Authenticity Within Hospitality Industry

10 October 2016

Due to globalization and a world increasingly filled with deliberately stage experiences within the hospitality industry, consumers crave for authenticity. Instead of making the employees as cast members or puppets, the organization must identify what makes it authentic by finding the deeper meaning of the organization’s DNA and involving their staff members through-out the process, frontline staff in particular. Zaina Ibrahim BA of International Hospitality Management University College of Northern Denmark

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On one occasion, however, we left disappointed and couldn’t pinpoint why: all of the service tangibles were present. What had been missing, however, was authenticity on the part of the staff; they said and did all the “right” things, but failed to be fully engaged and invested in their actions and words — they were not authentic. ” (McCrary 2008) Authenticity in Tourism and Hospitality is of a high demand both personally and professionally. Due to globalization, virtualisation and rapid development, there is nothing left un-touched, it is a challenge to define what? s fake and what? s real.

Living in an artificial world filled with deliberately stage experiences, people crave for authenticity. Gilmore and Pine II indicate that goods and services are no longer enough; what consumers want today are experiences – memorable events that engage them in an inherently personal way and they choose to buy based on how real they perceive an offering to be. Business today, therefore, is all about being real, original, genuine, sincere and authentic. (Gilmore and Pine II, 2007) In the hospitality industry, consumers play an important role on how to develop or improve the product and services offered within the industry.

According to Ian Yeoman who is a professional futurologist specializing in travel and tourism, authenticity evolves because consumers search for exceptional experience, special moments that are original and real. (Yeoman, 2008) Consumers have the power to voice out their satisfaction or dissatisfaction to the whole world via online rating sites like Tripadvisor. The majority of those comments are about experiences they had during their travelling period. The factors that have the biggest impact on guests are when hotel guests have had a bad experience due to poor services from the front line staff.

In Tom McCrarys case, how can a frontline staff portray a service that is totally different from what the organization is promoting? This question is interesting because it sheds light on the importance of a mutual understanding on authenticity within all staff members of the hotel. Not just to act authentic but to be authentic as a professional. How hoteliers define authenticity will have an effect on how they practice authenticity in reality. There for it is interesting to direct attention to the understandings of authenticity within a hotels organisation.

Zaina Ibrahim /International Hospitality Management (2012) Page 2 This research will focus on the hotel industry. Instead of focusing externally on what the consumers define as authentic experiences, the study is going to highlight authenticity seen from an organizational development platform. The attention will particularly be oriented towards the frontline staffs that constantly are in direct interaction with hotel guests. In order for a hotel to provide real authentic experiences it is of high necessity that the organization itself is able to find and define its authenticity.

The hotel has to address the question: “What is the deeper meaning of our existence, what is our DNA that makes us stand out from the others looking beyond profitable goals? (Senge, 2010) If a hotel fails to work with these questions in cooperation with the employees it might lead to fakeness or a mismatch between what the hotel portrays to provide and what the front liners actually provide in their actions. The hypothesis of this synopsis is that in order for a hotel to provide sustainable authentic experiences, hoteliers within the hotel need to have mutual understandings of the hotels authenticity or DNA.

This is the foundation for being able to provide authentic products and services. This leads to the investigation of: How do hoteliers from different departments of a hotel conceptualize “authenticity”? What are the connections between these conceptualizations and the way the hotel provide authentic experiences in practice? It is important to underline that this synopsis mainly focuses on the first part of the problem formulation – “How do hoteliers conceptualize “authenticity”. The second part of the problem formulation can only be answered after analyse the empirical data regarding the first question.

Zaina Ibrahim /International Hospitality Management (2012) Page 3 Theory of Science Social Constructionism The scientific foundation of this synopsis is based on social constructionism. It is with the lens of social constructionism this paper is going to try to conceptualise authenticity. Before beginning this process it? s important to understand what social constructionism is? Social constructionism focuses on uncovering the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality.

Knowledge and truth is socially constructed and there for not objectively given. When people interact they socially construct their reality, which means reality is constantly constructed and reproduced. Constructionists view knowledge and truth as created not discovered by the mind (Schwandt, 2003) and supports the view that being a realist is not inconsistent with being a constructionist. Language and communication play an important role in social constructionism as language creates and recreates reality instead of being a result of reality.

In other words it is through communication and conceptualization that our lives become meaningful and through that we learn. It is through constant affirmation and negotiation of meaning people coordinate realities and significance; hence it will be hollow for a social constructionist to research without engaging in human interaction in meaningful contexts. Communicating through language brings concepts across and provides means of structuring the way the world is experienced. (Arbnor & Bjerke, 2009)

Zaina Ibrahim /International Hospitality Management (2012) Page 4 A social constructionist will not be interested in finding the real essence of authenticity nor reaching a closed and definitive definition of the concept. Instead the focus will be on how the people within the hotel industry conceptualise and use authenticity in their working lives. The word ‘authenticity’ will only become meaningful for a social constructionist in the instant where it becomes an objective for negotiating and coordination of meaning.

The interest will be on how people socially conceptualize the term ‘authenticity’ and use it to co-construct meaningful realities. Social Constructionism view on this study In order to create substantial authenticity throughout the hotel organization you need to direct the attention to how the hoteliers from the General Manager to the Receptionist conceptualize authenticity. Authenticity meaning what is the hotel’s DNA or what is the organization put in this world to do looking beyond goals of profitability. To do this, it? important to stress that real authenticity has to come from within the hotel organization itself and not be constructed from the consumer’s perception or seen as an instrumental tool. Implementing authenticity could sound very instrumental but in fact it involves a deeper form of reflection and learning because it evolves the identity of the hotel. There for it is very difficult and probably time-consuming for an organization to work with authenticity but it is necessary to include this internal change process in order to provide sustainable authentic experiences without faking or acting.

Research Methodology Qualitative Research From a social constructionists point of view qualitative research methods are preferable, because it is the method which can unfold how language is used to construct reality and create meaning. There for qualitative research will be used on this study to collect empirical data. More over by using qualitative research, the opportunity of seeing it through the eyes of the hoteliers being studied is an advantage. What is qualitative research?

It is a research strategy that emphasize words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data (Bryman,2008). The main steps of qualitative research which will be implemented during the process of collecting the data are attached. See appendix 1. Zaina Ibrahim /International Hospitality Management (2012) Page 5 Semi-structured interviewing Semi-structured interviewing would be the best method to apply because it is a two way communication which can be used to use to gather qualitative information.

Most importantly it provides the opportunity for learning from a social constructionist point of view. What is semi-structured interviewing? A researcher has a list of specific questions to be covered, usually referred to as an interview guide but the interviewee has a great deal of flexibility and freedom in how to reply. As the interviewer pick up things from the interviewee, the interviewer might ask questions that is not in the guide. The interview process is flexible and emphasizes more on how the interviewee understands the issues or subject. Bryman, 2008) The reason semi-structured interview is chosen for this research is because it not only provides answers but it provides the reasons of the answer. The relatively unstructured nature of the interview has the capacity to provide insights into how hoteliers from different departments conceptualize ‘authenticity’ and connects it to their work. Interviewing one representative from every department in a relaxed atmosphere, without the intervention from other staff members, will hopefully result in very sincere and authentic interviews. Hopefully the employees will unfold their true stories regarding authenticity.

Semi-structured interviewing steps procedures: Step 1 Planning interviews 1) Identifying respondents 2) Number of interviews 3) Preparing interviews Step 2 Interviewing respondents 1) Initiating interviews 2) Conducting interviews 3) Concluding interviews Step 3 Data analysis Zaina Ibrahim /International Hospitality Management (2012) Page 6 Data Analysis Narrative analysis Narrative analysis is suitable for analysing this research data because of how it can explore and identify identity and its focus on the role of stories in creating and maintaining organizational identity, culture and structure.

This is supported by Riessmen, narrative is a basic human way of making sense of the world – we lead ‘storied lives’ (Riessman, 1993) What is narrative analysis? This particular study requires a story telling, because it can help make sense of the events the hoteliers have experienced. Critical reflections There is a paradox in this research. It was stated that interaction and engagement in relations are key aspects of sense-making. However this synopsis is only done by the researcher alone without any disturbance from outside that could change knowledge, perception and reality.

The interviewer needs to be aware that she indirectly is a co-creator of reality. The interactions thereby influence the negotiating of meaning. Reflecting on the power of words, it is important to reflect on the language that the interviewer brings into the interview. This is because the words chosen by the interviewer will affect the interviewee. It is of a high importance to give space and freedom for the interviewee to unfold her untold stories and remember that the interviewer is also an intervener.

In semi-structured interviews viewpoints must be covered during the interview because this method is the way of capturing perceptions and concerns of the hotel staff. Lastly the interviewer needs to practice the skills of intense listening and provide questions that can unfold stories. Limitations This research has several limitations; it does not focus on consumers as important as they may be. Yes it is important to consider consumers during this process, however in this case the first step or phase is to achieve authenticity by looking at the organization itself.

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