What does Hospitality Mean to You?

At International Hotel School we have budding young Hospitality and Tourism Management students that are incredibly passionate about the Hospitality Industry. A case in point is our IHS Durban second year Hospitality Management student, Phelelani Nyawose. Phelelani wrote this article to voice his opinion on something that is extremely close to his heart and what led him to choose IHS as his tertiary institution, so read more on what Hospitality means to him…

Ubuntu- African philosophy that is close to my heart, upbringing and therefore my way of living, which means one cannot exist without the other. The spirit of Ubuntu is widely found in the African community. It originates from the Nguni language, specifically IsiZulu. The phrase, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”can be broken down to something like this: uMuntu = is a person that is a child of god or that emerged from the Great Unknown (uMvelinqangi); aBantu = these are the people that live by the Ubuntu philosophy.

The phrase is translated to, “a person is a person through other people”. To me Ubuntu is acknowledging and appreciating the existence of human beings so that we could be what we are for as long as we can live. Hospitality is also a universal language that we all understand, so let’s use that to the best of our knowledge and advantage, and give back. Hospitality is about giving back without receiving.


Going back to the word hospitality’s Latin roots I found that the word hospitality is derived from the Latin word hospes, which can hold a variety of meanings such as “guest”, “host” or “stranger”. This also reminded me of an old practice of Ubuntu – when a stranger/traveller travelled through a community, the community would provide for the stranger as if it were one of their own without the stranger asking.

For those who were brought up by the teachings of Ubuntu, including myself, hospitality is a way of life. We live by it. Something that is the basis of Ubuntu and that we could all relate to is: we cannot host without a guest and you can never be a guest without a host. Ubuntu teachings are, “I am because you are” or “I am what I am because of what you are”. Therefore, one cannot exist without the other.

It seems like modernisation has resulted in people drifting away from the concept of Ubuntu. An example would be, people no longer want to help without receiving something from the one needing the help. I think that we should carry the spirit of Ubuntu towards modernisation because it is critical to our existence.

One of the nations that I know of which have carried their values and style of hospitality is the Japanese. The Japanese have their own style of Ubuntu that is similar to Ubuntu which is called Omotenashi. Omotenashi is the Japanese art of gratitude and selfless hospitality. Omotenashi is two words combined together, omote (surface) and nashi (less) which means “single-hearted”. So this means to serve without expecting anything from the guest but mutual gratitude. For example when you help someone, don’t expect a reward from that person because by understanding their existence and by them recognising yours is rewarding enough, and therefore other things (rewards/blessings) will take care of themselves eventually. A prime example would also be the manner in which a guest is offered tea.

We are always taught that excellent service is exceeding expectations and anticipatory service. Well, that’s exactly what Omotenashi is about – to welcome a human being into your home and be able to identify, meet or anticipate their every need in advance without words. To serve is regarded with utmost seriousness and respect. Respect what you are serving and who you are serving. So serious and respectful that it even gets spiritual.

Ubuntu does not require 5 star skill, it require gratitude, a true heart, and no pretence. Just like Omotenashi requires a pure heart which simply means, to serve wholeheartedly.

As we all know that teamwork is an essential aspect in the hospitality industry. In order for a team to achieve excellence and execute it with exceptionality, the Ubuntu atmosphere needs to be alive and within the team. It needs to exist and they need to understand its existence.

I leave you with some meaningful words from Ms Holly Stiel who is an author of a number of articles– such as The Complete Handbook to the World of the Concierge, Thank You Very Much – A Book for Anyone Who Has Ever Said, “May I Help you?, and The President of Thank You Very Much Inc. “Our guests are important, but under the lens of Ubuntu, they are lifeblood – not only on business levels, but a humanistic one as well.