Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
12 Receiving and Shaping the Tourist
Appraising Gaze: the Lived Experience of
Reception Work in the Tourism and
Hospitality Industry
Gayathri (Gee) Wijesinghe 1 and Peter Willis 2
1 School of Management, University of South Australia, Adelaide,
2 School of Education, University of South Australia, Adelaide
aim of which is to provide a vivid portrayal of
the lived experience of such 'diplomatic' recep-
tionist work.
In spite of the centrality of the receptionist
role to the functioning of the tourism and hospi-
tality industry, the nature of reception practice is
rarely a focus of scholarly writings on the work-
place. There appear to be no 'real life stories'
from the front desk that portray the experience
of reception work generally and in particular the
experiences of female receptionists. As a rela-
tively under-researched area, it is not therefore
fully appreciated within the broader profession.
This discussion, written in the voice of the fi rst
author, is based upon the fi ndings of doctoral
research designed to address this research gap
by investigating the lived experiences of four
female receptionists (Wijesinghe, 2007). The
research focused on seeing, knowing and telling
using visual text such as narrative, metaphor
and poetry to explore what it is like 'to be the
object of the tourist gaze'; the intention being to
generate an in-depth understanding of their
experiences rather than generalizable proposi-
tions. The experiences of the female reception-
ists were presented as ten vignettes portraying
and interpreting the lived experience of each
receptionist situated within different social, cul-
tural, personal and occupational settings. The
The enchantment-seeking gaze of the attentive
tourist as he or she contemplates the offerings of
a signifi cant tourist venue has usually been
accompanied or preceded by the more transac-
tional appraising gaze of an arriving traveller
arranging accommodation and food with a
hotel receptionist - at one and the same time
being careful about his or her budget whilst
needing to get a feel for the place and what
might be on offer.
This encounter between the receptionist
and the traveller as he or she arrives at a venue
for the fi rst time is often the fi rst moments in the
traveller's actual holiday, and can make a con-
siderable difference to the rest of the stay. In the
increasingly elaborated role requirements of
the tourism industry the receptionist, who is
often young, female and well-presented, has
the implicit task to accept (even 'measure up'
to) the appraising gaze of the 'stranger' and
subsequently through a mixture of friendliness,
kindness and some strategic distance seek to
convert the visitor's cautious gaze to the more
contented gaze of a compliant and generous
guest. This 'diplomatic' work, which can be
risky and challenging, rewarding and painful,
provides the focus for this chapter, the overall
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