What does hospitality mean? What is the hospitality industry, exactly? Where and how did it begin? This post answers all those questions and more as we explore the past, present, and future of hospitality. As we dive deeper into what the industry entails, you’ll discover how hospitality impacts employers, employees, economies, consumers, the environment, and so much more. Whether you’re curious about which businesses are part of the industry, what they do, or how to start a career in hospitality, you’ve come to the right place.
What is the hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry is a massive business sector. Casting a broad umbrella, it encompasses all economic and business activities that rely upon or contribute to travel and tourism. Hospitality-focused businesses like hotels and travel agencies contribute directly by providing essential services that enable travel and tourism. Suppliers, transportation services, and catering companies may indirectly contribute by delivering the goods and services necessary to keep the industry running; however, they do not solely rely on hospitality for their revenue.
Because the hospitality industry is so expansive, it includes a diverse spectrum of companies, businesses, and experts. Even with so much variety, most hospitality businesses fall into one of four categories.
1. Travel & tourism (T&T)
Although many people think travel and tourism are synonymous with hospitality, that’s not quite the case. More accurately, T&T is a specific category within the hospitality industry. It includes airlines, shuttle services, travel agents, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and other businesses or services that help facilitate the physical travel necessary for tourism. Those working in T&T help drive tourists, workers, and businesses to new destinations.
One of the largest and most diverse parts of the hospitality industry is the accommodation sector, which includes everything from lodging to event grounds and special event venues. Numerous different types of hotels and venues fall into this sector, including:
- Chain hotels
- Extended stay properties
- Boutique hotels
- Conference and convention centers
- Wedding venues
- Casinos/casino suites
3. Food & beverage (F&B)
Most hotels and resorts offer their guests some form of food or dining option. Whether operating a café, buffet breakfast, or full-service restaurant, food and beverage services are integrated directly into many hospitality-based businesses. Stand-alone F&B providers, like restaurants or food trucks, operate independently, but they also have a part to play in the local hospitality scene.
Event catering, quick-service establishments, full-service restaurants, and limited-service F&B are powerful revenue drivers contributing to the hospitality industry. In addition to serving in-house hotel guests, F&B is a critical component of meetings and events, from private parties, like birthdays or weddings, to large-scale corporate events.
4. Recreation & entertainment
Because businesses in the hospitality industry often rely on consumers’ disposable income, they market to customers’ desire for entertainment that refreshes the mind, body, and spirit. In addition to lodging, travel services, and culinary delights, hospitality is full of indoor and outdoor recreation.
Bars, nightclubs, theaters, stadiums, museums, zoos, and other attractions often act as special event venues and tourist attractions, helping to drive a destination’s economy. Spectacular outdoor spaces, including our national and state parks, attract travelers from near and far to feed their local markets.
Whether providing a memorable meal or a relaxing day at the spa, the true purpose of hospitality is to ensure that the customer has an enjoyable experience—whatever they do.
But how did it all get started? How far back do the roots of the hospitality industry actually go?
When did the hospitality industry begin?
Although hospitality doesn’t have a designated start date, its traditions date back thousands of years. Ancient symbols of hospitality exist worldwide, with the oldest signs discovered in French caves dating back to 15,000 BCE. Historians and archeologists believe early humans designed the caves to welcome guests and greet visiting tribes.
Xenia, a phrase translating to “the sacred rule of hospitality,” is another early sign of the tradition. In ancient Greece, the custom expressed the law or expectation that hosts would offer protection and kindness to strangers. The Greeks understood that a satisfactory hospitality experience relied on hosts respecting their guests and vice versa. Furthermore, they believed displaying proper hospitality was “fundamental to human civilized life.” Modern hospitality may not look like it did thousands of years ago, but its purpose remains the same.
Is the hospitality industry growing?
Pre-pandemic, the hotel and motel industries (i.e., hospitality) employed approximately 173 million workers. In our primarily post-pandemic world, the hospitality industry and its partners remain massive global employers. 2022 brought 22 million new jobs to the sector, representing an almost 8% increase since 2021. In 2023, the hospitality positions accounted for one of every ten available jobs.
Although many hospitality-focused businesses (e.g., hotels and restaurants) still face staffing shortages, the industry remains one of the largest global employment sectors. From 2022-2023, the international hospitality industry’s value grew at a compound annual growth rate of 7%. The rebound illustrates consumers’ desire to travel again and return to in-person events after restrictions were lifted. Paralleling this demand increase, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the hospitality industry will create 126 million more jobs by 2032.
How does the hospitality industry impact the environment?
In 2022, the hospitality industry was responsible for approximately 1% of global carbon emissions. Single-use plastics, high water consumption, energy usage, and excess waste are just a few ways hotels negatively affect their local environment and the overall climate.
To demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and shifting consumer preferences, the industry is becoming greener through robust global initiatives and innovative day-to-day practices, like these eco-friendly hotel ideas. As consumer attitudes towards environmental conservation and sustainability strengthen, being eco-friendly is no longer optional for most businesses; it’s necessary.
Why work in hospitality?
If you enjoy making other people happy, hospitality might be right for you. It’s an industry where employees work together to create a welcoming atmosphere, satisfy customers, impress hotel guests, and create an exceptional visitor experience. With hotel, events, dining, planning, travel, custom service, and a wide variety of other roles available, there’s an opportunity for every worker and every personality type.
Hospitality is also a dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing field. Just as every guest is different, so is every day working in the industry. Whether working in a hotel or nightclub, you get to encounter diverse types of people with varying backgrounds from all over the world. As you connect with various guests and strive to meet their needs, you’ll get exposed to new cultures and expand your life experience.
Additionally, hospitality offers more flexible scheduling than many other industries, as hospitality businesses often operate outside of traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours. Many young people flock to hotels, restaurants, and similar businesses because of the work-life balance they provide. Working in the industry also comes with a diverse range of perks, such as discounted travel, competitive pay rates, and numerous opportunities to advance your career.
How do you get a job in the hospitality industry?
There are many different paths you can take to begin a hospitality career. While some employees start at an entry-level position and work up the ranks, others translate their past professional experience into a hospitality-focused career. Increase your chances of building a successful career in the hospitality industry by:
1. Identifying which hospitality sector best suits you
The hospitality industry includes diverse careers and professions, making it an excellent sector for workers with various skills and personality types. Whether you’re an introvert who prefers to work alone or a bubbly, conversational individual, hospitality has something for everyone. If you want to work in a hotel, consider which department or position best fits you.
- Front desk: Front-facing, customer-focused positions, great for outgoing personality types
- Housekeeping: Back-of-the-house positions, perfect for task-oriented or meticulous employees
- F&B: Front-facing and back-of-house positions available, often working in a busy, high-stress environment
- Maintenance: Skill-based and goal-focused positions that require big-picture thinkers with excellent task-management skills
- Meetings and events: A range of primarily forward-facing positions available for event planners, organizers, coordinators, and more
2. Knowing where to look
As customer service lies at the heart of hospitality, it’s common for professionals to turn to members of their local network for references, recommendations, and referrals. Many entry-level hospitality jobs are shared through local and employee referrals, the hiring manager’s professional network, or an individual’s social media accounts.
If you already know where you want to work, get to know the people there. Introduce yourself to the management team at hotels, restaurants, and other venues that interest you. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a variety of hospitality employment resources available, including:
- Online advertisements. Online job ads are especially beneficial if you’re new to the industry or a particular destination. If you lack first-person word-of-mouth recommendations, breaking into your local industry may feel intimidating. Keep an eye out for online ads on job boards, local news sites, and search engine results to streamline your search.
- Social media pages. Follow venue Facebook pages, join local hospitality groups, and keep a close eye on the Instagram pages of the hotels or destinations where you want to work. Regularly check social media, scanning for links to external job sites or brand listings.
- Hospitality websites. Numerous online hospitality job boards are dedicated to helping workers connect to available industry positions. Peruse various sites to see which jobs spark your interest or are available near you, such as:
- Brand job boards. In addition to general hospitality job boards, many brands publish their own listing sites. If you’d like to work with a particular brand, like Marriott or Hilton, consider looking for a job directly with them via branded resources like:
- Staffing agencies. Staffing and temporary work agencies are fantastic resources for helping individuals get their foot through the door. Although there are various hospitality-specific staffing agencies, like Hospitality Staffing Solutions, it’s also common for local staffing agencies to work directly with nearby hotels as they help fill entry-level positions in guest service, housekeeping, maintenance, and other departments.
3. Expanding your hospitality knowledge
Become a go-to person for all things hospitality, from industry trends to the latest marketing techniques. Stay current on the latest to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive field.
4. Keeping up with industry certifications
Having credentials can significantly impact how quickly you land your dream travel job. Show other hospitality professionals that you’re serious about a career in the industry by holding various certifications, like HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Marketing Certification, a certificate in hospitality revenue management (CRHM), or ServSafe certifications for those involved on the F&B side.
5. Determining your career path
After exploring the wide and wonderful world of hospitality, pick a career path you’re enthusiastic about. Instead of thinking about where to start, consider where you’d like to go in the industry. Visualizing where you want to end up can help determine which steps you should take to advance your career down a path that speaks to you.
Now you know what the hospitality industry is and why it matters!
With a better understanding of how far hospitality extends and its immense influence worldwide, it’s easy to see why the industry is growing. To learn more, join us as we examine the most significant trends impacting the hospitality industry in 2023.