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Obesity and hotel staffing: Are hotels guilty of ‘lookism’?

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The idea that workers embody the brand is placing increasing emphasis on the personal attributes of employees. The drive towards aesthetic labour, which focuses on ‘particular embodied capacities and attributes that appeal to the senses of customers’, has the potential for a form of discrimination based on appearance, ‘lookism’. This article sought to examine the ‘face of’ 28 major hotels in Sydney through their online promotional videos, with particular reference to the perceived body size of employees. In total, there were 112 images of hotel staff, primarily in front-of-house roles. The images were overwhelmingly of slim to average sized workers. The few who were judged as slightly larger than the norm were older men in the role of doorman, exemplifying the portly, British gentleman in top hat and tails at a four to five star hotel. The question arises: are Sydney hotels employing only slim/average sized staff or are they presenting only these staff as the ‘face of’ the hotel? Whatever the answer, the message portrayed to guests and labour markets remains the same: the brand values slimness. Such practice could be interpreted as a form of weight prejudice and discrimination.
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Keywords: critical discourse analysis; critical hospitality; hotel staff; hotels; obesity; representation; websites

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: AUT University 2: University of Technology

Publication date: June 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Hospitality & Society is an international multidisciplinary social sciences journal focusing upon hospitality and exploring its connections with wider social and cultural processes and structures. The journal welcomes submissions from various disciplines and aims to be an interactive forum expanding frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the literature on hospitality social science. Articles that stimulate debate, discussion and exchange across disciplines are welcomed, as well as review essays or short topical pieces that are provocative and problematic in nature.

    Hospitality & Society is the official journal of the Council for Hospitality Management Education
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