By: Heng Sopheap (National Institute of Management) .Picture by : Nathan Dexter ( March, 2002 Volume 2 No.3 )

When we think of the hospitality industry, we almost always think of hotels and restaurants. But the term has a much broader meaning. What is hospitality? Ask fifty people to explain this and you are likely to receive fifty different answers receiving guests in a generous and cordial manner, creating a pleasant or sustaining environment, satisfying a guest's needs, anticipating a guest's desires, generating a friendly and safe atmosphere-and the list goes on. Each answer is correct.
Then what is the hospitality industry? Finding one all-encompassing description of hospitality as an industry is also difficult. The hospitality industry comprises of numerous businesses that serve guests who are away from home. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hospitality means "the reception and the entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers with liberality and good will." The word hospitality is derived from Latin noun hospice, which in medieval times was the name of any "house of rest" for travelers and pilgrims. A hospice was also an early form of what we now call a nursing home, and, of course, the word is clearly related to hospital.
Hospitality includes hotels and restaurants. But it also refers to other kinds of institutions that offer shelter or food or both to people away from their homes.

According to the Tourism Industry Department under the Ministry of Tourism, by early 2001 the country had about 250 hotels and 300 guesthouses that could accommodate and provide other services to more than 20,000 guests a night, and the hotel occupancy rate rose in average from 37 per cent in 1995 to 44 per cent in 2000. Nearly 500 large and medium-sized restaurants offering Khmer, European and Chinese foods to customers are available in Phnom Penh, Siemreap, Sihanoukville and other provinces. Tourists in Cambodia are catered to by some 150 registered travel agencies and nearly 600 registered freelance guides. Tourists can enjoy different types of leisure activities such as fishing and bird watching in Tonle Sap area and swimming at the coastal beaches of Sihanoukville, Koh Kong or Kep, plus assorted sporting and recreational activities in Phnom Penh. Each business that provides services to visitors in these areas is also a member of the hospitality industry. Besides visiting sites of historical, cultural and natural value, tourists may enjoy many other activities that constitute entertainment, such as watching television or going to the cinema.

Roads, airports, seaports and water and electricity supplies, as well as telecommunication facilities are improving year by year. These institutions also grapple with the management problems of providing food and shelter-erecting buildings, providing heat, light, and power; cleaning and maintaining the premises and preparing and serving food in a way that pleases the guests. Visitors expect all of these to be managed "with liberality and good will" when they stay in a hotel or dine in a restaurant, but they can also rightfully expect the same standard of service from the catering department in a healthcare facility or from a school lunch program. The hospitality professions all involve making a guest, client, or resident welcome and comfortable and these basic tenets of politeness and hospitality have been practiced by civilizations the world over for thousands of years. The hospitality industry is tied together as a clearly recognizable unit by more than just a common heritage and a commitment to "liberality and good will".