What is the hospitality industry, exactly? How is it defined? When did it begin? What types of jobs are available? This guide will help you understand everything you need to know. Keep reading to discover definitions, unique tools, and insider tips on what the hospitality industry is and, if you're interested, how to get started in it. Then, learn more about where to find the best hospitality industry jobs and which roles you may be best suited for.
What is the hospitality industry? Everything you need to know:
What is the history of the hospitality industry?
While the hospitality industry doesn't have one globally-accepted start date, its history dates back thousands of years and spans across the globe. Take a look at ancient Greece, for example, where xenia — also known as the sacred rule of hospitality — was defined as "the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home or associates of the person bestowing guest-friendship." In short, Xenia was made up of two basic rules:
- The respect from hosts to guests. Hosts must be hospitable and provide guests with a bath, food, drink, gifts, and a safe escort to their next destination.
- The respect from guests to hosts. Guests must be courteous and not be a threat or burden to their guests.
Although our modern-day version of hospitality looks different than it did thousands of years ago, it still follows one main theme: To provide guests with services. And guests do more than just make a pitstop at hospitality businesses these days. Many hospitality businesses are now seen as destinations themselves!
What is the definition of the hospitality industry?
Hospitality has dozens of different definitions, but it can be broken down to the act of making someone feel welcome, usually through entertainment and comfort. So what is the hospitality industry? It includes many businesses that fall under this large umbrella, such as hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, theme parks, and much more. If you’re not sure whether or not a business is considered part of the hospitality industry, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this establishment serve food or drink?
- Is customer experience a top priority?
- Does the business make money through services more than goods?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these, there’s a strong chance that the business is involved in hospitality to some degree.
Another way to better understand hospitality is by looking at The Big Four: Food and beverage, travel and tourism, lodging, and recreation. The food and beverage category includes restaurants, bars, and lounges. Travel and tourism covers airlines and travel agencies. Lodging can be anything from hotels to AirBnBs. And recreation usually means activities such as golfing, fishing, and tennis.
All of these industries are connected by their drive to provide an enjoyable experience for all who participate. The atmosphere is welcoming and warm, the facilities sometimes offer convenient amenities such as showers or complimentary valet parking, and their revenue typically relies on whether or not people enjoy being there.
What is the goal of the hospitality industry?
The goal of the hospitality industry is to provide customers with an enjoyable experience. Whether that enjoyment comes from eating a good meal, relaxing in a luxurious spa, or getting a good night’s rest away from home, making sure each individual guest is taken care of is paramount.
Discover how to start a career in the hospitality industry:
Here’s everything you need to get started in the hospitality industry including what to do, some advice for how to do it, and how long it may take to get where you want to be. Explore what types of roles you can apply for, where to find them, and how to become a pro.
Step 1: Choose what roles best suit you.
Knowing how to choose what role best suits you means knowing what interests you. For example, does the perfect wine and fish pairing sound more or less appealing than booking a private charter jet for a diplomat? Being honest about precisely what role within the hospitality industry sounds the most attractive to you will help you make the right choice.
Also, consider what kind of lifestyle you want to live. In addition to income, think about personal preferences such as what kind of hours suit you best. For example, hotel front-desk employees may work overnight shifts regularly. Or, ponder how close you’d like to be to family. Flight attendants travel the world but often miss birthdays and holidays with people they care about to do so.
Another key way to choose what roles best suit you is to learn more about a variety of jobs in the hospitality industry. Discover some types of hospitality roles you can apply for and see what some of their daily responsibilities look like. Note that there are two major categories of hospitality jobs: roles that are specific to hospitality (such as a Hospitality Lead) and roles that aren’t specific to hospitality but are in the industry (like an accountant for a hotel). Take a look at a few examples below:
1. Hospitality Services Assistant
Duties: Managing staff, streamlining communication, improving the guest experience
A hospitality services assistant (sometimes called an aid) will serve customers, families, and upper-level staff to ensure smooth day-to-day operations. They may also help with brand-specific projects such as recruiting and training interns or finding shift covers for front-desk staff when someone calls out sick. They can be found in universities, medical centers, hotels, and many other related places of business that need guest coordination plus staff oversight.
2. Front-Desk Clerk
Duties: Booking appointments, answering the phone, providing great customer service
Also known as a guest service agent, a front-desk clerk is client-facing, often giving new customers a first impression of the business as a whole. Their positive attitude, organization abilities, and communication skills help them succeed. Front-desk clerks are found in hotels but they can also be found in places such as doctor's offices, spas, and gyms.
3. Restaurant Manager
Duties: Maintain food safety guidelines, train staff, record payroll information
No matter if they work in fast food or fine dining, restaurant managers oversee staff, safety, and finances, as well as daily operations. They are typically found working six or seven days per week with Mondays and/or Tuesdays serving as their only time off. Restaurant managers must perform well under pressure despite working late nights, dealing with the personalities of both staff and customers, and spending time in an environment that typically has alcohol, crowds, and a lot of noise.
4. Event Server
Duties: Event setup, buffet or tray pass food distribution, guest assistance
Event servers prepare, run, and clean up after events. These events can range from corporate holiday parties to private dinners to weddings. Like servers at a restaurant, they must be trained or certified in food handling in accordance with state and local laws. Unlike restaurant servers, they hardly ever work the same event twice as most are one-time affairs. This means event servers must be flexible and organized enough to adapt to a new environment every time they work.
5. Hotel General Manager
Duties: Oversee daily operations, manage hotel finances, coordinate and train staff
A mix of management and hands-on work, a hotel general manager is responsible for the success of a hotel property. Their work involves wearing several hats as they handle everything from business planning to sales to solving customer complaints. They establish customer and revenue goals as well as plans for how their team will hit them. A hotel general manager must be flexible, smart, and willing to work when others normally wouldn’t, like on holidays.
Step 2: Know where to find hospitality jobs.
Many available entry-level hospitality positions are shared through referrals or among the hiring manager’s social media network on places such as Facebook Groups. Make meeting people and networking a priority in order to find and befriend them, then be the first to hear about a new opening.
For example, introduce yourself to the manager at restaurants or hotels you’d like to work at. Or seek out Facebook Groups in your area that include the position you’d like to get and the town name in the title. Also, try to post to your own social media accounts to let people know you're looking.
If you don’t have a big network or need a job fast, consider looking at ads online instead. Want to speed up the application process? First, prep one main version of your resume that lists all of your experience and training. Then, tailor it to fit each new listing by deleting the irrelevant information. Follow up three business days after applying. Finally, prep for your interview by learning more about the brand and the role you’ve applied for.
Best hospitality industry job boards and hotel websites to check:
Start by looking for hospitality-specific job boards like the ones below. Create a dedicated job search email address. Sign up for alerts for custom search results or when new jobs are posted, if the site offers it.
Remember that applicants who apply early often get first priority for interviews. And always follow up — hospitality is a very fast-paced field, which means applicants can sometimes fall through the cracks if they aren’t vocal about their interest.
General hospitality job boards:
- Review the employer profiles at HCareers to see who's hiring for the most positions, narrow by location, and discover brands you may not have known about before.
- Check out the popular jobs section of Hospitality Online to get a better sense of which cities, roles, and hotel brands are in demand.
- Select one of many courses and advice articles made to boost your chances of getting hired through Hosco.
- Narrow down open positions on iHireHospitality through their unique key skills search option.
- Look at jobs on Hospitality Crossing by entering your email for exclusive access to openings.
Hotel and lodging job boards:
Hint: Most, if not all, major hotel chains have their own career website.
- Try Wyndham Careers’s job board, which offers searchable listings from their global selection of hotels ranging from corporate positions to student opportunities.
- Explore Marriott International Careers, which has job listings alongside career path outlines to see where entry-level positions could lead. They also highlight their opportunities for veterans.
- Discover the Jobs at Hilton search engine as well as their special events section for networking opportunities.
- Take a look at Accor Careers’ opportunities, create a favorites list, and review their Life at Accor information to see if they’re the right fit for you.
- Search OYO Careers to find full-time, part-time, intern, and even freelance work.
Step 3: Become a hospitality pro.
A hospitality pro is someone who works in the industry, understands the ins and outs of every role, and has the major skills needed to make a brand successful.
Top tips for how to get a job/advance in the hospitality industry:
- Stay on top of industry trends. Listen to hospitality podcasts such as Slick Talk and All in the Industry. Read blog articles on Social Tables and Cvent. Follow hospitality hashtags on social media like #hospitalitytrends and #hospitalityindustry.
- Get certified in marketing. Choose a free program such as HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Marketing Certification or an affordable paid course through Skillshare. Consider a marketing minor if you major in hospitality at a four-year college. Or, apply to take a marketing course through Cornell University, one of the country’s top hospitality schools.
- Master revenue management. Learn the fundamentals of revenue management, including segmentation, forecasting, budgeting, and pricing. Read up on the three levers you’ll use to control revenue: price, yield, and marketing. And get familiar with revenue management software to juggle all the moving pieces.
- Learn how to advance in your career. Make your career aspirations clear to your manager as well as head decisionmakers so they’ll know to think of you first when a new position opens up. Always stay busy even if your coworkers aren’t doing anything — management should take notice. Stay organized, suggest ways to improve your department, and show you genuinely care about guests by engaging with them like you would a friend.
The opportunities in the hospitality industry are endless!
Now that you know all about what the hospitality industry is and how to build a career in it, take it a step further. Look to advice from hospitality leaders for inspiration on how to make an impact no matter which sector you focus on, and become familiar with some must-know hotel marketing tools and our hotel customer experience guide.