hardly be more different: Ticino bans the burqa in public spaces and the topic of “headscarves in public schools” concerns the parties and populations of various Swiss communities. What's going on here? The attitudes are contradicting itself.

Front and back stages

This juxtaposition of opinions in dealing with foreign cultures - only explained here using the example of Arab tourism - is an exciting phenomenon. To understand it, the picture of a theater described by the sociologist Erving Goffman helps. In his model he differentiates between a front and a back stage. The tourist encounter takes place in the front, separated from the backstage and obeys its own rules. The providers of tourism services are based on the (anticipated) expectations of their audience (guests). It seems possible to approach the other person without any problems, because an admission price is paid in return. In Switzerland as elsewhere, for the sake of financial income, people are willing to offer a wide range of services; they are open and accommodating. But acting on stage is not life. Away from tourism, behind the closed theater curtain, the real everyday world reveals itself, a private, partially closed and protected circle from outside influences. Here the masks can fall and you can deviate from the script. However, if you mix the front and back stages, this leads to irritation and discomfort.

The late Spanish philosopher George Santayana would say “normal”: “Living beings that are exposed to the air need protective skin, and nobody accuses the skin of not being the heart.” If you follow his comparison, you can Do not blame tourist providers if they operate on a superficial level of service. And doesn't this also apply to the guests?

House of hospitality

If you have read up to this point, you will see the interesting field that opens up here. You can guess that, based on this example, one can learn very well about “the skin” and “the heart”, resp. Discuss the limits of hospitality and subsequently find solutions that are satisfactory for guests and hosts. That is exactly what we did in the project team and in numerous workshops with tourism professionals. There are also a number of other personal, entrepreneurial and social aspects of hospitality. These have been combined into a model, the "House of Hospitality", which you can download from the above-mentioned homepage.

Mystery checks and customer journeys

And now please put yourself in the shoes of a hotel employee who was able to shovel two hours free for a hospitality workshop with great difficulty: He would like to hear insights, tools that he can use meaningfully in everyday life. For him and for all those who are like him, the homepage includes, among other things, information and presentations on successful language, handling feedback on rating platforms, templates for mystery checks and customer journeys, information on intercultural peculiarities and a collection of positive ones Hospitality experiences.

I hope you enjoy browsing and exploring your own and other people's aspects, with others and with yourself!

Text: Ursula Oehy Bubel