Critical Hospitality Symposium, Critical Hospitality Symposium II: Hospitality IS Society

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Why is it critical for hospitality to be studied in an airport setting?
Erwin Losekoot, Anna Addison, Zaina Theresa

Last modified: 2018-07-02


Airports are amazing places (see the movie Love Actually). They are one of the few places left in our society where everyone follows a similar process and goes through a single ‘gateway’, whether they are ‘road warriors’ who travel hundreds of days a year or total novice travelers on their first ever ‘OE’ (overseas experience – a rite of passage for young New Zealanders without their parents). As a result, the experience they have in airports are frequently taken to symbolize the hospitableness of nations. While airports are keen to create a welcoming hospitable experience, it is impossible to avoid the fact that airports are ‘panopticons’ where every move is scrutinized and biometric data taken and stored with impunity. Bell (2011) refers to the interpersonal encounters that occur, and what he calls ‘café friends’ and ‘seatmates’ who form a temporary community for as long as a flight is delayed. The eponymous liminal nature of the airport environment creates a perfect ‘non-place’ beyond geography or even time. In this fluid environment such ‘throwntogetherness’ can emphasize everyone’s natural hospitableness but also people’s ‘hostipitality’ as Derrida called it. While some might argue that airports are nothing more than modern transport hubs, many others feel these post-modern consumer consumption experiences desperately need a better understanding of the concept of hospitality in order to create a ‘free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy’ (Nouwen, 1975, p. 51). This paper draws on 120 interviews conducted with airport customers. Using Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology, the concept of ‘da-sein’ and Blumer’s symbolic interactionism, this paper discusses the lived experience of people using Auckland International Airport and considers how hospitality in airports IS society.

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