A sneak peek into the origins of Hospitality

Hospitality, an industry with which we all are so well versed but hardly know where and how it all began. Keep reading further to get some interesting insights about its origins.

A word that has a hundred meanings

From the shores of the ocean to the peaks of the mountains, from the high and dry of the deserts to the abundance of the forests and from the 21st century cities to the rural landscapes, travel has a different meaning for each of us. Almost like we all are on the search for something meaningful. And in this search to find something for ourselves, we feel at home surrounded by strangers. It doesn’t matter if we stay at a five star resort or a humble Airbnb tucked far away from civilization, we feel welcome and taken care of, and build a world of our own in an environment new to us. 

What makes us feel the way we feel? And what contributes to the fond memories that make us want to go back to the same place again? 

The answer is “Hospitality”. The term itself was derived from the Latin word “hospes”, which means “host” and the old French word “hospice”, which means to take care of the travelers. 

A little bit of history

Hospitality is as ancient as the ancient cities and monuments. This tradition runs thousands of years in time, when kind locals hosted weary strangers at their homes. Due to patchy road networks, traveling was a daunting task and oftentimes strangers in foreign lands took several stops midway to rest and rejuvenate. At the local’s home, they were offered a little more than a cot or a bench in the corner of a room. Most of them were private residences that offered temporary lodging to strangers.

With time it became a common practice by fellow travelers to take a pit stop during the long and often cumbersome journeys. Guests stayed in large rooms and shared spaces with fellow travelers where privacy was non-existent. 

The locals could share their culture and food practices with the travelers, who in turn shared their own customs and traditions! Over a period of time this cultural exchange not only led to tourism but also to the development of several cuisines and many modern languages. With the establishment of money, hospitality became one of the first services for which money was exchanged. 

Evidence of facilities offering hospitality as a service dates back to biblical times. The Greeks built thermal baths designed for rest and recuperation in villages, whereas the Romans built mansions to provide accommodation to travelers.

Fast forward to the middle ages, inns became vastly popular in most of Europe. For example, Les Trois Rois in Basel, Switzerland dates back to 1681 and was built for nobility. But nothing can take the crown off Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan located in Yamanashi, Japan. This hotel was founded back in 705 AD and has been owned by a whopping 52 generations of the same family! The hotel still welcomes guests to this day.   

Recent times

With development of major trade routes throughout Europe in the first half of the 18th century, the idea of an accommodation built solely to host tourists came into being. And along with it came technological progress which led to an influx of foreigners to major cities and it resulted in the opening of several hotels. But the essence of Hospitality remains the same till date. Welcoming a stranger with open arms and making them feel at home!