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Thehospitality and tourism industry is popularly known&nbspas one ofthe most honorable, exciting, and rewarding sectors in the world. Itoffers numerous employment opportunities, as well as, serves as thebackbone of many local economies. However, this is only achieved whenthe current hospitality managers maintain the integrity of thebusiness and of those who have gone before them. In the past years,there have been growing concerns in the hospitality industry aboutbusiness ethics, as many business manager and employees have beencontinually faced with ethical dilemmas. In the current competitivebusiness environment, there have been increasing cases of corruption,sexual harassment, gender inequality, and employee discrimination,with the aim to meet the competing demands. These ethical dilemmasaffect hospitality employee and consumers and may, therefore, needmuch attention.

Hinkin(2006) points out that many successful businesses have foundthemselves behind bars for their ethical transgressions. For thisreason, ethics is a crucial part of business management and should bea key factor in many business related decisions. Ethics is viewed asa set of moral principles that provide a guideline to morally rightbehaviors. Some common questions that should be put intoconsideration when making an ethical decision by the managementshould help to establish whether a decision is legal, fair, honest,whether it hurts someone, or whether the management can live with it.Various studies emphasize that the management has the ability toaffect an organization’s performance by establishing prioritiesthat direct ethical conducts. For this reason, hospitality managementshould play a major role in confronting ethical issues establish astrong ethical climate in the organization.

Ethicalissues in hospitality management

Justlike in any other industry, ethical issues and dilemmas have beencommon in the hospitality industry. According to Reisinger (2009),the main ethical issues that have direct relevance to the tourism andhospitality industry are gender and racial discrimination, bribery,hiring illegal immigrants, corruption, neglecting the premisesmaintenance, underpaying workers, harming natural resources,providing substandard working conditions, violation of human rights,and sexual harassment among others. These dilemmas affect thereputation of the organization and have major effects on itsrelationships with employees, customers, investors, stakeholders andother parties.

  1. Hiring illegal immigrants

Hiringillegal immigrants is a national business ethical issue that haswidespread impacts and implications. Illegal immigrants coming fromvarious parts of the world enter the country and look for employmentopportunities in jobs such as cleaning, especially the unskilledworkers. It has been observed that hotels, restaurants, and othertourism sectors favor illegal immigrants while hiring because theywork for many hours at a very poor wage rate, which is below theminimum regulated wages so that the organization may make moreprofit. A majority of undocumented immigrants are not only found inrelatively low wage jobs, but they have few employment rights, whichincrease cases of unethical business practices.

Hiringillegal immigrants displaces jobs and is against the law. Thisunethical practice does not only affect the hospitality sector, butalso different sectors and the economy are significantly affected.From a legal and ethical perspective organizations and businesses inthe hospitality industry that accommodate and hire illegal immigrantsviolate the law designed to protect the citizens and the country’sborder. This situation does not only threaten the country’seconomy, but it also makes mockery of homeland security measures.Furthermore, managers who hire illegal immigrants break the law, aswell as, the labor and tax laws.

  1. Employment discrimination

Therehas been increasing cases of employment discrimination in thehospitality industry based on ethnicity, religion, culture, race andgender. More so, discrimination has also been directed to a varietyof different groups of people, which include those with disabilities,gay individual and older people, as well as, those with criminalrecords. However, various groups of people seeking employment in thetourism industry encounter various barriers, which are also viewed asa form of discrimination. The hospitality and tourism industry isdominated by women employees in many countries and is expected toincrease in the future. Reisinger (2009) points out that the industryhas a gendered nature of employment with women adding up to 75% ofthe workforce in the hospitality industry in U.S. On the other hand,those operating in the airlines, targets a specific group of youngpeople, especially beautiful ladies with an ideal body size. This canbe termed as physical discrimination, as it focuses on physicalattractiveness, wherein those employees regarded as more physicallyattractive are viewed as possessing more desirable personal andsocial traits, and are mentally active and healthy.

However,there are various states and federal laws that the hospitalitymanagement should comply with, as they continue with their businessof making daily management decisions. The common and most importantlaw is the Title VV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibitsemployment discrimination based on color, sex, religion, race andnational origin. As a result, when managers are conductinginterviews, or writing a job description they should have a thoroughunderstanding of the Title VII to ensure that discrimination of anysort does not occur. In addition to the law imposed on hiring thehiring process, hospitality managers should understand otheremployment related guideline in Title VII that governs promotion ofspecific employees, deciding whom to receive a raise in pay, anddesigning work schedule among others.

  1. Sexual harassment

Sexualharassment is common in tourism, and it involves any form ofunwelcomed sexual advances, sexual favors and requests, as well as,physical or verbal conducts of sexual nature. Most cases of sexualharassment in the business sector involve complaints by females aboutmale co-workers and superiors. In the recent past, cases of sexualharassment have grown because an increasing number of women havebecome willing to speak out unlike before. Sexual harassment is asignificant part of the hospitality sector because of the largenumber of female workers in the industry. In fact, it is estimatedthat that 90% of the women working in the sector are waitresses,bartenders, cleaners, flight attendants, babysitters, housekeepinghelpers, dry cleaners, travel agency salespersons, and launderersamong others. Furthermore, women working in the reception are themajor victims because of the contested nature of relations betweenreceptionists and guests. Regarding the glamorous role, it has beenobserved that there is a significant amount sexual objectification ofwomen in the tourism sector as they are expected to dress in anattractive way, maintain a slim and ideal body, as well, and showingoff to attract customers.

  1. Human rights violation

UniversalHuman Rights provides the standard and guidance in which, companiesand others that wish to establish a standard for decision makingshould respect employees and the communities where they work. Today,women have become the shadow side of the booming tourism industry, asa result of the gross violation of human rights due to sex tourismand women trafficking. Trafficking of women and migration, both fromwithin developing countries and cross border to service the touristtrade has become common over the past years. However, few tourismservice providers have condemned the increasing cases of sex tourismand actively participated in campaigns that combat this heinous act.

Apartfrom trafficking, employee’s human rights in the hospitalityindustry can be violated through bullying, discrimination,harassment, and mistreatment. Even though some of the employees areafraid to speak out since they fear losing their job, they shouldunderstand that they should not be abused in the workplace becausethey have rights. Although human rights may vary from onejurisdiction to another, they serve the same purpose to protectagainst abuse. With respect to employment, human rights legislationapplies to employer-employee relations, employment agencies, employerorganizations and unions. Managers should away of their work relationwith employee, as well as, understand any form of harassment,bullying or human abuse taking place in the workplace.

  1. Harming natural resources

Althoughtourism is known to attract massive numbers of tourists andcontribute to economic growth, it is directly correlated with thedepletion of natural resources. It has been evident the tourismactivities displace people or increase consumption in areas whereresources are already scarce. As a result, the development of tourismcan put pressure on natural resources. Water, most particularly freshwater, is the most crucial. Tourism and the hospitality industry isknown to overuse water resources for various purposes in golfcourses, swimming pools, hotels, and personal use by tourists. Thisis likely to result to water shortage, as well as, generation ofgreater volumes of waste water. The challenge of water scarcity isnow a major concern especially in dryer regions and places with hotclimate. In addition, tourism can also cause pollution, increase landdegradation and create great pressure on local resources such asfood, raw material, and energy among others. Greater extraction ofthese resources exacerbates the physical impacts associated withexploitation. The tourism management should be aware that althoughtourism provides considerable economic benefit for many countries, itmay bring about a disastrous impact on the environment and localhistory. In case where it is unregulated, tourism can cause somenegative effects are likely to affect the local community, as wellas, the industry itself.

Impactsof ethics in hospitality management

Buildingan ethical reputation among employee, customers and the generalpublic provides benefits that may include, greater employeesatisfaction, ethical decision making, efficiency in dailyoperations, improved customer trust and satisfaction, increasedinvestor willingness to entrust funds, and better financialperformances (Ferrell and Fraedrich, 2010).

  1. Ethical decision making

Thehospitality and tourism sector has grown and become one of thelargest sectors because of the decision made by managers, many ofwhom have been trained in ethical decision making. The increasingnumber of student in universities also indicates that the tourism andhospitality managers of the future will continue with the moraldevelopment practiced in the industry. Given the number of livesimpacted by ethical decision making, the hospitality managers shouldadhere to ethical principles in the decision making process to ensuretheir decisions does not result to negative impacts.

  1. Employee job satisfaction

Anethical climate in an organization, results to employee jobmotivation, satisfaction and a healthy working environment. In fact,low financial performance could be an indication of poor workingconditions, an unethical culture, inadequate compensation, oremployee dissatisfaction. Conversely, employee satisfaction with theethical practices of an organization results to motivation, highretention rate, increased job performance and job motivation. Forthis reason, managers in the industry should play a major role byimplementing ethical actions and maintaining an ethical culture inthe organization.

  1. Company reputation

Companyreputation is a key aspect that any company should be eager toprotect. A company’s ethical practices play a major role as itcreates beliefs that people have about the company, based on theirknowledge and experiences with the company. On the other hand,ethical scandals can seriously damage a company’s reputation andits future. This can be disastrous since the process of rebuildingreputation can take years. For this reason, good ethical practicesbenefit the company through employees, suppliers, customers, andinvestors among others. Managers in hotel and the tourism sectorshould build their reputation by ensuring quality services areprovided for their customers. In addition, building a reputation fordelayed payments, violating labor laws, and bleaching contractsaffect the company’s relations with employees and suppliers.

Ethicalprinciple in hospitality management

Hospitalitymanagement should be centered on ethics, ethical principles, as wellas, ethical practices. Hospitality managers and practitioners oftenhave to apply ethical principles in the decision making process, inorder to result in the best consequences for all parties involved.Ethical challenges occur daily in the hospitality industry and,therefore, hospitality managers should base their beliefs on honesty,integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, fairness, concern and respectfor others, commitment to excellence and leadership (Sommerville,2007). All these ethical principle encourage hospitality managers andemployees to take the interest of other people into account whenmaking ethical decisions, practices justice, uphold truthfulness andhonesty in the organization, as well as, raise the moral standards. Managers and organizations that practice these ethical principleshave longevity in business and are more likely to gain a competitiveadvantage.


Ethicshas garnered the most attention of all aspects in the tourism andhospitality industry. The acceptance of ethical practices in theindustry has taken place through countless communication initiativesand co-operative efforts among others. For this reason, organizationethical practices should have real meaning and the ability to carryout its management tasks based on its vision, mission, and values.Managers have the highest capacity to influence ethics in anorganization. As a result, they should create an ethical environmentby instituting processes, which ensure that the ethical definition isunderstood and advanced by all employees in the organization.Furthermore, employee, customer, and community involvement isessential and, thus, the managers should pay attention to what theythink and perceive. This ensures that the managers are involved inethical leadership, whereby they are able to exploit their socialskills, talents and competencies. This is crucial, as researchershave observed that the hospitality and tourism sector, being one ofthe largest, requires high ethical approaches and perception, as wellas the ability to judge ethical issues than any other industry.


Ferrell,O. C., Fraedrich, J., &amp Ferrell, L. (2010). Businessethics: ethical decision making and cases : 2009 update(7th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Hinkin,T. R. (2006). Casesin hospitality management: a critical incident approach(2nd ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley &amp Sons.

Reisinger,Y. (2009). Internationaltourism cultures and behavior.Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Sommerville,K. L. (2007). HospitalityEmployee Management and Supervision: Concepts and PracticalApplications.Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley.