Creating a comprehensive hospitality definition is important, because the sector itself is broad and diverse, including many different types of businesses and organisations. In this article, you can access a clear and detailed explanation of what hospitality is, what the word itself means, and how it is applied in the modern world.

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What Is the Definition of Hospitality as a Concept?

To create a comprehensive hospitality definition, it is first important to explore what hospitality means as a concept. The word ‘hospitality’ itself has emerged from the Latin word ‘hospes’, which means ‘visitor’, ‘guest’, or ‘stranger’, and this is a good starting point when creating a working hospitality definition.

Essentially, hospitality is the reception of visitors, guests, or strangers. More specifically, it refers to the provision of hosting services and describes a positive relationship between the host, who is acting with goodwill, and the guest, who is most commonly seeking food, shelter, safety, and/or entertainment.

Hospitality is about extending a welcome to a visitor and providing them with some form of comfort. A good way to think of the objective of hospitality is to view it as the provision of a ‘home away from home’ for people to enjoy.

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What Is the Definition of the Hospitality Industry?

One of the most common contexts in which the word ‘hospitality’ is used is when describing the hospitality industry, so it is critical that any good hospitality definition or explanation also touches upon this.

In simple terms, the hospitality industry can be described as the section of the service industry that is concerned with the reception of guests and the provision of pleasant guest experiences. It is a broad category, which includes the provision of temporary guest accommodation, as well as the provision of food and drink services. However, beyond this, the hospitality industry also includes events, attractions, and tourism agencies.

This means that hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, cafes, cruises, tour operators, catering businesses and travel agents can all be described as being part of the hospitality industry.

What Is the History of the Hospitality Sector?

Aside from settling on a clear hospitality definition, truly understanding hospitality requires an awareness of the history of the hospitality sector. As a concept, hospitality stretches back thousands of years. Before it existed as an industry, travellers would often need to rely on the kindness of strangers residing in the locations they visited.

This gradually led to the development of inns, taverns, and similar premises, which were specifically designed to receive guests. These would often include stables to look after horses for travellers. By the 18th century, an organised hotel industry began to emerge, offering more professional services for visitors.

Improvements to transport, including the development of cars, trains and passenger planes, further boosted this emerging industry. This has led to the almost constant growth of the hospitality industry, as barriers to travel have been removed, and as international travel has become more and more affordable for people and businesses.

Understanding the Meaning of the Hospitality Industry

To truly pinpoint an overarching hospitality meaning, it is worth taking the time to get to grips with what it means to specific groups. The sections below explore why the hospitality industry matters to people.


The hospitality industry provides jobs for a large number of people, and given that the hospitality definition is broad, it stands to reason that there are a diverse range of jobs available. The roles on offer span from customer service-based roles, to event planning roles, and roles associated with food and drink preparation.

Of course, on top of this, hospitality management jobs are also highly sought after and often well-paid too. The provision of livelihoods for so many people is just one of the many things that help to give the field of hospitality meaning, but the sheer range of career opportunities available highlights the value of hospitality as a concept.


Customers are the most immediately obvious beneficiaries of the hospitality sector. It is thanks to the idea of hospitality that travellers can visit a new location and find accommodation, food, drinks, and other services that help to provide comfort, safety, security and entertainment.

With that being said, the aforementioned hospitality definition means that travellers are far from the only customers that benefit from hospitality. After all, locals will regularly visit bars, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants, while they are also likely to benefit from the presence of nearby entertainment venues too.


Reading a hospitality definition may initially give you the impression that the hospitality industry only benefits customers and employees, but the reality is that hospitality has wide-ranging effects on everyone within a particular location, because it is a major contributor to almost every economy in the world, as well as the global economy itself.

In fact, it is estimated that hospitality contributes more than 10 per cent of the total global GDP. A healthy hospitality industry within a particular location will help to attract visitors, and these visitors are then going to use local transport, spend money at local businesses, and create demand for new infrastructure.

Hospitality Definition: The Difference Between Hospitality and Tourism

Now that you are equipped with a hospitality definition and an understanding of its importance, it is also worth identifying the distinction between hospitality and tourism. As stated, hospitality is focused on the reception of guests, and the provision of relevant services, but this does not always involve significant travel.

By contrast, the tourism industry is focused on the short-term movement of people from one location to another and, specifically, movement away from where people usually reside. A good way to understand tourism is to understand that to be a tourist, you must travel away from where you live and stay there for more than 24 hours.

There is a significant crossover, however. For instance, hotels form part of both the hospitality industry, because they are focused on receiving guests, and the tourism industry, because they are places where travellers can stay. Yet, there are differences too. For instance, tourism also includes airlines, railways, and other transportation services.

What is the Definition of Hospitality Management?

Hospitality management refers to the management of businesses within the hospitality sector, or the management of departments within those businesses. Those who work in hospitality management positions are leaders within their field and are tasked with running businesses or departments efficiently, optimising profit, and meeting customer needs.

As the hospitality definition is broad, this also means there are many different hospitality management career paths for people to explore. For instance, managing a hotel or restaurant is significantly different from managing a travel agent, while there are also more specialised roles, such as hotel housekeeping management, or customer service management.

Managers need to keep pace with the latest hospitality technology and trends and are ultimately responsible for the performance of their business or department. People reach management positions in different ways, such as through industry experience, or by acquiring a relevant qualification, like a hospitality degree.

Hospitality and the Customer Experience

The hospitality definition provided makes it clear that the reception of guests or customers is fundamental, and hosts need to ensure that these customers have a pleasant experience. This means keeping up with the latest hospitality trends, delivering excellent customer service, and using the most up-to-date technology.

You can learn about the importance of the customer experience, along with specific ways to improve this experience within hospitality businesses by reading “8 Ways to Improve Customer Experience in the Hospitality Industry”.

Understanding Digital Hospitality Trends

One of the things that needs to be referenced in any complete hospitality definition is the focus on meeting customer expectations. Of course, these expectations are continually changing, which is why it is so vital to keep pace with the latest digital trends, from the rise of the Internet of Things to the emergence of virtual reality.

You can read a lot more about the major digital hospitality trends that are disrupting the industry and shaping customer expectations in the article “Key Digital Trends in the Hospitality Industry”.

Channels for Finding Hospitality Jobs

Now that you are equipped with a deeper understanding of the hospitality industry and a clear hospitality definition, you may wish to seek out a job within the sector. There are a variety of channels that can be used to achieve this, including hospitality job boards, the websites of hospitality businesses, and specialist recruitment agencies.

Learn more about each of these channels, including a list of some of the best job boards, websites and recruitment agencies to turn to, by reading “Hospitality Jobs: Overview of All Channels to Find Your Next Job”.

Having a clear hospitality definition to refer back to can be essential for anyone looking to work in the industry because it helps to refocus efforts. At its core, hospitality is about receiving guests, making them feel welcome, and providing them with food, shelter, comfort, safety, and/or entertainment.

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