Dr Leon van Achterbergh

Senior Lecturer
PhD (Business Management); MHA (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne)
41 AP 02
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Dr Leon van Achterbergh is currently the Director of Employability and a Senior Lecturer at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Surrey. His working career extends over 35 years, which includes industry experiences in the police, retail, insurance, engineering, and hospitality. His academic career started 20 years ago, after gaining a Master’s degree at the globally acclaimed Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, in Switzerland. Subsequently he was appointed as Lecturer and then Academic Head at a global campus site in South Africa for a Dutch university, Stenden. He gained his PhD in Business Management in 2013, before relocating to the United Kingdom. Since embarking on his academic career, he has been teaching business and hospitality related subjects, including Entrepreneurship, Consulting and Business Plan.  Over his academic career of 20 years, he has also headed up internship- and industrial placements, thereby providing guidance, coaching and supervision to participating staff, and students with their career development.

Research interests

  • Professional Training
  • Industrial Practice
  • Professional Development
  • Strategy & Business Science


  • Business Plan, Entrepreneurship & Consulting in the Hospitality, Tourism and Event Industry

Departmental duties

  • Director of Employability; Lead for SHTM Professional Training Year
  • OSCAR Panellist
  • Lecturing and Tutoring


Historically, hostels have been purposely designed to provide the kind of environment that fosters communication and interaction between guests. Hostel guests are typically provided with dormitory-type rooms, shared washrooms, a shared kitchen and communal living areas, thereby offering less privacy and more opportunity for interaction than other accommodation types. However, recent studies have highlighted that due to changes in backpacking trends, there are opposing views of how different aspects of hostel design and services contribute towards guests’ evaluation of their hostel stay. On the one hand, it is suggested that a hostel environment which encourages social interaction adds value to the service experience, while on the other hand an environment that offers extra privacy is more valued. These conflicting demands, in terms of the facilities and services expected within hostel accommodation, demonstrate that some aspects of the current design and core services of hostels may now be redundant. Empirical evidence is needed to illustrate the extent to which hostels are providing the right services and facilities to meet the current requirements of their target market. Such information could potentially be used by hostels to secure more guests, gain market share and keep ahead of the competition. Building on the concept of servicescapes, this research suggests that both the physical and human dimensions of the hostel servicescape have an impact on the guests’ service experience. As hostelling is commonly viewed as a social experience, an investigation of how social interaction among guests enhances the service experience is also vital in understanding the expectations of guests. Additionally, it is also proposed that the hostel servicescape plays an important role in promoting social interaction among its guests. The main contribution of this research is therefore to offer a deeper understanding of the influence of servicescapes on guests’ social interaction and consequently, their evaluation of the overall service experience. In order to achieve the research objectives, a multi-method approach was carried out. The Critical Incident Technique (CIT), adopted during the preliminary study, provided substantive data for the development of the questionnaire survey for the main study. The findings revealed that guests evaluate their service experience favourably when they have a positive perception of not only the physical aspects of the hostel building, but also the behaviours of hostel employees and other hostellers. Their hostel experience is also further enhanced by the opportunity to socialise with other hostellers, therefore indicating that service providers should take the initiative in providing them with the opportunity to do so. The research also showed that it is the trip-related factors, rather than demographic characteristics, that influence how individuals perceive the servicescape, social interaction and service experience of staying in hostels.