Monthly Archives: February 2022

Family businesses in tourism and hospitality

This is an excerpt from one of my latest papers that was published in the Journal of Family Business Management. A free downloadable version is available here. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356603434_Thriving_family_businesses_in_tourism_and_hospitality_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_relevant_literature


Small and medium sized businesses including family enterprises prevail in their contribution to economic growth and competitiveness of tourist destinations (Getz and Carlsen, 2005; Kallmuenzer and Peters, 2018). Very often, they are resilient entities and proactive forces in terms of innovation, employment and productivity. The family business is the oldest and the most common model of a for-profit organization. Essentially, it is a commercial entity that is usually owned, managed and led by multiple generations of a family members who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. The owners of family firms have the ability to influence the vision of their business and to formulate long term goals. They are usually involved in the organization, leadership and management of their company. However, family firms may also be co-owned by individuals who are not part of the family.

The Global Family Business Index defines a family firm as an entity that is controlled by family as its members hold more than 50% of the voting rights. For a publicly listed firm, a firm is classified as a family business if family members own at least 32% of the voting rights (OECD, 2021). Thus, the vast majority of businesses throughout the world, ranging from small shops to multinational publicly listed organizations who have hundreds of thousands of employees — can be considered family businesses.

In hospitality and tourism, a large number of small enterprises are run by family members (Peters and Kallmuenzer, 2018; Getz and Carlsen, 2005; Getz and Carlsen, 2000) that are operating in various sectors, ranging from hospitality, leisure, recreation and entertainment, among others. Such enterprises are often described as “economic engines” of tourist destinations (Getz, Carlsen and Morrison, 2004; Veloso et al., 2021) and play a critical role in the interface between communities and tourists (Shaw and Williams, 2013).

While there is a wide plethora of literature that explores different businesses including family firms and enterprises, we argue that there is still a gap in the extant academic knowledge about family businesses in tourism and hospitality settings (Arcese et al., 2021; Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Esparza Aguilar, 2019; Kallmuenzer, Tajeddini, Gamage, T.C., (…), Rojas, A. and Schallner, 2021; Rachmawati and Suroso, 2020). Globally, the vast majority of tourism and hospitality businesses comprise small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) (Baggio and Valeri, 2020). These entities are the ‘life blood’ of tourist destinations as many hotels, bed and breakfasts, AirBnBs, restaurants, and small transportation service providers, etc., are usually run by family members in various contexts.

The family business legacy

Several researchers classified different types of family businesses. Very often, they strived in their endeavors to clarify what constitutes a family business. Yet, currently, there is no agreed-upon definition of what a family business is. Experts in the field tend to describe the characteristics of family businesses and discuss about their organizational culture, ownership, leadership, management involvement, strategic control, governance, et cetera (Valeri, 2021; Valeri and Katsoni, 2021). All of these criteria can be considered as very important elements of family firms, depending on where they are, in terms of their lifecycle. Astrachan and Shanker (2003) provided a broad definition on this concept. They argued that family businesses are controlled by members of the family, who have to make decisions regarding their strategic direction.

They were aware that this definition covered a “gamut of possibilities”, ranging from large public companies that are run by descendants of founding family members, to shareholders, board members and low-level employees. In many cases, previous authors contended that firms with the same extent of family involvement were or were not always considering themselves as family businesses, and that their views may change over time. Therefore, there are different definitions for family firms in the academic literature.

Family businesses are business entities that are administered by owner-managers and their relatives. They are different from other companies. Their form of ownership may facilitate their ability to take critical actions quickly and to respond to a changing marketing environment (Mtapuri, Camilleri and Dłużewska, 2021; Peña‐Miranda, Guevara‐Plaza, Fraiz‐Brea & Camilleri, 2021). Family members may usually have closer ties that enable them to come together and do whatever it takes towards a common purpose, to safeguard their family’s health and prosperity. While nonfamily businesses may typically focus on maximizing their financial performance and shareholder value (Camilleri, 2020), family owners are more likely to focus on values like family legacy and reputation.

Many authors argued that a family business involves family members who are exerting their influence or control over the strategic direction of a company. Others discussed about family firm behaviors and shed light on their unique, inseparable, synergistic resources and capabilities arising from family involvement and interactions (Chrisman, Chua and Sharma, 2005; Habbershon, Williams and MacMillan, 2003). For example, Seaman et al. (2017) consider the interactions between family, business and friendship networks. Other authors also advance relevant knowledge on this topic (Valeri, 2016; Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Valeri and Baggio, 2020a; 2020b; 2020c; 2021).

Unlike the corporations’ executives, family members are usually personally as well as professionally involved in their entrepreneurial activities. In this case, there are no boundaries for them. Their relationships with employees are usually characterized by their values of trust, commitment, empathy and transparency as opposed to those held by larger companies. Hence, family firms may not always necessitate formal structures and bureaucratic systems that are prevalent in non-family entities. Family businesses tend to utilize looser control systems, may not rely on procedural hurdles, formal documentation or transactions. Thus, the informal style of family businesses can offer motivating working environments.

Previous research reported that family owner-managers would typically engage in two-way communications with their employees and may usually forge closer relationships with them. This type of enterprise is conspicuous in small organizations where employees are non-unionized, even though they may be expected to engage in varied roles and could be assigned different duties and responsibilities. Such workplaces will usually have low turn-over rates, and still experience fewer industrial disputes and strikes than other businesses.

Conversely, family firms can be dictatorially run by a coercive owner-manager. As a result, employees and family members may have little or no involvement in the running of their business. A typical tension field that may occur in family businesses happens when there is a conflict of interest between the personal needs of the owner–managers and their business. Hence, the business owners’ personal characteristics and attributes may play a key role in the performance of their family firm. Relevant studies on this topic often reported mixed findings on the working environment and organizational culture of family businesses. Some authors noted that while employees of nonfamily businesses seem to enjoy superior employment packages, rewards, employment terms and physical working conditions, the quality of the job environment in small businesses is poorer than what you find in their larger counterparts (Russo and Tencati, 2009).

Chrisman et al. (2005) maintained that two firms with the same extent of family involvement may not necessarily be considered as family businesses; if they lack the intention, vision, familiness, and/or behaviors that truly represent the essence of a family business. They went on to suggest that family firms exist because of the reciprocal economic and non-economic value that is cocreated through the combination of family and business systems. On the other hand, there may be problems arising from close kinship, ownership and management transfers, that may ultimately result in inefficiencies, conflicting intentions and behaviors that could limit the ability of family businesses to create or maintain distinctive familiness (Miller, Steier and Le Breton-Miller, 2003; Steier, 2001, 2003; Stewart, 2003).

For instance, certain family members may want to exert control over their firm in ways that would nullify the value of existing competences and capabilities. Their behaviors could slow down or prevent the development of their organization. The extent to which a firm may be considered as a family business could be determined by the family members’ involvement in influencing the leadership decision in their business (Chrisman et al., 2005; Astrachan, Klein and Smyrnios, 2002). It is important to clearly distinguish the differences between family and nonfamily businesses and to subdivide them into various categories. For example, family businesses can be categorized by their size.

Like other SMEs, small family firms may have limited access to resources including financial capital and human capabilities.  The very size of their businesses may create a special condition, which is often referred to as `resource poverty’ (O’Cass and Weerawardena, 2009). SMEs and family businesses tend to find themselves in an equity gap, where it is very difficult to acquire finance to operate efficiently (Camilleri, 2018). Although banks are key providers of finance through the provision of loans, the availability of unsecured bank finance to these businesses is usually very limited.

The growth of small family enterprises remains severely restricted, particularly if they cannot provide additional securities or collaterals for their investments. Even small businesses with high growth potential may experience difficulties in raising relatively modest amounts of risk capital. Moreover, external forces and potential threats from the marketing environment could have more devastating effects on family businesses than on other companies. For instance, changes in government regulations, tax laws, labor legislation and interest rates may usually affect a greater percentage of expenses in smaller family businesses than they do for other organizations (Brune, Thomsen and Watrin, 2019).

Family-owned businesses may evolve over time as their ownership may be transferred from founder-members to their relatives (Peters, Raich, Märk and Pichler, 2012). Various forms of succession may result in different ownership structures, revised duties and responsibilities of employees of family businesses. The descendants of unrelated founders can find themselves owning and managing their company and may even sit in the same board. In this case, there will be two or more families who have a stake in the business. However, just one of them will be in control (i.e. the largest shareholder) (Astrachan et al., 2002).

For instance, Hoshi Ryokan, Komatsu is one of the oldest hotels in the world. This property has been owned and managed by the Hoshi family in the past centuries. Other popular family businesses in the hospitality sector include Gmachl in Salzburg and Hotel Sacher in Vienna (Austria); Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong (China); Bristol Hotel in Paris (France); Villa D’Este in Como, Italy; Baur-au-Lac in Zurich, Switzerland; Goring Hotel in London, West Lodge Park in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire (UK) and Seaside hotel Kennebunk in Maine (USA), among others.

The development of family firms in tourism and hospitality

Tourism and hospitality family businesses are characterized by their specific ownership, leadership and organization as well as by their stakeholder relationships, that differentiate them from nonfamily companies (Engeset, 2020; Martínez, Stöhr and Quiroga, 2007; Rosalin et al., 2016; Kumar et al., 2021). Notwithstanding, there are various variables that could enable or disable family firms of different types and sizes, to generate and sustain new business development in the long term (Peters and Kallmuenzer, 2018).

The owners of tourism family firms may try to balance their business objectives with those of their family’s interests (Getz and Carlsen, 2005). Other research indicated that the objectives of such family businesses are different than nonfamily-run companies. The former businesses are usually influenced by family issues and lifestyle objectives. While Getz and Carlsen (2000) found that the majority of businesses considered family goals as more important than their business goals; Andersson, Carlsen and Getz (2002) argued that tourism family businesses ought to operate in a profitable manner, if they want to support their family members, and to maintain a decent quality of life. Their thriving businesses could enable them to create a family legacy and to pass on their company to the next generation (Andersson et al., 2002). Again, this cannot be achieved unless it is financially successful (Erdogan, Rondi, De Massis, 2020; Williams, Pieper, Kellermanns & Astrachan, 2018).

Small family-run businesses may be expected to provide employment opportunities to family members. Hence, they are not always recruiting the most qualified employees for the job. This may result in conflicts among employees (Miller et al., 2003; Peters and Buhalis, 2004). Conversely, multinational corporations are capable of attracting the best candidates for the job. They are usually in a better position to lure investors as well as venture capitalists’ funds. On the other hand, family business owners may be reluctant to accept financial injections from external investors, for fear of losing control over their business. The personal qualities, traits and attributes of the business owners can have significant effects on the long-term prospects of the companies they lead and manage (Hallak, Assaker and Connor, 2014).

Family firms are not always in a position to raise their margins and to allocate financial resources for research and development and toward market research, product development, skills or creativity enhancement (Pikkemaat and Zehrer 2016). Very often, they are not benefiting from economies of scale that are afforded by bigger businesses. Moreover, they may be reluctant to cooperate and forge alliances with other businesses, including with competitors to gain economies of scope, that could enable them to improve their services. Many academic researchers argued that family firms ought to value long-term cooperation and social networking within the communities where they operate their business (Pikkemaat and Zehrer 2016; Camisón et al., 2016). Their networking (Baggio and Valeri, 2020) and innovation management processes (Kallmuenzer, 2018; Vrontis et al., 2016) are often driven by local community needs and by their orientations towards sustainable tourism development (Baggio and Valeri, 2020; Camilleri, 2014; Ismail et al., 2019; Kallmuenzer et al., 2018).

Family members may not possess the networking skills to develop fruitful relationships with corporate stakeholders (Arcese et al., 2020; Camilleri, 2016; Troise & Camilleri, 2021) and/or may lack adequate knowledge to formulate appropriate business strategies for their company (Pikkemaat and Zehrer, 2016).  Their businesses are expected to continuously innovate to guarantee their survival and to improve their performance in the long term (Elmo et al., 2020). In a similar vein, Rachmawati et al., (2020) pointed out that family entrepreneurs need to be more innovative and take risks so that they can compete in the global scenario. They suggested that their internationalization prospects may help their business to improve their reputation in order to enhance their bottom lines, whilst satisfying their families’ interests. Other authors contended that they have to identify innovation opportunities (Arcese et al., 2020; Giacosa et al., 2017; López-Chávez et al., 2021; Valeri et al., 2020) whilst defending their values and traditions in order to guarantee that their family business legacy transcends from one generation to the next (Obermayer et al., 2021; Santos et al., 2021c).

Succession issues may affect the form of ownership structures of tourism family enterprises as well as their governance, leadership, management and strategies. Elmo et al. (2020) maintained that the innovation process is likely to occur after succession periods when there are changes in the ownership of family businesses. They went on to suggest that successors (i.e. incoming owner-managers) of family firms may represent new opportunities, resources, and sources of knowledge and information for them. Other authors delved into family succession matters (Kallmuenzer et al., 2021; Ollenburg and Buckley, 2011; Prevolsek et al., 2017; Steier, 2001). In the main, these commentators recognized that succession remains a contentious issue that may either result in positive outcomes or in negative repercussions that can ultimately hinder the growth and development of family businesses (Miller, 2003; Peters et al., 2012).

Conclusions

There are a number of internal and external factors that can affect tourism and hospitality family businesses long-term prospects (Camilleri, 2017; Camilleri, 2021a; Giousmpasoglou, 2019; Zapalska and Brozik, 2013; Santos et al., 2021a; 2021b), their business development, sustainable development and innovation capabilities (Mtapuri et al., 2021, Peña‐Miranda et al., 2021). This contribution suggests that family firms differentiate themselves from nonfamily businesses as they consider other important values in addition to profit, including family legacy, trust, commitment and reputation. It explained that it is in their interest to engage with different stakeholders (including competitors) (Camilleri, 2019) to benefit from synergistic resources and capabilities, to increase their economies of scale and scope, to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.

Currently, many businesses are still feeling the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (Albattat et al., 2020; Camilleri, 2021b; Chemli et al., 2020; Toanoglou et al., 2021).  During this crisis, family enterprises and other companies, faced serious liquidity shortages and became cash strapped after they experienced a considerable decline in their business activities. In many cases, they were resilient as they reinforced their purpose and values to ensure that their business remains intact. Generally, they strived in their endeavors to safeguard their financial and emotional investments, to preserve their legacy. Those family owner managers that have better adapted to the pandemic and who are still operating their tourism or hospitality business are better prepared for economic growth and development in the post-pandemic context.

Limitations

Although this systematic review has carefully considered rigorous articles and reviews that are focused on the development of family businesses in tourism and hospitality, there is scope to investigate different forms of family hotels and family restaurants in more depth and breadth, in terms of their sizes, types of ownership, succession issues, organizational cultures, access to financial resources, et cetera. Future studies can explore the differences between family enterprises and SMEs within the tourism and hospitality industries, in various contexts.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Valeri, M. (2021). Thriving family businesses in tourism and hospitality: A systematic review and a synthesis of the relevant literature. Journal of Family Business Management,  https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JFBM-10-2021-0133

A full paper can be downloaded here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356603434_Thriving_family_businesses_in_tourism_and_hospitality_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_relevant_literature

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