March 09, 2004

The Hospitality Industry and Spirituality

Many of the posts here talk about sustainability -- sustainability in economic terms.

Profit is a necesssary, but insufficient, component of sustainability. Any business, but especially one in the service sector, must address issues of meaning and of the value of human beings. Clients -- and workers -- demand nothing less.

Professor of business management James Spillane has prepared a far-ranging overview of the purpose and value of the hospitality industry. In the paper, Spirituality of Work in the Hospitality Industry he writes:


Above all else, work in the hospitality industry is other-centered because customer satisfaction is how it measures its effectiveness. Hospitality means primarily the creation of a space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. It is not an attempt to change people but to offer the free space where change can take place. It is not a technique to bring men and women over to one's side, but to offer freedom undisturbed by dividing lines. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness - not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host but the gift of a chance to allow the guest to find his own.

The article reviews the concept of "hospitality" in Western culture back to its roots in Greek and Roman times. It examines the biblical witness, the practice of Jesus recorded in the gospels, and various Christian spiritualities as they touch on hospitality, leisure, pleasure, community, and work. Weaving these and other topics into a coherent whole he concludes, "The challenge of the spirituality of work in the hospitality industry is to help professionals who work there to find genuine meaningfulness in that work so that they experience the peace and joy that God has prepared for them."

How often is that the experience of any of us regardless of our line of work? What would the tourism industry be like if this challenge were taken to heart?

You have to give Prof. Spillane credit for "practicing what he preaches" though. He just wrote to say that he is taking the week off. It's Spring Break!

Posted by rollingrains at March 9, 2004 02:26 AM | TrackBack