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The Role of Children in Tourism and Hospitality Family Entrepreneurship

Centre for Children and Young People, Faculty of Health, Southern Cross University, Coolangatta 4225, Australia
School of Hospitality and Tourism, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12801;
Received: 12 October 2021 / Revised: 10 November 2021 / Accepted: 16 November 2021 / Published: 19 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Insights into Families in Tourism)


This paper reports on a systematic scoping review of peer-reviewed academic literature in the areas of tourism and hospitality family entrepreneurship. Specifically, it explored how and to what extent existing literature paid attention to the roles of children and how children are constructed, including whether their voices and lived experiences are reflected in the studies. The Extension for Scoping Reviews’ approach (PRISMA-ScR) was used to identify appropriate articles included in the review. Findings suggest there is limited research focused, specifically, on the role of children in tourism and hospitality family entrepreneurship. Children are often referred to, in passing, as family helpers, beneficiaries of inheritance, and as recipients of intergenerational knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. The original contribution of this paper lies in highlighting the dearth of research focused on children’s roles, as economic and social actors, in tourism and hospitality, as well as proposing a child-inclusive approach to conceptualising tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship. This is part of a broader social justice agenda, which is critical in tourism and hospitality research, policy, and planning to privilege children’s rights, their participation, and wellbeing.

1. Introduction

Families with dependent children represent a significant proportion of the world’s population. Children and families form the most important emotional bonds in human society, and it is these social relationships that, in part, drive demand and supply in tourism. In recent years, there has been increasing focus on ‘the tourist’ and experiences of children, families, and intergenerational wellbeing, e.g., [1,2,3]. However, the bulk of research has ignored the family-related dimensions of tourism businesses [4]. The role of children, especially, is missing in tourism entrepreneurship debates [5]. Nonetheless, entrepreneurship scholars have studied the role of the family in entrepreneurial activities e.g., [6]. Some entrepreneurship scholars recognized the unique characteristics of family firms and developed the concept of family entrepreneurship to explore the role that a family plays in family businesses, e.g., [7,8,9,10]. Although tourism research has analysed entrepreneurship and family businesses in tourism [4], the role that the family plays in tourism and hospitality businesses has remained limited.
Family entrepreneurship in tourism/hospitality is defined as the interaction of the family system within a tourism/hospitality business. For example, researchers found different types of family relationships are affecting the firm performance. Adjei et al. [11] found that the relationship between the entrepreneur and their children is the main factor in the context of firm performance. Additionally, Bakas [5] emphasises that children play an important economic role in tourism, becoming socialised and educated into the role of entrepreneurs by their parents. However, what is lacking in the family entrepreneurship literature in tourism and hospitality is the way in which children influence the entrepreneurship discourse. Children are generally viewed as vulnerable and in need of protection and hence, they are often gate-kept out of research. However, this reflects a narrow, developmentally-determined approach to understanding children’s capability, which ignores the important economic and social role they can play in family businesses [12,13].
This systematic scoping review seeks to extend that discourse to a wider understanding of what children mean to tourism and hospitality from a family entrepreneurship perspective on a global scale. Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as ‘a person under the age of 18 years’ [14], in this review article, we take a broader definition in line with how each article refers to children. The original contribution of this paper lies in highlighting the dearth of research focused on children’s roles as economic and social actors, in tourism and hospitality, as well as proposing a child-inclusive approach to conceptualising tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship. This is part of a broader social justice agenda which we believe is critical in tourism and hospitality research, policy, and planning to privilege children’s rights, their participation, and wellbeing.

2. Literature Review

While generally, in non-family businesses, the business and family domains are distinct, the unique characteristic of family businesses is that family members, including children, work together for economic purposes. In other words, ‘the family is not merely a social unit but also an economic unit (p. 13)’ [15]. As such, family practices and relations between family members, including children, are often performed in the public domain [16,17]. Literature in this space has increasingly taken a gendered lens by focusing on women entrepreneurs in rural areas, including tourism and home-based businesses or ‘side-activities’ [18]. However, the role of children within these women-run or family businesses is largely missing in tourism and hospitality research.
In family tourism research the parent-child or spousal dyads, alongside parental/maternal perspectives, have dominated [19]. Relatively few studies have explored family holidays ‘through the eyes of a child’ [3]. Small [20] argues the perceived passivity of the child in decision making and, consequently, the child’s low economic value to the tourism industry, is the most likely reason for this lack of research. This has led to an absence of childhood in tourism research [20,21], and up until recently, children’s views and opinions have been filtered by adults [12,22]. In a similar vein, while hospitality studies have begun to pay greater attention to children, highlighting their role as sovereign consumers, e.g., [23,24], they are still treated as passive objects (a notable exception is [25]). However, the notion of the child as a passive object is an increasingly dated one within the social sciences in general, and specifically in the field of childhood studies, where a paradigmatic shift has seen children recognised as active social agents, e.g., [26,27].
Whilst there are methodological and ethical issues to consider when doing research with child participants in tourism and hospitality [28,29], social science researchers have been involving children in research for decades. This focus on the child has not been carried over into the tourism/hospitality field. Although recent research activities are becoming more inclusive of children as tourism and hospitality consumers, e.g., [21,25,30,31], there is still a lack of research on children as tourism/hospitality suppliers. A recent systemic review into host-children revealed that, apart from limited research into child sex workers, other issues related to children as workers have been neglected [32]. This lack of research extends more broadly to children in host communities or those who live and work in tourist destinations [33,34].
The exclusion of children is likely connected to pervasive ‘protectionist’ approaches to child labour discourses and the stigma that currently surrounds children’s work. The term ‘child labour’ is, in and of itself, problematic given it has emerged to refer prevalently to exploitative and hazardous work that interferes with a child’s development and education [35]. This is compounded by the way global reporting systems conflate estimates of children working within the family unit and in microenterprises with work that ‘by its nature or circumstances, is likely to harm children’s health, safety or morals (p. 18)’ [36]. The latest global estimates from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for example, show that 160 million children were in ‘child labour’ at the beginning of 2020, and 79 million of those children were involved in dangerous work, albeit no mention of tourism or hospitality is made [36]. These protectionist discourses fail to recognise that children’s labour has been critical to economies historically (for example in Africa) and that scholars have tended to treat child workers as invisible [37].
While international human rights treaties, such as the UNCRC, seek to protect children from harm, child labour discourses seem to be solely focused on the exploitative and dangerous aspects of some forms of work with little recognition of children’s agency and their right to contribute to and support their families [38,39]. Article 32 of the UNCRC stipulates that State Parties must recognise ‘the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health of physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development’ [14]. While the ILO calls for the abolition of child labour [36] and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 seeks to eradicate ‘child labour in all its forms’ by 2025, little attention has been given to children’s own interpretation of work, particularly within the family, whether through formal or informal employment in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Studies that have collected children’s views of their involvement in family labour have often emphasised the positive economic, social, and emotional contribution they make to the family unit and the broader community despite the stigma often associated with such work [40,41].
Josefsson and Wall [42] argue that, against the backdrop of global policymaking, which is advocating for the elimination of child labour, some child advocates, and children themselves, have led grassroots movements to argue for children’s rights to contribute to their families, particularly in cases of extreme poverty in countries in the Global South. The African Movement of Working Children and Youth (AMWCY) is one of many emerging grassroots movements that have been formed by children themselves, NGOs, and child advocates to argue for a culturally specific interpretation of children’s working rights. Terenzio [43] argues this movement ‘tries to encourage children to appropriate their rights by rebuilding them through their own experience (p. 69).’ Child and youth labour unions have, in some cases, been successful in lobbying for child rights to work including fair wages, limited working hours, legislation against exploitation, and recognition of their worth and dignity [41,42,44]. This is in line with scholarly developments which point to the decolonisation of childhood itself, moving away from universal understandings of childhood that fail to reflect the diversity of children’s experiences across familial, social, and cultural contexts including within and across minority and majority world contexts [45,46].
Given the complexity of the issues surrounding child labour and the prevalent ‘protectionist’ views of children involved in the tourism and hospitality industry as suppliers [47], the discussion presented in this paper focuses primarily on children in tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship to ascertain whether children’s own views of their work in the family business have been explored in the literature.
This paper aims to systematically review scholarship by addressing three main research questions: (a) How, and to what extent has existing literature paid attention to the role of children in tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship?; (b) What is the scope of this existing scholarship in terms of themes, theoretical approaches, and geographical locations?; (c) How are children constructed and to what extent are their voices and lived experiences reflected in these studies? The outcomes of this systematic scoping review are to identify patterns and knowledge gaps, as well as propose directions for future research on the role of children in tourism family entrepreneurship as part of a social justice agenda.

3. Methodology

To explore academic scholarship at the intersection of family entrepreneurship, tourism/hospitality, and childhood, we employed a systematic scoping review methodology. Scoping reviews are particularly helpful when mapping relevant literature at the intersection of multiple fields of research and identifying future research priorities [48]. We employed the Extension for Scoping Reviews’ approach (PRISMA-ScR) (Based on the Moher et al.’s (2009) Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA)) to identify appropriate articles to include in our review [49]. Following our previous work with this methodological approach, we approached the scoping review in a systematic, replicable, and transparent way, including the following steps: (1) developed a well-defined review question; (2) identified relevant databases to search; (3) identified relevant articles; (4) selected studies for inclusion in the analysis phase; (5) finally analysed and synthetised the information.
In Phase 1, we defined the main review questions we wanted to address: (1) What is the role of children in tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship? (2) How are the children in these studies constructed? (3) To what extent are their voices and lived experiences reflected?
In Phase 2, we developed our search protocol which was guided by a university librarian specialised in systematic literature reviews. In the first instance, a series of keyword combinations (n = 25) were tested to explore the most appropriate way of sourcing studies which addressed our review questions. The inclusion of the word ‘labour’ or ‘labor’, for example, was problematic, as articles tended to address child labour and human rights issues rather than family entrepreneurship per se see, for example [50]. It was thus excluded from the search, however seminal articles which focused on the emotional labour of children in tourism and hospitality businesses were included manually in our sample [16,17]. Likewise, the inclusion of composite words such as ‘family-owned’ or ‘family-based’ was not deemed necessary as these keywords were picked up individually.
Our final search protocol included all peer-reviewed, scholarly articles published until 26 March 2021 (when the search was performed), which included the keywords: (“famil*” OR “family owned” OR “family based”) AND (“entrepreneur*” OR “business*” OR “enterprise*” OR “work”) AND (“tourism” OR “hospitality”) in the abstract or title of the manuscript and the keywords: (“child*” OR “young” OR “youth”) in the body of manuscript. The databases included Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, Hospitality & Tourism contained in EBSCO and Emerald. To search the Emerald database, it was necessary to simplify the keywords searched, hence the Boolean search included: abstract:”family” AND (abstract:”entrepreneur*”) AND (abstract:”tourism” OR “hospitality”) AND (“business”) AND (“child*” OR “young” OR “youth”). Only studies with empirical evidence were included in the analysis.
In Phase 3, we searched the databases, which produced 193 records in EBSCO and 65 in Emerald. These studies were exported to EndNote, a reference and bibliographies management software. After removing duplicates, 232 records were screened. In the first instance, the titles and abstracts of the 232 were assessed for eligibility against our inclusion criteria. In this phase, 181 records were excluded as not in scope (see Figure 1). Often, systematic database searches capture irrelevant articles, which can be excluded simply by reviewing titles and abstracts, see [51].
In Phase 4, the full text articles of the remaining 51 articles were accessed and screened for eligibility, and a further 43 articles were excluded as they did not specifically focus on the role of children in tourism and/or hospitality entrepreneurship. An example is the Ilberi et al. [52] study, which discusses the family status of entrepreneurs (e.g., couples with children) but does not engage with the role of children in supporting the family business, see also [53]. The Tan et al. [54] study, in contrast, addresses the nurturing of transgenerational entrepreneurship in ethnic Chinese small, and medium-sized, family enterprises. However, it does not specify whether this is in the context of tourism or hospitality. Likewise, the study by El-Far and Sabella [55] is interesting as it problematises the dominant conceptualisation of entrepreneurship by demonstrating how marginalised Palestinian women and their children engage in informal entrepreneurial activities (e.g., street vending) as a form of empowerment and resistance to economic adversity, social marginalisation, and political (colonial) domination. However, the article does not discuss whether this is situated in the context of tourism. At this stage, seminal articles that were missed during the systematic database search were also included manually (n = 2).
In Phase 5, the identified articles (n = 10) were analysed using thematic qualitative analysis. In the first instance, the bibliographic details of the studies were exported in an Excel spreadsheet (e.g., authors, title, abstract, keywords, publishing journal). Once the study was analysed, emergent themes were included in the Excel database including, for example, the focus of the study: the role of children in the family enterprise, theories and methods employed, and location of the study. These themes were discussed among the research team at regular project meetings to make sure the analysis was accurate. The thematic analysis is discussed in the following findings section and synthetised in Table 1.

4. Results

The systematic scoping review employed in this paper revealed that the intersection of family entrepreneurship, tourism/hospitality, and childhood is an under-researched area of enquiry. Only nine studies were considered in scope and progressed to the analysis phase, highlighting how the important role that children play in family-owned businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry is often overlooked and scarcely researched. The articles sourced in our analysis were all empirical, and the majority employed qualitative methods, such as ethnography, participant observation [5], and qualitative interviews [15,18,56,57]. The remaining three articles employed a mixed method approach with survey questionnaires and interviews [58,59,60]. The country distribution of the studies, in the sample shown in Figure 2, reveals that, apart from one study in China, the other studies are based in either Europe or Oceania.
The articles were framed predominantly within the business and entrepreneurship literature and often employed conceptual and theoretical models, such as the family business development model [58], entrepreneurship theory [15], and behavioural or lifestyle theories [15,18]. Some studies discussed family labour literature [57], resilience and leadership [56], and poverty alleviation, as well as social and occupational mobility [59,60]. Notable exceptions to the prevalent business and managerial focus of these studies were the studies by Bakas [5] and Seymour [16,17]. The former employed critical feminism and a feminist economics lens to explore the gendered parental entrepreneurial roles of Greek women and the role played by their children in supporting the family-owned business in the tourism/hospitality sector. The latter employed critical hospitality studies, performance theory, emotional labour, and the sociology of childhood to explore how families, including children, are on display and ‘perform’ hospitality in the UK.
The thematic analysis revealed several ways in which children are conceptualised in the tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship literature, which are discussed in more depth in the following section: children as family helpers, children as inheritance, children as learners, and children as social agents. Table 1 summarises the focus of each article in relation to our research questions: (1) what is the role of children in tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship? (2) How are the children in these studies constructed and to what extent have their voices been reflected in these studies?

4.1. Children as Family Helpers

‘Children as helpers’ in family-owned tourism and hospitality businesses was the main theme that emerged from the articles analysed. Most studies described children’s role in the family business in fleeting statements while discussing the compatibility of tourism and hospitality entrepreneurship with family life and childcare duties. The study by Basu [15] focuses on the business aspirations of immigrant entrepreneurs from five ethnic minority communities in the United Kingdom, discussing how the particular family life cycle stage and the aspirations of entrepreneurs play an important role in the way motivations and goals are set. There is, however, only minor mention of children employed in the family business and no indication of their age, nor inclusion in the research.
Likewise, studies by Bosworth and Wilson-Youlden [18] and Wilson [58] both mention children in passing while discussing the gendered role of women entrepreneurs in family farm stay businesses. Both studies discuss how life-style choices and childcare duties are important considerations in the motivations of women entrepreneurs in farm tourism. Bosworth and Wilson-Youlden [18] employ entrepreneurial orientation theory, and the theory of lifestyle entrepreneurship, to argue that farm tourism creates new opportunities for women’s empowerment through farm-based hospitality in Northeast England. Children’s role in the family business is only mentioned in one of the women’s interviews: “my children can take a booking” [18] (p. 134).
Wilson’s [58] study on family-owned farm stay businesses in Northern Ireland, employs the family business development model to argue that, unlike other small family tourism businesses, lifestyle motivations take precedence over business growth in farm stay businesses. Wilson [58] discusses how the involvement of children from a young age is unique to this form of tourism and hospitality enterprises. The author argues that children’s role in the family business is largely informal and for ‘fun’ in the early years (e.g., looking after and feeding animals), and then, it slowly progresses into paid seasonal work in later years.
In the articles by Strickland [57] and Zhao [60], children are also seen as helpers in the tourism family business. However, the discussion is approached from a different angle and in reference, specifically, to family labour, poverty alleviation, and the unpaid nature of children’s labour. Strickland’s [57] study discusses the operation of ethnic restaurants in regional Victoria in Australia, with a particular focus on the potential benefits of employing family members in terms of labour cost reduction. The author argues that employing family members, like children, is a financially viable solution for small family businesses in the hospitality sector, where labour cost is the most significant challenge. The family labour that children performed in this study is seen as important in reducing wage expenditures. Children are thus often paid lower than award rates, or not paid at all, for the family business to remain financially viable.
Similarly, the study by Zhao [60] discusses children’s roles as helpers involved in unpaid family labour. In the context of pro-poor tourism development, the article examines the economic effects of small tourism businesses in rural Guangxi, China. Considering the lack of research on entrepreneurship in the Global South, the article raises interesting conceptualisations of children as working for the ‘family rather than themselves’ and the financial success of the family business [60] (p. 176). Nevertheless, the role of children is discussed in passing while referring to other members of the family, and children are not included in the sample.
Finally, the study by Bakas [5] is unique in that it discusses both the social reproductive tasks (i.e., household chores) and productive tasks (i.e., replacement entrepreneurs) that children engage with in family-owned businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector in Greece. As such, it will be discussed in more depth in the section on ‘children as economic actors’.

4.2. Children as Inheritance

Seminal work in tourism family entrepreneurship demonstrates that only a small minority of family-owned businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector are inherited by children [4,61]. Getz and Carlsen [4] (p. 239) argue that these ventures rarely endure ‘through a complete lifecycle’ and they often fail or are sold rather than inherited. This is consistent with our analysis, which only identified two studies focused on inheritance issues and children’s role as inheriting entrepreneurs. In the study by Wilson [58] issues of succession are discussed in relation to farm tourism businesses and the legacy that the land represents for the next generation. Empirical evidence from this study, based in Northern Ireland, shows, however, that there was a small chance of succession or ‘passing on the baton’ [58] (p. 365). Children were generally happy to help out when they were young but were not keen to take on the family business in adulthood.
In contrast, the study by Zagkotsi [59] (p. 191) focuses on the notion of ‘intergenerational professional heredity’ to underline its importance in the achievement of upward social and occupational mobility among Greek tourism and hospitality family businesses. Children are mentioned, in this study, as recipients of the professional skills and knowledge needed to run the business in the future. Zagkotsi [59] argues that children are involved in the family business from a young age as helpers and then, subsequently, become partners when they are older and start their own families. Families living in tourism destinations thus build ‘an intergenerational tradition of professional occupation’ (p. 200), a phenomenon which, over the years, and across different generations, results in an improved professional and social status of the family members.
These very different conclusions from empirical insights from Northern Ireland and Greece might suggest that inheritance issues and professional heredity are considerations that vary across cultural, social, and economic contexts.

4.3. Children as Learners

Connected to professional heredity is the issue of intergenerational learning and conceptualisations of children as ‘learners’. Like Zagkotsi’s [59] study, evidence from Greece suggests that entrepreneurial skills are passed down by parents to their children from a young age, who, in turn, become young entrepreneurs and economic actors in the productive economy of the family tourism/hospitality business [5]. Bakas [5] argues that parents take on a dual role as ‘entrepreneurs’ operating for profit and as ‘educators’ transferring valuable skills and insights to the next generation of family entrepreneurs.
Intergenerational learning was also a theme in a study based in New Zealand. Kawharu, Tapsell, and Woods [56] explore the connection between resilience, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, from an indigenous perspective, by analysing the leadership roles at a micro kin family level through a tourism business and at a macro kin tribal level through urban land development. Children are referred to in the first case study which explores a small family-based entrepreneurial business offering ‘village experiences’ at Ohinemutu in Rotorua. The authors argue that the historical context in which children were socialised in the 1970s, through direct contact with tourists visiting their village, was a learning experience they carried in future entrepreneurship endeavours. Posing for cameras and performing songs in the villages not only provided pocket money for the children but also provided a stage for ‘young budding entrepreneurs’ to test their ‘hosting/opportunity-making/innovation ideas on visitors’ through the principle of ‘manaaki’ (Manaaki means support or hospitality according to the Māori dictionary) [56] (p. 30). These entrepreneurial skills would often serve young people well by providing opportunities to travel, gain experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, and then return and set up family-based businesses, which, in turn, would revitalise and bring prosperity to their communities.

4.4. Children as Social Agents

4.4.1. Economic Actors

It is apparent from the studies discussed so far that children are constructed as helpers, inheritance, and learners but seldom as active social agents in tourism and hospitality family businesses. So far, studies have not included children in research samples and, in fact, only three studies in our sample view children as social agents able to contribute to family-based enterprises in the tourism and hospitality sector. As mentioned, the study by Bakas [5] is unique as it takes a critical feminist economics lens to explore the gendered entrepreneurial roles of women in the hospitality sector in Greece. Although it is not clear whether children were directly interviewed during the research, Bakas [5] provides an interesting account of the roles played by children in supporting family-owned businesses. The author explains how initially children attend to ‘social reproductive tasks’ (p. 220), such as helping with household chores, when mothers are busy with entrepreneurial activities. Subsequently, and as they grow older, children take on the role of ‘replacement’ entrepreneurs during the summer season, learning important entrepreneurial skills.
Bakas [5] challenges prevalent assumptions connected to child labour, which depict children as victims and in need of protection from exploitative work practices. The author argues that while child labour may be detrimental in situations where children are prevented from achieving important educational goals, in Greece, the seasonal nature of tourism activities is such that children are able to work in the family business during the extended school holidays over the summer season. While Bakas [5] focuses on the gendered role of women entrepreneurs that has its roots in Greek social and politico economic structures, she conceptualises children as ‘economic actors’ who ‘actively shape the gendered entrepreneurial landscape by choosing to help within the family business or not (p. 221)’.

4.4.2. Involved in Emotional Labour

Studies by Seymour [16,17] were included, manually, in our sample, given that they were not picked up by the systematic database search but are particularly relevant to our analysis of children’s roles in tourism/hospitality family entrepreneurship. The studies are based on empirical evidence in the hospitality sector in the UK, from a longitudinal perspective, with data collected from adult entrepreneurs as well as some of their children. The inclusion of children through informed consent in interviews with other family members is significant, given that no other study in our sample has directly engaged children in the research process. While the 2015 study focuses more on the performance roles of families and children on display in hotels, pubs, and boarding houses, the 2005 study makes a clear link to the perspectives and voices of children’s emotional labour in family-run hospitality businesses. Seymour [17] argues that children’s emotional labour involved either ‘falsely putting on a friendly face in front of guests or, conversely, toning down ‘bad’ emotions so as not to be overheard by customers (p. 93).’ Children’s own interview excerpts describe how they enjoy the social interactions with visitors, making friends with other children on holiday, and generally being around to entertain and be entertained by visitors. Seymour [17] argues that children’s social interactions with guests were seen as a ‘requirement’ in situations where the family business was also their home.
Seymour [17] depicts children as active social agents who significantly contribute to the family business through emotional labour and household labour. In so doing, the author describes how children resist and ‘subvert’ their performance, choosing how they interact with guests and the frequency of such interactions. Children often take initiative in employing emotional and physical labour to their advantage (e.g., receiving pocket money from carrying guests’ bags or receiving gifts from guests). Drawing on childhood studies, Seymour conceptualises children as active agents in negotiating the degrees of emotional labour on display in the family-owned hospitality business and the important roles they play in the success of these ventures. Ultimately, children are not viewed just as future adults but as contributors to family entrepreneurship in the present, moving away from more protectionist views of child labour.

5. Discussion & Conclusions

This paper reports on a systematic scoping review of peer-reviewed academic literature in the areas of tourism and hospitality family entrepreneurship. Specifically, it explored how, and to what extent, existing literature paid attention to the roles of children and how children are constructed in this literature, including whether their voices and lived experiences are reflected in the studies. This review paper directly contributes to one of the themes of this Special Issue by exploring the ‘silent voices’ within family entrepreneurship in tourism and hospitality as part of a broader social justice agenda to promote children’s rights, their participation, and wellbeing in the tourism industry. As such, it provides new insights into children and families in tourism/hospitality, from a supply side perspective, and highlights previously understudied aspects of tourism. By doing so, it seeks to challenge researchers to consider a more comprehensive view of family entrepreneurship, one that includes the voices of children.
Findings of the review suggest there is limited research focused, specifically, on the role of children in tourism and hospitality family entrepreneurship. Children are often referred to in passing as family helpers, beneficiaries of inheritance, and as recipients of intergenerational knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. These studies do not include children in research samples and approach family entrepreneurship from an adult-centric or ‘adultist’ perspective, see, for example, [15,18,56,57,58,59,60]. Wall [62] argues that ‘adultism’ is a deeply ingrained and pervasive lens, or prism, from which we view the world and social realities. While social research has challenged normative assumptions and promoted diverse and intersectional ways of conceptualising reality (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, class, and sexuality), ‘youth’ has rarely been considered as one of these social dimensions from which to view and critique reality [33,62].
In the sample of studies analysed in this review paper, children are viewed and constructed as ‘objects’ and recipients of skills, knowledge, and inheritance, while neglecting to focus on children’s own interpretation of reality and lived experiences of family entrepreneurship in tourism and hospitality. Much progress has been made to meaningfully include children’s perspectives and voices when it comes to the demand side of tourism e.g., [3,25,30,63]. However, Gram’s [21] critique of children’s passivity still rings true when it comes to the supply side of tourism and hospitality, including family entrepreneurship. Only limited scholarship has focused specifically on the role of children as active social ‘agents’ who contribute to the family business through household labour [5] and emotional labour, often subverting and resisting their roles in interactions with guests [16,17].
The neglect of children’s lived experiences of tourism and hospitality family entrepreneurship is likely connected to ‘protectionist’ views of child labour and the stigma currently associated with working children. This is part of a general invisibility of child workers, despite children’s labour having been historically critical to economies [37]. While international policy generally condemns child labour and aims to eradicate child work in all its forms (e.g., United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 8.7), there is little data collected to document children’s own interpretation of work, particularly within the family, whether through formal or informal employment in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Bromley and Mackie [35] argue that such ‘universal condemnation’ of child labour requires a more ‘flexible approach, which recognises the benefits of children’s work and embraces supportive protection for children engaged in the lighter forms of work (p. 141)’ such as when children take on the role of ‘replacement’ entrepreneurs in the family business over the summer holidays [5]. There has been a call for more research on children’s own perspectives and lived experiences of work [35,41,64] and recognition of their rights to protection from work that is harmful to their wellbeing [35,44].
This review paper sought to identify knowledge gaps and provide directions for future research on the role of children in tourism family entrepreneurship as part of a social justice agenda. Children are still in many cases ‘subalterns’ [65], and their own interpretations of reality are often ignored or not considered important in tourism and hospitality research, policy, and planning [66]. We suggest moving away from prevalent ‘protectionist’ and ‘adultist’ assumptions that marginalise children and embrace more child-inclusive understandings of family entrepreneurship. Just as feminism, postcolonialism, and environmentalism have sought to disrupt the norm, so does ‘childism’ aim to offer a much needed ‘critical lens for deconstructing adultism across research and societies and reconstructing more age-inclusive scholarly and social imaginations (p. 1)’ [62]. To achieve this, we must overcome the ethical and methodological challenges that are often perceived as barriers to child participation in tourism and hospitality research and embrace more interdisciplinary approaches [29,67]. This review paper thus makes a plea to tourism and hospitality scholars to take children more seriously in their research, especially when it comes to family entrepreneurship, and recommends a future research agenda that is inclusive of their voices. The original contribution of this paper then lies in highlighting the gap in knowledge and proposing a shift in paradigm towards a ‘childist’ approach to research, which has significant implications for policy, management, and planning in tourism and hospitality. A focus on this neglected area of research could then contribute towards a more sustainable and equitable tourism/hospitality future.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.C. and H.S.; methodology, A.C.; formal analysis, A.C.; writing—original draft preparation, A.C. and H.S.; writing—review and editing, A.C. and H.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.


We would like to acknowledge the language advice obtained from Xiaoxi Ju at Auckland University of Technology during the article screening process.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. PRISMA selection and inclusion strategy (adapted from Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff, and Altman 2009).
Figure 1. PRISMA selection and inclusion strategy (adapted from Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff, and Altman 2009).
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Figure 2. Country distribution of studies included in the sample.
Figure 2. Country distribution of studies included in the sample.
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Table 1. Thematic Analysis.
Table 1. Thematic Analysis.
AuthorsRQ1: Children’s Role in Tourism Family EntrepreneurshipRQ2: Social Constructions of Childhood
Bakas, 2019
  • Children as economic actors in tourism
  • Social reproductive tasks (household chores)
  • Productive tasks (replacement entrepreneurs)
  • Intergenerational learning
  • Children constructed as agentic
  • Not included in sample
Basu, 2004
  • Children as family helpers
  • Children discussed in terms of family life cycle and aspirations of parent entrepreneurs
  • Minor mention of children
  • Not included in sample
Bosworth & Wilson-Youlden, 2019
  • Minor mention of children as family helpers
  • Focus on the role of women in farm homestays and childcare/lifestyle motivations
  • Minor mention of children
  • Not included in sample
Kawharu, Tapsell & Woods, 2017
  • Children as family helpers and learners
  • Children testing their entrepreneurial skills (e.g., performing songs) with visitors
  • Intergenerational learning
  • Minor focus on children
  • Not included in sample
Strickland, 2011
  • Children as family helpers
  • Family labour
  • Children not remunerated
  • Minor focus on children
  • Not included in sample
Seymour, 2005, 2015
  • Children involved in emotional labour
  • Families on ‘display’
  • Children able to subvert their performance for personal gain
  • Children constructed as active social agents and included in sample
Wilson, 2007
  • Minor mention of children as family helpers and inheritance
  • Focus on lifestyle motivation of parent entrepreneurs in the farm stay business
  • Minor mention of children
  • Not included in sample
Zagkotsi, 2014
  • Minor mention of children as family helpers and inheritance
  • Focus on social and occupational mobility of parents
  • Minor mention of children
  • Not included in sample
Zhao, 2009
  • Minor mention of children as family helpers
  • Focus on tourism family business for poverty alleviation
  • Children not remunerated
  • Minor mention of children
  • Not included in sample
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Canosa, A.; Schänzel, H. The Role of Children in Tourism and Hospitality Family Entrepreneurship. Sustainability 2021, 13, 12801.

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Canosa A, Schänzel H. The Role of Children in Tourism and Hospitality Family Entrepreneurship. Sustainability. 2021; 13(22):12801.

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Canosa, Antonia, and Heike Schänzel. 2021. "The Role of Children in Tourism and Hospitality Family Entrepreneurship" Sustainability 13, no. 22: 12801.

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