Reflections on the Home Setting in Hospitality

Article excerpt

This article builds on an ongoing debate regarding the nature of hospitality management education by adopting a social scientific approach to the study of hospitality. It does so through focusing on the home setting. Major themes from studies on the private home are described and their relevance to understanding the traditional commercial home suggested. The themes relate to meanings of home, anthropomorphic home, behaviours in the home, home and gender, tyrannical and affectionate associations, home as virtual community, the home and hotel as antithetical concepts. Home is identified as an alternative benchmark to the hotel for the analysis of commercial homes. The commercial home is theorised as a distinctive dichotomous organisation owing to its fusion of the social, commercial and domestic domains. Emerging from the review, a challenging new research agenda for the traditional commercial home focusing on 'soft' concepts and dimensions is proposed.

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In 1998, some United Kingdom hospitality researchers started to debate the concept of hospitality. This led to the influential text In Search of Hospitality (Lashley & Morrison, 2000), which offers a number of perspectives on dimensions of hospitality both from within and outside the subject area. Brotherton and Wood (2000) are helpful in crystallising what are essentially two broad perspectives on hospitality: a functional management perspective, and a social sciences perspective. The functional management perspective has been the dominant paradigm whereas the Lashley and Morrison (2000) text, overall, represents a social scientific perspective. A representation of the hospitality perspectives is proposed in Figure 1.

A consequence of the social science approach to hospitality is that it is the study of hospitality per se that becomes important rather than simply the study of hospitality for 'management' purposes. Such an approach to the study of hospitality might be perceived as challenging the raison d'etre of hospitality management education (Slattery, 2002, 2003), whereas others might see this as being profoundly liberating (Morrison & Mahoney, 2003; Mahoney, 2003) and ultimately deepen our understanding of hospitality and its management. This debate has been characterised as the 'tyranny of "relevance" '(Taylor and Edgar, 1996, p. 222; Lashley, 2004). In essence, to further understand hospitality, we must first cut free of the immediacy of managerial relevance.

Lashley distinguished between three 'independent and overlapping' domains in which hospitality activities occur: 'social', 'private' and 'commercial' (2000, p. 4). These domains are defined thus:

   Social--considers the social settings in which
   hospitality and acts of hospitableness take place
   together with the impacts of social forces on the
   production and consumption of food/drink/ and
   accommodation.

   Private--considers the range of issues associated
   with both the provision of the 'trinity' in the home
   as well as considering the impact of host and guest
   relationships.

   Commercial--considers the provision of hospitality
   as an economic activity and includes both
   private and public sector activities (Lashley, 2000,
   p. 5).

Exploration of the social and private hospitality domains has been limited, as has hospitality such as small commercial accommodation, which straddles the private, social and commercial domains.

Lynch and MacWhannell (2000) synthesised literature on the private home and postulated three types of 'commercial home' accommodation according to characteristics of whether family live on the premises, whether public space is shared by visitors and the owner's family, degree of integration of visitor and family's activities, whether home is a created concept. Taking the concepts of commerciality and home setting, they postulated an elaboration of types of commercial homes to distinguish between 'traditional commercial homes', where the home concept exists, 'virtual reality commercial hospitality homes', where the home concept is a constructed commercial product, and 'back-drop commercial homes', where the home has a contextual tourism-related function. …