Inhospitable hospitality: can the arts help re-imagine hospitality?

New Perspectives on the diversity of Hospitality, Tourism and Events

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a breakfast workshop themed “Audiencing” at CAUTHE 2020. It was great to discuss perspectives on audiences from my practical experience in the cultural sector with academic researchers in hospitality and tourism from around the world, an area I don’t usually interact with. Many thanks to Dr Sandra Goh and Dr Tomas Pernecky, Faculty of Culture and Society at AUT.  

CAUTHE 2020 is the annual conference of The Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education and was held at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with the theme “20:20 Vision: New Perspectives on the diversity of Hospitality, Tourism and Events”

I took the opportunity to attend a few sessions on “Eventful Placemaking”, where current academic research projects were discussed. There was an interesting cross-over with the arts and the role of art festivals, arts precincts and major events in placemaking. These research projects take a practical approach useful for cities and cultural organisations (and rightly challenged my own bias that academic research is – well, academic). I’m sure I’ll have some more conversations with Sandra about some of these projects.  

A highlight was the key note by Alison Phipps, UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow.  

https://www.cauthe2020.org/keynote-speakers

She opened the conference with a mind-opening keynote both for content and presentation. With “Inhospitable hospitality” Alison Phipps challenged the hospitality community to look at the extreme end of hospitality. Rather than glamorous events, she considered hospitality as experienced by seekers of refuge. She asked “Who decides and where are those decisions made on what constitutes hospitality and what it means to be hospitable?” and challenged us with examples of hospitality, or rather inhospitality, offered to refugees in various parts of the world, which are often prison-like experiences. She suggested that the “refugee crisis” in Europe is actually rather a “hospitality crisis” given the wealth of the continent and the fact that only 15% of global refugees are in the global North (incl. N-America). She asked what this tells about the human condition and the work of the hospitality industry. With the hospitality at airports, hospital and universities also often prison-like, she challenged the industry to find ways to inject a sense of life and empathy into its language, its occupation with efficiency, numbers, project management and logistical systems. Part of hospitality is “overcoming fear”. She offered the arts as a way to re-imagine hospitality, and left the audience to think about what “beautiful, captivating story of hospitality” it could design. 

And beautiful and captivating was her keynote, interjected with images, quotes, poetry, music (including herself singing) and personal stories from refugees and her own family – not quite the typical conference slide presentation and an unexpected and thought provoking angle on hospitality, or what in my area of work is called the visitor experience.

Here is a short interview with Alison Phipps on Radio New Zealand.

Author: sabine.doolin

Strategy consultant working with the cultural sector

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