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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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What makes (im)politeness for travellers? Spanish tourists’ perceptions at national and international hotels

María de la O Hernández López / Lucía Fernández Amaya
Published Online: 2019-06-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2016-0060


Although hotel service encounters have been widely studied, the literature presents two main shortcomings: 1) receptionist-guest communication has not received much attention from a politeness perspective; and 2) the scarcity of studies regarding politeness1 (i. e., the interlocutors’ perception of politeness) has been overshadowed by the vast amount of literature concerning politeness2. Regarding customer perception, understanding what appropriate communicative behaviour is - i. e. whether (non)verbal actions are conducive to variation in terms of customer perception and satisfaction - is crucial to understand service success or failure. In this context, our study examines the opinion and perception of 183 Spanish participants who had stayed at national and international hotels and who assessed, on the one hand, to what extent the receptionists were polite or impolite, and why; and on the other, how communication with customers could improve in terms of politeness. The findings indicate that, despite the participants’ general preference for friendliness and solidarity, the politeness strategies that participants valued as adequate in this context are not necessarily those traditionally related to Peninsular Spanish (i. e. directness and/or involvement). Also, this study shows that what lay people consider politeness encompasses a great number of variables in which linguistic production is but one of them.

Keywords: service encounters; politeness1; receptionist-guest interaction; politeness perceptions; hotel interaction


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About the article

María de la O Hernández López

María de la O Hernández-López (PhD) is a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the Department of Philology and Translation (Pablo de Olavide University, Seville). She holds a PhD in Pragmatics and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Birkbeck College (London). Her research interests focus on cross-cultural and intercultural communication, rapport management in service encounters and pragmatic approaches to mediated communication. She is member of the Research Group Intercultural Pragmatic Studies (English-Spanish): Pragmatic and Discourse Aspects.

Lucía Fernández Amaya

Lucía Fernández-Amaya (PhD.) is a Lecturer in English at the Department of Philology and Translation, Pablo de Olavide University, Seville. She teaches English as a Foreign Language, and Intercultural Competence. Her research interests and publications focus on pragmatics and translation, cross-cultural pragmatics, politeness and the language of service encounters. She is Head of the Research Group Service Encounters, Tourism and Intercultural Communication and member of the Research Group Intercultural Pragmatic Studies (English-Spanish): Pragmatic and Discourse Aspects.

Published Online: 2019-06-26

Published in Print: 2019-07-26

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 195–222, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2016-0060.

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