Hospitality as openness towards others

The history of hospitality is as old as human existence. Early descriptions of hospitality talk of hospitality as honour and the duty to welcome a guest that knocks on your door. During the last few decades, the question of hospitality has received attention due to an increased number of immigrants, asylum-seekers and tourists. Hospitality comes with a fundamental question: how should we welcome a guest, a traveler, another person?

A new book from Linnaeus University deals with the idea of hospitality from a tourism perspective. The researcher Emily Höckert has studied coffee villages in Nicaragua and what happens when, for instance, aid workers, tourists, researchers, and volunteers come there:
“I’ve seen that many of us, who visit these villages to help, forget to ask the farmers and tourism entrepreneurs if they want help”, Höckert says.

In her book “Negotiating Hospitality”, Höckert studies the concept of hospitality. Today, tourism is often about commercial hospitality; accommodation, transport, restaurants, and experiences. Even though there is no simple definition of the hospitality concept, it can be used in a more general way to understand and describe relationships between people. How do we welcome others? How do we welcome different ways of thinking and doing things?

Höckert’s studies show that the relationship between guest and host can be complicated also within the small-scale countryside tourism, due to an uneven relationship between the foreign guests and the local hosts. It seems that many of the guests take for granted that the people living in the coffee villages welcome help and all visitors without conditions. At the same time, hosts are growing tired of guests who do not show openness and respect towards their hosts. Höckert explains:
“Hospitality means being prepared to stop what you are doing to make room for others. There’s a risk that the tourists take over. We must respect each other’s boundaries”.

“What’s fun is that there is no end to the discussion on hospitality; hospitality requires openness and opens the door to surprise. The idea of hospitality can actually be used also in critical thinking on the relationship between man and nature. Above all, hospitality can be understood as a life philosophy that helps us find new ways of being and knowing. To be prepared to stop what you’re doing, to be surprised and welcome a guest”, Höckert concludes.

Emily Höckert, postdoctoral fellow, +4673-318 44 55, emily.hockert@lnu.se
Carina Sörgårn, communications officer, +46470-70 85 52, carina.sorgarn@lnu.se