The hospitality industry is a huge sector with a wide range of different roles available. Find out about some of these different roles, and some of the essential skills you’ll need to get your hospitality career started.
If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, eaten at a restaurant, or booked a holiday through a travel agent, you’ve had first-hand experience of the hospitality industry. It’s so ubiquitous that you probably don’t realise you interact with this sector on a daily basis. Hospitality has dozens of definitions, but at the end of the day, it is the art of making someone feel welcome.
Hospitality is something that isn’t just found in one location or culture – it has been an integral part of human development for thousands of years and will continue to be for years to come. But what sort of career options are there? And what kind of skills might you need to make the jump into the hospitality industry.
In this article, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the hospitality industry, and how you can start your career in hospitality. We’ll explore some of the many roles available, and the necessary skills that these roles require, as well as the average salaries that you can expect. Along the way, you’ll also find handy links to different courses and posts about this exciting industry.
The global hospitality industry
Let’s kick things off with an overview of the global hospitality industry, and some terms and definitions that you’ll likely come across. We’ll also have a look at the size and state of the global hospitality industry, to give you an idea of where the hospitality industry currently is, and what the next few years have in store.
What is it?
First, let’s unpack just what the hospitality industry is and what it can encompass as part of the service industry. The hospitality industry has been around for thousands of years, with the word ‘hospitality’ actually deriving from the Latin word ‘hospe’, which meant both visitor and stranger.
The hospitality industry is generally recognised as an important section of the wider service industry – but with a focus on leisure rather than the more basic needs that other service industry careers encompass. Pleasure, experiences, and enjoyment are key factors in the hospitality industry.
From tourism and restaurants to spas and wedding planning, the hospitality industry takes many different forms. It also requires you to have a whole range of different skills, from data analysis to wine-tasting and just about everything in between.
How big is the industry?
Since the end of the financial crisis 10 years ago, the hospitality industry has experienced a huge spurt of growth. It is now of major economic importance globally, contributing over $8 trillion to the global economy in 2018. Back in 2018, the hospitality industry was outpacing the global economy, with 3.9% growth per year.
In the space of 10 years, the number of international arrivals worldwide increased from 900 million to over 1.3 billion, with an estimated 1.8 billion by 2030. And as people consider their sustainability options more and more, the hospitality industry is expected to change in order to accommodate the predicted 17 million health-conscious travellers.
As you can imagine, having seen these figures, the industry employs a huge amount of people, with as many as one in ten thought to work in hospitality. While the events of 2020 severely impacted the global hospitality industry, the industry is slowly recovering as restrictions across the world ease.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the hospitality industry?
As with many industries across the globe, the hospitality industry was severely affected by COVID-19. 2020 ended up as the worst year for tourism since records began, as global lockdowns were enforced. Across the globe, over 60 million hospitality jobs were lost as a direct result of the pandemic, with an overall loss of $4.5 trillion in the travel and tourism sector.
When the situation improved and lockdowns were lifted, the hospitality industry reopened, but pre-pandemic levels are still a while away. Even after reopening, establishments are still faced with difficulties, such as meeting the costs of improved sanitation and only being allowed to accept reduced numbers of customers.
Digital marketing is another new trend that has come to the fore as the world slowly reopens, as people want to make sure that they have the flexibility to rearrange their bookings. The increased use of AI has also presented both solutions and challenges to hospitality as well. This has resulted in the hospitality industry requiring employees with more specific skills than before.
What kinds of jobs are there in the hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry is a large and extremely varied industry, offering many different paths for you to take. There are some key domains that make up the industry, but within these are a range of different career options to consider.
When you consider the hospitality industry, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the majority of roles are customer-facing. While many roles in hospitality are exactly that, there are also many job opportunities that don’t involve face-to-face time with any customers. Let’s take a look at a few of the roles you can consider if you want to get involved in the hospitality industry.
Hotels are potentially the most obvious form of accommodation when it comes to the hospitality industry, and the variety of roles in the world of hotels is huge. Hotels can provide everything from lodging to services for eating and drinking to various different facilities too.
So not only do some hotel jobs require you to have excellent interpersonal skills, there are other roles that require financial and marketing experience, as well as managerial experience. Whether you work as a hotel manager or a housekeeper, the possibilities are endless – as is the opportunity to travel the world and apply your skills abroad as well.
This is another broad term for a whole range of different roles, though with one thing in common – food. Don’t worry, though – not all roles within the catering domain require you to handle food, such as a chef in a restaurant or in a pub. There are also roles for restaurant managers that you could consider, overseeing and organising the running of the establishment.
Sometimes you’ll have to start in a lower role, such as part of the waiting staff, but there are some larger employers out there that have training schemes and programmes, where you’ll be able to enter at different levels and benefit from a more streamlined career progression. Some establishments may require you to have qualifications in certain areas of food and beverage, however.
Pub and bar roles
Pubs and bars offer the customer a much more casual form of hospitality than you’d find in restaurants, with a focus on alcoholic and soft drinks and occasionally light entertainment. Many roles in this hospitality sector require you to have exemplary soft skills.
The roles you can find in pubs and bars are also really diverse and cover many different employment opportunities for people – from starting out in a customer-facing role, serving drinks, to progressing to a managerial role, where you might deal with the accounts, order new stock, and recruit new staff.
The hospitality industry and the travel industry are really closely linked. There are many crossovers between the two, however, the tourism industry has a focus on experiences and pleasure rather than the practical nature of travel. However, it is worth considering the impacts of tourism on the world, even if you’re considering a role in this vibrant and diverse field.
This is another extremely broad area for employment opportunities. From roles in travel agencies where you’ll effectively sell travel products to customers, to tour operators and cruise ship staff, which are more customer-facing roles, the possibilities and options open to you in tourism are numerous.
Conference and events roles
Roles in conferences and event planning are all quite similar – it’s the diversity of the different conferences and events that you may be involved with that make this a really exciting area to work in. Whether it’s a research conference or a trade fair, or even an exhibition, every day is different when working in events.
Often, you’ll have to start in a support role on the ground – but with the right qualifications and experience, you may be able to join in a higher role. From booking venues to accommodation, organising materials for attendees or being on-hand to answer any questions, you’ll find that this is a diverse and exciting area of hospitality you can get involved in.
What skills do I need to enter the industry?
Due to the wide variety of different roles in the hospitality industry, it can be tricky to pinpoint exactly which skills you’ll need, as there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ skillset. Your chosen path will be the clearest indicator of which skills you’ll end up needing to focus on, but there are some that will be used across the board.
The skills that you’ll likely use in every role in the hospitality industry are interpersonal skills. Many of these roles involve interaction with customers and clients, so knowing how to properly communicate is essential. In addition, these roles can be really fast-paced, so effective and clear communication with your team is really important.
Resilience and people management are also skills that you’ll need to use, especially as you progress in your hospitality career. Sometimes you might be in charge of a large number of people, and knowing how to manage them can be tricky. Similarly, you might just be in charge of a smaller team, and making sure everyone is satisfied is essential.
Hard skills are teachable, specific abilities that are easily defined and measured, and there are a few that can help your career in the hospitality industry. Human resource management is an essential hard skill in the hospitality industry, and if you want to veer off into specialisation, you could also consider a course in food safety and hygiene.
If you’re looking at a career in hotels, then a course in hotel revenue management will make you stand out from the crowd – similarly, with so many hospitality roles relying heavily on the digital world, you should also look at digital marketing for hoteliers. The hard skills required will depend on your role – a wine tasting course, for instance, may not help you in a tourism role.
Having the technical skills, or hard skills as they’re often known, is one part of the job. But demonstrating what you have learned through experience – your soft skills – is an absolutely integral part of any role in the hospitality industry. Work communication is essential in the hospitality industry, as is the capability to manage stress and build self-esteem.
It’s likely that you’ll find yourself put on the spot in any role in the hospitality industry, owing to the ever-changing nature of the industry, so being able to choose the best problem to solve is a key soft skill to be able to demonstrate. And at the end of the day, you’ll be working really closely with others, so having some emotional intelligence will give you a huge boost.
How do salaries compare?
As with any industry, the salaries in the hospitality industry vary drastically. The job role, the level of experience, the country you’re working with, and even the type of company you’re working with will all affect the overall salary. Let’s take a look at the average annual salary rates for roles in the hospitality industry.
(Data obtained from salary websites including GlassDoor, Adzuna, and PayScale).
Many roles in the hospitality industry end up being supplemented by bonuses and tips as well, meaning that you’ll end up earning more than this. Owing to the nature of bonuses and tips, however, it’s tricky to say how much additional money you’ll earn on top of your wage packet.
Why choose a career in the hospitality industry?
There are a wide variety of reasons why you might want to choose a career in the hospitality industry. These will almost certainly differ from individual to individual, but some of the main reasons are as follows:
- The variety of roles available. There will be a role to suit nearly every niche or unique skill that you might have in the hospitality industry, all of which can give you great career progression opportunities as well.
- The field is growing. Despite the unavoidable events of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated the hospitality industry, it’s slowly recovering as things start to reopen and more opportunities are starting to present themselves.
- The career progression opportunities. Many roles in hospitality offer you a ready-made path to follow, which can let you build upon your skills and move into higher-paid positions. You’ll find that there are lots of options for on-the-job training which will help you build up to a job with more responsibility.
- The people involved in the industry. Hospitality is a ‘people’s’ industry. You’ll end up meeting and interacting with lots of new people and cultures, as well as work in a tightknit team – the bedrock of the hospitality industry.
- The variety of experiences. Every day is different in the hospitality industry. The hours can change at the drop of the hat, and the challenges you have to face can change almost instantly. If you thrive on living in the moment, then the hospitality industry is for you.
How to get started in a hospitality career
As with many other industries, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ route into the hospitality industry. Dependent on what you want to do and which role you pursue will dictate exactly how you can consider getting started in a hospitality career. Some roles don’t require any specific training, or you’ll be able to train on the job, whereas others will require formal qualifications.
Whether it’s a short course or a longer, in-depth study option for your chosen role, you’ll really stand out to employers with some formal education. College and university courses can often encompass different facets and skills you’ll require in the hospitality industry.
Training on the job is a hallmark of many roles in hospitality, with some of the global leaders in the hospitality industry offering initiatives and education to train up future staff members. These initiatives mean you can learn the necessary skills while also gaining first-hand experience.
Many roles within the hospitality industry can be reached by gaining some experience in these diverse domains – whether that’s working up from a pot washer to a sous chef or from a waiter to a restaurant manager.
Once you’re in the hospitality industry, you’ll find it is a relatively close-knit community. This means that you can move from job to job with relative ease just through who you know, and who they know. Making a name for yourself can really boost your career in hospitality, but you can’t do that without knowing how to network.
So there you have it – an introduction and an exploration of the hospitality industry. As you have probably now found out, the hospitality industry affects so much more than you could have imagined, and you’ve undoubtedly experienced it first-hand.
With such a wide variety of roles available, across a whole range of different fields and distinct areas, there will be a role in hospitality that is suited to just about everyone out there. If you have the necessary skills, the drive, and plenty of enthusiasm, then you’ll be able to start your own career in the hospitality industry.
If you’re interested in developing your skills and exploring the hospitality industry further, take a look at the various courses and ExpertTracks that we offer.