The host-guest relationship and ‘emotion management’: perspectives and experiences of owners of small hotels in a major UK resort

  • Anne Benmore

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis explores how the owners of 21 small hotels in a major UK resort perceived and experienced emotionalities surrounding the host-guest relationship, with a particular focus on employment of emotion management. The experiences of the owners of 5 large family hotels and the manager of a large corporate hotel were also captured in this study to provide an additional complementary ‘layer’ of data. I employed narrative inquiry using semi-structured interviews to gain insights into how participants constructed and negotiated the host-guest relationship through emotion management. I was also interested in uncovering the wider emotionalities of contextual influences that might impact on that relationship, such as hoteliers’ motivations and values. Adopting an inductive approach, my research was primarily informed by my interpretation of the concepts of ‘emotion management’ and the ‘host-guest relationship’. Further, and consistent with this cross-disciplinary approach, the lenses of ‘power’ and ‘identity’ enhanced my understanding of research participants’ experiences, particularly since these phenomena themselves play a role in the manifestation of both ‘emotion’ and ‘hospitality’. Whilst emotion management in its pecuniary form, as emotional labour, has been well documented in the corporate hotel sector, its manifestation in the smaller setting has been less clear. What I discovered in this study was that owners of small hotels employ an intriguing mix of emotion management strategies within a range of host roles adopted to establish and manage the boundaries of the host-guest relationship. An over-arching theme that emerged from the study was owners’ concerns about guest suitability, particularly with regard to the ‘dirty work’ and/or ‘risky work’ they could present. A key influencing factor here was that the hotel also constituted the owner’s ‘home.’ For the ‘suitable ‘guest, hoteliers could demonstrate considerable scope for hospitableness through philanthropic and personalized emotion management. Hence what seemed to emerge was an image of the small hotel owner as an autonomous flexible emotion manager, relatively free to engage in human connectedness with the guest and capable of eschewing the strictures of customer sovereignty that can envelop corporate counterparts. Host-guest relationships that emerged generally appeared to satisfy both parties and were often long lasting, even taking on the status of ‘friendships,’ where host and guest engaged in reciprocal appreciation that seemed ‘natural’ and spontaneous.
Date of Award1 Mar 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStephen Fineman (Supervisor)


  • host-guest relationship
  • hospitality
  • emotional labour
  • emotion management

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