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If you work in the hospitality industry, you belong to a long line of the professionals that have received and entertained guests since before recorded history. Understanding the humble origin of the word, hospitality, helps understand the birth of the industry as a whole.

The word came to us from Ancient Rome. Today it covers the world.

Hospitality came to refer to businesses that now generate 10% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and support 313 million jobs worldwide. That “translates to 9.9% of total employment and 20% of all global net jobs created in the past decade.”

Here, we’ll take a look at the definition of hospitality and explore the modern hospitality concept. Then, tracing its roots, backward through time, we can see how the hospitality industry became so diverse and influential.

Definition of Hospitality

In simple English, hospitality refers to “hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition,” according to Merriam Webster. It applies to “the activity or business of providing services to guests in hotels, restaurants, bars, etc.”

As simple as it sounds, the hospitality concept now encompasses an extremely complex and diverse industry. Understanding the origin of the word, hospitality, and viewing it in light of the modern concept of the hospitality industry provides perspective on its growth.   

The Modern Hospitality Concept

Hospitality began long before recorded history. The hospitality industry embraces diverse types of businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure and hospitality supersector belongs to the service-providing industries supersector group. It includes:

  • Arts
  • Entertainment
  • Recreation
  • Accommodation Services
  • Food and Drink Services
  • Lodging
  • Event Planning
  • Theme Parks
  • Transportation
  • Cruise Lines
  • Traveling
  • Other Fields within the Tourism Industry

Origin of the Word, “Hospitality”

Early hospitality probably came about in the form of sharing campsites, food, water, and entertainment. Shared stories, songs, or belongings made camps welcoming and were associated with the joys of travel and visiting.

The word, “hospitality,” comes from the Latin word “hospes.” Interestingly, it referred to both the host and the guest, or visitor, according to Jewish national paper, Forward. A visitor to a camp or a more permanent dwelling, along with the family group inhabiting that place were described, collectively, as “hospes.”

The Ancient Romans expressed the concepts of a “guest,” “hospitality,” and “being hospitable” through the respective words, “hospitālis,” “hospitālitāt-” and “hospitālitās.” The latter referred specifically to the “entertainment of guests.”

The Anglo-French transformed the word to “hospitalité,” referring to the reception of guests or the provision of lodging. Europeans used it much like the modern word, “hospitality.”

The Modern Era Of Hospitality

As European inns and taverns began offering rooms to travelers the modern era of commercial hospitality began to take shape. In the 18th century hotels built just for housing guests appeared, and, as the industrial era modernized and facilitated transportation, the concept of hospitality grew with the industry.

Hospitality: Humble Beginnings to Worldwide Growth

Our ever-wandering ancestors, in search of food, water, work, and simple entertainment beside a glowing campfire, gave rise to one of the world’s largest industries: the hospitality industry. It began as the humble sharing of camp resources between local and distant people, and turned into a global movement of accommodation.

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