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practices with little or no modifi cation to suit
the local culture, can lead to cross-cultural con-
fl ict, especially in situations where there are
opposing points of view about how to behave
in particular situations.
Having explored the underlying attributes
of hospitality work, I now turn to discuss the
'tourist gaze' explored in this chapter.
Urry states that '. . . much tourism study is con-
cerned with the consequences of being gazed
upon, with for example working within a 'tourist
honeypot' and being subject to a gaze is some-
what similar to that within a panopticon' (2002,
p. 151). It is challenging for hospitality service
providers to work under the tourist gaze. Urry
observes that those in high contact areas such
as hotel receptionists for example, have to work
directly under the gaze of guests with no room
to correct a mistake while striving to exceed or
at least measure up to the expectations that the
hospitality industry has set out for guests. For
example, travellers typically arriving at their
hotel from the airport or bus have learnt through
advertising and word of mouth that they can
expect to be greeted by a friendly and attractive
receptionist who would make them feel wel-
come, arrange for their bags to be collected and
escort them to their room. They expect the
receptionist to converse with them in a con-
cerned and attentive manner, sympathize with
their diffi culties and suggest interesting pursuits
they might enjoy (and pay for) during their stay.
As would-be guests on holiday approach the
receptionist, their gaze can have multiple ele-
ments. One is an enchantment-seeking gaze as
the guest contemplates the offering of the venue
and its diversionary possibilities. This can be
accompanied by a more transactional, apprais-
ing gaze getting a feel for the place and what
might be on offer. The receptionist is effectively
the recipient of the visitor's gaze and with it
considerable tacit expectations and challenges
are embedded in it. At the same time, the recep-
tionist in her opening encounter meets the
enchantment-seeking, appraising tourist gaze
with her welcoming smile. Her gaze tacitly car-
ries the welcoming work of hospitality. The
receptionist practice manifested in her gaze has
elements of caring, feminized, pleasuring,
ambiguous and culturalized service. At the same
time, her gaze needs to carry prudent appraisal
questioning: will this person be a compliant,
pleasant and generous guest? Are there signs of
trouble to be noted? The receptionist's gaze
needs to be alert as well as welcoming.
All the above aspects are illustrated in the
stories the receptionists told of the tourist gaze
and their response to the gaze (Wijesinghe,
2007). To be gazed at in certain ways and to
gaze back in return was an intrinsic element of
Introduction to the Gaze
The 'gaze', which is a particular form of looking,
functions within certain social codes of practice
such as: what is the acceptable cultural norm of
looking in the communication context? When is
it appropriate to look? Whom could one look
at? At what and where exactly should the eyes
focus? What is the appropriate duration to hold
a look? There are many ways of looking (e.g.
see the poem The Eyes Have It ; Baden-Semper,
2002), some looks can be unobtrusive while
others may cause people to feel vulnerable, vio-
lated and/or sexualized as will be shown in the
portrayal to follow.
In his seminal work Ways of Seeing , a book
based on a popular British television series,
John Berger observed that 'according to usage
and conventions which are at last being ques-
tioned but have by no means been overcome -
men act and women appear . Men look at
women. Women watch themselves being looked
at' (1972, pp. 45, 47) and women are depicted
very differently to men precisely because
'. . . the 'ideal' spectator is always assumed to
be male and the image of the woman is designed
to fl atter him' (1972, p. 64). In advertising and
in the presentation of females in service work,
'women . . . are being invited to identify both
with the person being viewed and with an
implicit, opposite-sex viewer', legitimizing the
view that women should identify with men and
make themselves pleasing for men (Messaris,
1997, p. 44).
Under the Tourist 'Gaze':
the Receptionist Experience
In leisure studies, John Urry's work on The
Tourist Gaze has been a major contribution.
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