Hospitality & happiness pivotal in the Care industry

healthcare industry         connection butler


This paper examines the role of hospitality in the contemporary, globalized world. It is argued that commercial hospitality will be central in the upcoming transformation or well-being economy characterized by meaning and reciprocity. Hospitality, as attitude and not only in the sense of behaviour, will be pivotal for organisations to survive in the near future. Drawing on the literature in a variety of disciplines this paper explores how the multiple roles of hospitality may contribute to the transition of the well-being economy. This paper attempts to reveal several themes for further research and posits that hospitality goes beyond the hospitality industry, more particular it introduces hospitality to the healthcare industry. It sets the agenda for a line of hospitality research in the Hotelschool The Hague. Furthermore, it strives to become part of the consistent and challenging existing line of hospitality research and to complement it with ground-breaking research in other areas where cross-overs with the hospitality industry are urgently needed and desired.


Traditionally it has been acknowledged that services, especially hospitality services, distinguish themselves from products and other services. Characteristics of these services are, amongst others, the core value produced in the buyer-seller interaction, the intangibility, the inseparability of production and consumption, the heterogeneity, the consistency or difficulty to achieve and maintain consistency of services (Reisinger, 2001). As a consequence a close correlation accrues between service quality and customer satisfaction and has been subject of ample study among social scientists (Fick & Ritchie, 1991; Grönroos, 2000; Gutek, 1995; Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Kumar, Smart, Maddern, & Maull; Normann, 2000; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985; Rahman, Khan, & Haque, 2012; Reisinger, 2001; White, 1998; Yilmaz, 2010).

The emergence of the experience economy (Nijs, 2002; Piët, 2003; Pine & Gli, 1999) evokes the interest in the customer/guest journey of hospitality services. The actual consumption as well as the rest of the process i.e. pre- and post-consumption, in short the whole process, subsequently becomes part of the experience. Moreover, digitalization, the increasing transparency, collaborative and co-designing consumer markets urges the hospitality industry to enter into an evolving marketing concept: customer experience marketing (Homburg, Jozić, & Kuehnl, 2015). The customer, guest or user experience as it is known outside the hospitality industry focuses on physical and emotional aspects such as task efficiency and effectiveness measures (tangible) and emotions, perceptions and attitudes (intangibles) (Nenonen, Rasila, Junnonen, & Kärnä, 2008). Whereas customer satisfaction is outcome- or result-oriented, customer experience is process-oriented including all the aspects during the experience (Schmitt, 1999).

Customer or, as the hospitality industry prefers to put it, guest friendliness and orientation seems no longer to be the sole hospitality industry’s trait as the user experience focus underlines. However, as guest orientation belongs to the DNA of the hospitality industry, other industries and sectors may profit from its perennial experience. Looking back at hospitality in ancient times it concerned respect, justice and human rights of the other in most societies (Pohl, 2011). Hospitality, as Pohl states, involved welcoming strangers into personal space, usually one’s home but also one’s community, and offering them food, shelter, protection and respect (ibid.: 482).

Furthermore, she asserts hospitality offers a useful framework for thinking about building trust, fostering well-being and strengthening communities.

Towards a globalized well-being economy

Trust is needed to develop rapport, to be able to cooperate successfully, and to construct coherent societies (Castells, 2000; Edelenbos & Klijn, 2007; Fukuyama, 1999; Grimshaw, 2005; Lombarts, 2011; Mistzal, 1996; R. Klein Woolthuis & Nooteboom, 2002). The renowned sociologist Robert Putnam argues that trust is essential to build social capital, which is required for bonding and bridging. Bonding occurs when establishing close relationships between friends and peers, bridging supports the formation of positive connections between people out of the own peer group and strangers (Putnam, 2000). More recently Putnam has been studying the relationship between trust and diversity. He concludes that more diversity in a community is associated with less communal trust resulting in less happiness and lower perceived quality of life (Putnam, 2007). Needless to substantiate that bonding and bridging are vital in a progressively globalizing world with individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds.


In May 2012 the social-cultural planning board (SCP) published an extensive report treating happiness as a central aspect of the well-being of citizens (Campen, Bergsma, Boelhouwer, Boerefijn, & Bolier, 2012). Happiness would have a serious impact on costs and therefore it would be imperative to explore it. However, the report stated, little research has been conducted in the Netherlands. Examining the definition of happiness, the Dutch Happiness Professor Ruut Veenhoven describes it as: “the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his favorably” (R. Veenhoven, 1984; R. Veenhoven, 1991; Ruut Veenhoven, 2011). Veenhoven distinguishes four qualities of life, which he classifies in the following categories:


Qualities of Life

  Outer qualities Inner qualities
Life chances Livability of the environment Life-ability of the individual
Life Results External utility of life Inner appreciation of life

Source: (R. Veenhoven, 2000)

Policy-makers but also employers can influence conditions for happiness such as aspects of security, democracy, education opportunities etc., in brief conditions for the quality of living. Life-ability, also capability, depends more upon one’s own perspective with regard to personal growth and development. And it is often placed in comparison to one’s environment. Utility is about one’s contribution to society, which is perceived differently from person to person. The inner appreciation is commonly described as happiness, satisfaction and/or well-being.

According to Alflen people experience hospitality if they:

  • Feel welcome;
  • Are treated humanly;
  • Have autonomy;
  • Have own responsibilities;
  • Have freedom of choice (2008).

To summarize, it appears that there is a relation between trust, happiness, successful cooperation, coherent societies, and costs and well-being. In short, hospitality in the classic sense according to Pohl (2011).


Hospitality in the healthcare industry

A sector facing tremendous transformation is the healthcare industry (Bakas, 2013; Idenburg & Schaik, 2010). Demographic changes and the change from curative towards preventive healthcare are among the key trends these authors envision. Subsequently healthcare providers and systems have to adapt to new requirements and amongst others to financial challenges. Cross-fertilization of innovative ideas shared between the healthcare and hospitality sector could be beneficial for both sectors. One of the crucial issues for the healthcare industry to reduce cost while maintaining high quality will be to instill a culture of service: caring for both patients and staff, creating memorable experiences, investing in employees and coaching them on their talents are just a few of the important aspects (Hollis & Verma, 2012). Similarly, Alflen stresses upon the fact that an important factor of the well-being of people in healthcare concerns the hospitality experience and more particularly the ‘human touch’. Likewise, she underlines the need to learn from organizations in the hospitality industry such as hotels and elucidates that hospitality concepts demand an integral approach including intangible and tangible aspects. As a starting point the 4P-model hereunder can be used to develop a vision on hospitality.


4-P model

Figure 1 4-P model of Twijnstra & Gudde (Alflen, 2008)

Combining the above ideas with the research as executed in the Raak research project of preventive wellness (Lombarts, 2013), I would like to explore the possibilities of further research on hospitality in the healthcare industry. Subjects like healthy ageing, life-care or continuous care retirement communities, food-services facilities, innovative product-market-partnership combinations, recruiting and training healthcare staff, new business models for healthcare organizations can serve as a starting point for further research.

To conclude

In this article I briefly touched on the points that I would like to set up as a line of research that builds on one of my previous research projects and complements perfectly with my consultancy practice.



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