The article examines elements of new discourse practices of the Russian hospitality industry. The research is focused on written texts addressed to the client (guest) of the hotel and placed in the area of his or her residence (hotel rooms, apartments) in booklets, instructions, wall signs, etc. Their main genre-forming characteristics and communicative-pragmatic specificity are revealed. Discourse that are specific for hotel industry are described such as hotel guides, ecological texts and "genres of care". In particular, the hotel guide offers a cognitive scenario of the visitor's stay, modeling his or her needs and desires, and emotional state. It is this scenario of positive hotel experience that forms the genre of guidebooks and booklets addressed to the guest. The texts that are analyzed in the article show that specific services in the sphere of hospitality determine special ways of communication with clients and form the discourse that is typical for hotel business. The goal to create the conditions "like at home" for the guest determines the interaction of institutional and interpersonal varieties of discourses. This is exactly what defines the communicative-pragmatic discourse of booklets and other information materials placed in the hotel room.
Keywords: Discoursediscourse practiceshotel businesshospitality languagegenrehotel guide
In the course of the last two decades, linguistic studies saw the formation of the tradition of discourse classification, based on the predominant “service” of specific social spheres and institutions. V.I. Karasik states in his detailed overview of Russian discourse studies, that the division of discourse into specific types can be narrowed down to three approaches: sociolinguistic (who speaks), pragmalinguistic (how they speak), thematic (what is spoken about) (Karasik, 2014). As a rule, an analysis is carried out using “prototypical examples”, which carry no ambiguity in their identification with a particular social sphere. And the goal of such studies is cataloguing of discourses and genres representing them, that function in a certain society at a particular time. As a rule, the description is built on an a priori accepted premise that given speech material contains features of a specific type of discourse. However, when striving to subdivide the whole discourse continuum on types and subtypes, a researcher can come across such culture-bound items that can hardly fall into even the most thought out and detailed classification. For example, many of those who spent time in hotels saw a tablet that a guest can put on their door asking “do not disturb” or to clean the room. There are many ways to put this intention into words. Two of the simpler ideas vary from categorical imperative “Do not disturb” to the exhortative “Please do not disturb” (Grand Yazici, Turkey), informal “Went for a breath of fresh air. You can clean the room” and intimate phonetic symbolism that imitates deep sleep – “Tsss” (MariottTverskaya, Moscow), “…Zzz” (Nevsky Hotels Group, Saint Petersburg). Ways of asking to clean the room are also various: from traditional expressions, such as “Please clean the room” to non-verbal symbols. The whole collection of written texts that handle non-personal communications between a guest (client) and the hotel staff (hoteliers) is not likely to be named “hotel (specific) discourse”. Nevertheless, it can be named a discourse practice of hospitality industry.
We shall notice, that standardization of texts belonging to this sphere is hugely exaggerated. In the context of competition for customers, traditional messages gain previously unknown expression and persuasiveness. For instance, literary hotel Arina R (Pushkinskiye Gory, Pskov region) in their brochure inform arriving clients about the emotional state they will be in while staying there, apart from the room’s equipment.
The examples above show that rapidly developing hospitality industry (as it is known in the tourism business) forms special ways of communicating with clients (Fuster-Marquez, 2017, Ikayeva, 2014, Prigarina, 2015). These examples represent only part of written texts, but forms of oral communication are also of huge interest. These are such forms as speaking between staff and clients, booking a hotel room via a phone call etc.
But can we decide on the type of discourse they represent? Is it a “hotel discourse”? A service industry discourse? A “commercial hospitality” discourse? We have to agree with the notion that interpretation of the discourse margins as an analytical task implies that discourse is more of a product of the researcher’s work, than an object without margins, existing in reality, “ready” to be identified and mapped out (Jorgensen & Phillips, 2008).
Purpose of the Study
That is why new discourse practices that form in ever-changing social reality are of undeniable interest. Our task is to find the best “observation angle” and try to establish phenomena of the language use with maximum precision, which as of yet cannot be classified under discourse theory and the theory of speech genres.
We use the notion of the order of discourse, introduced by N. Fairclough, for the purposes of our analysis. The order of discourse is a configuration of all types of discourses and genres in one social sphere or institution. The order of discourse is built on discourse practices by means of which “texts and speeches are produced, consumed and interpreted” (cited by (Jorgensen & Phillips, 2008). When analyzing discourse practices it is important to keep in mind that different discourses partially cover same social sphere. What is more, each of such discourses competes for filling the sphere with its own meaning.
From this standpoint we shall consider the order of discourse of the hospitality industry developing in Russian language.
Institutional sphere of hospitality is a part of the tourism industry (Pokhomchikova, 2014). The attention to this sphere is conditioned by its importance for the development of national economy. In the last 15 years, tourism discourse became the focal point of the researchers’ attention. Many linguistic and interdisciplinary works deal with discourse practices of tourism business, including their comparative aspect, ways of argumentation, communicative situations, naming, etc. (Filatova, 2012, Heller, Pujolar, & Duchêne, 2014, Moi, 2008, Sakaeva & Bazarova, 2014). However, hotel business sphere is less detailed in the context of discourse (Bluea &Harun, 2003, Frantasova, 2015, Fuster-Marquez, 2017, Ikayeva, 2014, Prigarina, 2015, Zaytseva & Kositskaya, 2017) and need a conduction of more thorough researches, including those based on Russian material.
Our research focuses on written texts addressed to the hotel’s client (guest) and placed in the area of their accommodation (in rooms and apartments) in the forms of booklets, tablets, etc. (a total of 140 various texts). Texts in question are generally polymodal, i.e. they include both textual and visual parts. The majority of information is given in both Russian and English languages (if the hotel is a part of an international hotel chain, Russian texts are the results of translation of English texts). This can be explained not just by multinationalism of prospective clients, but also by the fact that international hotel chains (such as IBIS, Novotel, etc.), which have unified standards of brand communication, are becoming more and more prominent in Russia.
To define genre specific elements of given texts we shall consider their discourse parameters (communicative goal, type of message sender and message recipient, text structure) and the specifics of the language.
Communication in the sphere of hospitality industry: from standard to uniqueness.
Communicative interactions between the hotel representatives and the client (guest) are part of the service industry, ruled by marketing communication laws and technologies, as in sales.
In positioning theory marketing is defined as a cognitive operation, i.e. it is “not a battle of products, it is a battle of perceptions”. In the world of marketing everything is a client’s or potential customer’s perception. The perception is real, while everything else is an illusion (Ries & Trout, 2007). Furthermore cognitive operations include the key notion of the positioning theory – brand. Brand must form a specific niche in the recipient’s mind. “Positioning is how you differentiate your product in the mind of your customer” (Trout & Rivkin, 2010). Therefore building in the recipient’s mind a model of a necessary product (service), that differ from other examples of the category, must favor its differentiation in the mind of the customer.
This implies the task of separating from rivals. In its core, this task is a cognitive operation aimed at creation of a niche in the minds of customers. Inside this niche, a model of a product or a service is formed with characteristics relevant for its target audience. For hospitality sphere, these characteristics are defined by category features of the hotel as an object of service, as well as by the requirements the hotel aims to satisfy.
Perceptions of a hotel and its services are based on a lexical meaning of the word (
Requirements relevant for the client are presented in the hotel’s guest reviews – e.g. at special websites, such as www.booking.com. Guest reviews can help reconstruct client’s usual requirements. For instance, “comfortable for temporary accommodation”; “cozy, comfortable”, “felt at home”, “homey”; “polite staff”, “quiet, silent”, etc.
Such characteristics factor into hotel’s positioning strategy and become actual in discourse practices of the hotel business, building a positive image of an object in the mind of the customer.
Verbal interactions in hotel industry are generally realized under discourse practices typical for institutional (status oriented) discourses, where representatives of social groups or institutions engage in communication process by realizing their status-role positions under accepted social institutions. Communication in institutional discourse is rather masked, which separates it from personal discourse. Institutional discourse has a specific pattern and its participants usually have a clear picture of the specifics of genre organization of information and mechanisms of its sharing (Swales, 1990, Zaytseva, & Kositskaya, 2017). However, the degree of conventionality of various types and genres of this discourse differs. There are soft and hard varieties of institutional discourse. Hotel discourse is a part of the soft variety of institutional discourse, as some of its verbiage can vary. Variants that separate one hotel from the others appear against a backdrop of standard communicative practices. Next we shall consider some of the original texts that are functioning in hotel industry, from the points of their discourse specifics and genre identification.
Hotel guide: IBIS is thinking about you…
Interaction of the basic pair of participants of communication is the core of institutional discourse. In the framework of hospitality sphere, we speak of a client (guest) and of a purveyor of services (a member of hotel’s staff or a hotelier). Given that their contacts confined to several typical situations (registration, guest’s check in and out, room cleaning), booklet (guest book) is traditionally used to satisfy client’s requirements. Booklet consists of standard information blocks: phone list, the rules of conduct (usually written as a legal document – “the guest/resident has a right”, “the guest/resident must”), the room’s equipment, fire safety regulations, etc.
The IBIS hotel offers their guests a structured “Hotel Guide”, as opposed to the usual impersonal guidelines. Their guide includes the following blocks: “Your sleep is our priority”, “We will take good care of you”, “Stay connected”, “Trust your taste”. Each of these blocks builds an image of a caring host, with two out of four blocks justly show verbalization of the concept of “care”. The same intention of all-around care that forms positive hoteliers’ image is explicated in typical for this genre promising speech acts – comissives:
Information on dining in the hotel shows the orientation to the client’s requirements, which is reflected in constructions with the semantics of alternative (choice):
“The best is in Novotel” booklet pursues a similar communicative goal of hotel navigation. Novotel’s marketing strategy is built on “attention to details”, which is stated on the first page of their guide:
The texts of Novotel’s guide lack the sense of humor that is present in the IBIS’s texts. At the same time, as well as in IBIS, they are united by the intention to cover every possible requirement of their clients:
The guide’s purpose extends beyond the information on existing options. It also contains recommendations and advices, colored with empathy towards the guests’ strenuous daily schedules:
When comparing texts above to traditional tourist guides, we can see substantial differences. The only thing that links them is the referential information function (ref., e.g., (Pokhomchikova, 2014). Nevertheless, hotel guide deals with a number of marketing tasks: formation of the positive image of a hotel as a subject of hotel service; establishment of informal contact with a client; formation of demand on additional services; regulation of the guest’s conduct under corporate requirements. Essentially, hotel guide provides a certain cognitive scenario of a guest’s stay, modelling their wishes and requirements, as well as their emotional state. It is this scenario of positive hotel experience that forms the genre of guidebooks and booklets addressed to the guest.
Ecological discourse in the hotel interior: “Park Inn by Radisson hotels love our planet”
Western consumers became accustomed to the topic of environmentalism, energy conservation and clear water. This is reflected in messages to clients of western hotels and international hotel chains. Russian hotel industry facilities picked up on this practice and started copying it with various degrees of persuasiveness.
Education and admonition are the main communicative intention of ecological texts. These tasks are solved by clarification of some of non-verbal actions’ meanings to the guest:
Goals of ecological education, based on emotional and rational argumentation, are realized by means of extended metaphor.
Appeals to reason are the basis of persuading argumentation in the message to the Park Inn hotel’s guests. It is presented on a separate card and its title reads: “Every drop matters”.
Ecological social advertising can be mentioned as a genre prototype of such texts. However considered hotel messages are distinguished by persuasive and consecutive self-presentation uncharacteristic to social advertising. Each text has an explication of its own social responsibility:
“Genres of care”: Welcome, would you like some water?
The demand for staff members capable of effective communication with guests in hotel industry is rising all over the globe. A chain of communications that happen during the guest’s stay in the hotel is known as “hospitality language”. This implies that “hospitality language” exists in both oral and written forms. In the last case, we can see different messages meant to make closer contact, even if it is non-personal.
There are certain “unidentified genre objects” functioning in hospitality industry. These are various tablets meant to make a closer, more informal contact with the guest. A hotel service standard is a presence of the tablet for a chambermaid that informs her when she can clean the room without disturbing the guest (see above). Discourse practices of international hotel chains with branches in Russia show a tendency for non-standard composition of such information by including personal intonations (these are marked by the 1st person verb forms and the pronoun
Apart from the door tablets, hotel rooms have other types of messages representing care. E.g. breakfast information is written on a separate tablet
In the Park Inn by Radisson hotel after cleaning the room chambermaid leaves a tablet similar to a calling card:
At the same time “hospitality language” shows traces of other discourses, common to Russian discourse practices in institutional spheres: order, request-prohibition.
The study of new discourse practices in hotel industry can be perceived as a visualization of a well-known in social constructionism statement. According to this statement discourse practices always function in dialectical cooperation with other social practices. The specifics of services in hospitality sphere determine the order of discourse appropriate for this sphere. The task of creating such living conditions that would make a guest feel “at home” conditions the interrelation of institutional and personal discourses. It can be seen in booklet texts, texts of informational materials placed in hotel rooms, and realized through specific “genres of care” that distinguish modern hotel hospitality communication.
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30 April 2018
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
Cite this article as:
Issers, O. S. (2018). “Feel At Home": Discourse Practices In Hotel Business. In & I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 655-663). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2018.04.02.94