The hospitality industry is all around us. Constantly, we are surrounded by 100+ foot skyscrapers, 5-star restaurants, and elegant events made to fuel our happiness. We see all of the aspects of this growing industry in our everyday lives, whether it is going to McDonalds after school, or going to visit Dubai and staying in one of their illustrious hotels. Additionally, he hospitality and tourism industry is one of the most prospering industries right now. With the high demand for hotels and restaurants to be built, a lot of people are turning to this industry in order to create jobs and ensure a comfortable lifestyle for their consumers. The owners of these companies come from many different races and cultures, also making it one of the most diverse industries to be under. Through all of these different types of people come several religious groups that integrate their customs and practices into their businesses, therefore creating the discussion of whether this is something that should be celebrated, or should religion not be something that should be pushed down the throats of customers in these establishments. In this paper, I will be highlighting and going into depth about the several different religion's that are constantly put under a microscope for being involved in the hospitality industry. Many claim that including these religious symbols or practices in a business could “influence” people into converting to that said religion. Businesses that are owned by a primary owner who has their certain beliefs should be able to proudly display their beliefs, as long as it isn't interfering with the experience of the consumers.
The concept of being hospitable and providing services for others dates back all the way to biblical times. Way back then, the term “hospitality” was coined as something that was necessary. There were two explanations as why these people felt the need to be hospitable: they thought that providing services to strangers was something that was necessary in order to prosper in their religions and they were extremely superstitious back then, meaning they were only hospitable to induce “good karma” (The History of Hospitality Industry, Fadi Alassaf). This means that religion was actually one of the things that pushed the hospitality industry forward, making it what it is today. During these times, most of the citizens were travelers, leaving them without a place to sleep, eat, or rest when they made it to their destination. There were several instances where they were provided with shelter, though still in the early stages. For example, they were provided with rooms and housing for them, but nothing to protect their horses, or vice versa. Eventually, the Persians began to build posthouses, or a place to stay with accommodations for their horse, along the common routes of travel. They were located about 25 miles away from each other and allowed them to switch off their horses so that they could rest. This was something that continued and eventually flourished to different and more high-end establishments. Due to the fact that on these passages came several passengers who were wealthy, these inns expanded and kept up with the luxuries that these people were accustomed to. Thanks to these coaches, they were able to bring people into these establishments and improve the quality of them over the years. These taverns became places where many locals would meet up, such as politicians, local royalty, and townspeople. Alongside these inns, coffeehouses began to flourish and become overwhelmingly popular around this time. Most of them ended up converting to inns, in order to provide the guests with food. This helped with the development even more because people began to get more attracted to these coffeehouse/inn mixes. Without the influence of religion, the industry would not have been what it is today.
As previously mentioned, religion and the industry actually go hand-in-hand if you look into the history. Religion is cemented into the foundations of the hospitality industry, so why is there an issue with it still being incorporated in it now? Many people have raised concerns with religions being integrated into different hotels and businesses. For example, there has been a giant controversy revolving the fact that there are bibles in the nightstands in hotels. The concept of putting bibles in hotel rooms started with a duo of salesmen, who called themselves “Gideon International” (Hotels and Resorts, Cailey Rizzo) This group were the ones who began handing out Gideon bibles to several hotels in the year 1908. This eventually spread, and most hotels are now equipped with the bible. When it first began, it was not looked at as something that was negative. However, now with the rise of millennials, the question of “Why is it just the Bible?” comes up. There has been a movement to begin to be more inclusive when it comes to these sacred readings. Other religious groups, such as Mormons and Muslims, began questioning hotels as to why their books were not being provided as well. Soon after, they began to provide several types of religious readings, for the comfort of the guest. Nowadays, many people have become so assimilated to the concept of inclusivity that there is more of demand to either have all of the sacred books or none.
Millennials are known to be one of the more socially aware generations ever. Hotels are okay with putting these religious texts in their rooms to market to people, and how that they care about religion. However, millennials are also known to be the least religiously inclined generation, so this marketing strategy isn't the most effective. Now, if you think about religious inclusion in restaurants, for example, the tables turn. People are more accepting of restaurants displaying religious material than hotels displaying it. For example, the extremely popular restaurant “Chick-fil-A”, owned by a devoted Baptist woman, closes their doors on Sundays, so that their employees have the opportunity to go “worship if they want to.” Another company known for including religious propaganda in their merchandising is Forever 21 (Business Insider, Kim Bhasin) On their famous yellow shopping bags, they have “John 3:16” printed on it, which is known as one of the most popular bible quotes. This was done because the owners of Forever 21 are known to be born-again Christians. Finally, In-N-Out Burger is also known for including Bible passages on their cups, boxes, and wrappers. With all of these religious references, these are still three of the most popular businesses ever. If people are complaining about these advertisements of Christianity, why are they still shopping and eating at these places.
While many people agree with the point that religion is okay, there is a giant community that is opposed to it. These people find themselves “oppressed” when they are exposed to Christianity in their favorite restaurants but can't just seem to ignore it. This is because of the viewpoints of the owners, that some people may disagree with. However, its not just Christianity that is the issue. The restaurant Izumi, which is owned by a Buddhist, has been frowned upon due to their menu being infused with some of the things of that religion. Personally, I think that if the owner of the business is of a certain religion, they have every right to incorporate it into their store, hotel, restaurant, etc. However, the issue comes back to when people begin to refuse service based on their beliefs. There have been several accounts of people not getting served or accommodated because of their sexuality, gender, or even culture. This is here the clash between hospitality and religion becomes unacceptable. There was a very famous case that made the headlines earlier this year that has actually gotten to the point of going to the Supreme Court. According to the Chicago Tribune, there was a gay couple who went to a baker in Colorado asking for him to make a gender transition cake. (Chicago Tribune, James Anderson). Due to his religious background, he refused to make this cake. The couple ended up suing for discrimination, citing he was “transphobic”. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the Colorado baker, citing that his “constitutional rights were violated.” In this case, I believe that no one should be discriminated against because of who they are as a person. The fact that it was religiously motivated was where the baker was at fault. As long as there is no wrongdoing, I believe that people should be able to do whatever they want to do with their store, and if it offends someone, they shouldn't be going to their store in the first place.
In conclusion, the hospitality would not have begun if it weren't for their involvement in Christianity. Therefore, knowing this, people shouldn't really have too much of a say in whether it is involved in their businesses. Religion is something that has been forever integrated in the hospitality industry, and most of us didn't even care or know about it until recently. If something about a business bothers you, then simply do not go to there. There shouldn't be a giant controversy just because you aren't accordance with someone else's opinion.
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