Harnessing empathy in hospitality and tourism: Are conversations the answer?

Lourdes L. Zamanillo Tamborrel, Joseph M. Cheer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Given tourism's economic importance, Its potential to create positive social change is often promoted, including the possibility for it to become a force for cross-cultural understanding through empathy. Because of its capacity to open new forms of intersubjective understanding, it is believed that empathy can harness more ethical relations between hosts and guests. Allied to these ideals is the following question: to what extent do tourists in less developed contexts actively engage with hosts (or the Other) through empathy? By using a case study of a ten-day pro-social cycling tour in Cambodia, this study examined the conditions that governed and shaped empathy between hosts and guests. Findings suggest that the key condition that harnesses empathy in host-guest relationships materializes when there is an opportunity to engage in bilateral conversations in situations where power differences are reduced. However, the role of empathy as a 'necessary' element for cross-cultural understanding remains open to contestation and remains ripe for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalHospitality & Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Empathy
  • Host-guest relations
  • Intercultural communication
  • Intercultural competency
  • Pro-social tourism

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