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Is Hotels/Resorts a Good Career Path?

Is hotels/resorts a good career path?

Have you ever wondered if working in hotels/resorts is a good career path for you? With a robust hospitality job market and plenty of diverse positions to choose from, a hotel or resort career could be your ideal profession. In this guide, we explore:

Types of Hotel and Resort Careers

Hotel and resort jobs are part of the hospitality industry, a subsector of the service industry that covers five main areas:

  1. Food and beverage
  2. Lodging
  3. Meetings and events
  4. Recreation
  5. Travel and tourism

>>MORE: Careers in Tourism: Event Operations

Jobs working in hotels and resorts often fall under “lodging” or “accommodation,” as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Types of hotel and resort career paths include:

  • Hotel manager
  • Concierge
  • Chef
  • Hotel controller
  • Guest relations manager
  • Hospitality director
  • Front desk clerk
  • Front desk manager
  • Foodservice staff
  • Activities attendant
  • Housekeeping
  • Event staff
  • Maintenance

How Many Jobs Are Available in Hotels/Resorts?

The hospitality industry took a massive hit during the pandemic as lockdowns and cancelations prevented people from many usual activities, such as traveling.

Although the sector is recovering, approximately 1.1 million leisure and hospitality jobs are still lost as of September 2022 (with employment 6.7% below pre-pandemic levels), according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The accommodation sector is the furthest behind, at 18.5% below the number of jobs in February 2020. Fortunately, though, the issue isn’t a lack of job openings. In fact, as the industry tries to catch up, leisure and hospitality jobs account for a disproportionate share of all U.S. job openings, at 14%.

The problem is that there aren’t enough people to fill all the open jobs. As a result, wages have significantly grown as companies compete for fewer qualified candidates, from average hourly earnings of $17.12 in December 2020 to $20.30 in September 2022.

The good news is the job outlook across specific positions in hotels and resorts is very promising. For example, employment for lodging managers is expected to increase by 18% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average, according to the BLS. Similarly, jobs for hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks should grow by 14% in the same timeframe.

By the end of 2022, U.S. hotels should be employing 2.19 million people, which is 93% of pre-pandemic levels (2.3 million) — according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

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Best-Paying Jobs in Hotels/Resorts

Not surprisingly, some of the best-paying jobs in hotels/resorts are in management. For example, BLS data indicates that lodging managers made average annual wages of $67,770 in 2021, with the top 10% earning $103,780 or more. Food service managers made average salaries of $63,970 and more than $98,070 for top earners.

Gambling managers working at casino hotels and resorts made even more, averaging $89,190 in 2021, with the top 10% earning $145,770. Per ZipRecruiter, a hotel controller’s salary averages around $79,882 and tops out at about $114,500 a year, while a chef concierge can make up to $180,000 per year (averaging about $83,482).

Entry-Level Hotel and Resort Jobs

If you’re early in your career, you have ample opportunities to begin your hotels/resorts career path as an entry-level job seeker. With several different departments and job functions, you have many options to get your foot in the door in this hospitality industry sector.

According to Dr. Mehmet Erdem, associate professor of hotel operations and technology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), examples of entry-level careers in hotels/resorts include: 

  • Guest services representative
  • Front desk agent
  • Night audit representative
  • Guest room attendant (GRA)
  • Housekeeping associate
  • Valet representative
  • Bell services representative
  • Reservations specialist
  • Food and beverage attendant

Of course, where you work and your previous training and experience play a big role in the type of hotel or resort job you can pursue.

“The entry-level position really depends on the person’s background, the type of hotel, and the level of education,” explains Dr. Amanda Belarmino, assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV. 

With an undergraduate degree, you may even be able to work toward a career as a manager straight away. “For those with a college education, many companies offer management training programs. Some provide a short paid or unpaid internship that can lead to a management position,” says Belarmino. 

How to Get Into a Career in Hotels and Resorts

As with most careers, a hotel/resort career path requires a combination of education, work experience, and skills.

Education

“For early career job seekers, an associate or bachelor’s degree is a great way to get into the management side of hotels,” explains Belarmino. “Those interested in food and beverage will need certifications for food safety and the appropriate alcohol training for their state. For casino-hotels, many positions require a gaming license.”

Finding a hospitality-specific program can fast-track your path into a hotel and resort career. “Being enrolled in a college-level hospitality program provides a multitude of opportunities such as mentor/mentee programs, internships, externships, direct placement programs, student clubs affiliated with professional associations, etc.,” says Erdem. 

In addition, Erdem notes that vocational programs and technical and trade schools also offer professional growth opportunities. “Many colleges, including UNLV, offer continuing education and outreach programs that provide certification opportunities in addition to degree programs.” 

If you can land a job at a hotel or resort while in school, you may even be able to offset your education expenses. “Some of the major hotel/resort companies, such as MGM Resorts International, offer credit/tuition aid towards earning a degree in hospitality,” says Erdem. “The more credentials coupled with experience, the higher the chances of getting promoted in ones’ career path in hospitality.”

Work Experience

Depending on the employer, work experience is another crucial factor in the hiring process. “Some hotels may hire college graduates into entry-level management positions, like a front desk supervisor, but they usually prefer those candidates to have previous work experience,” notes Belarmino. 

Fortunately, Belarmino also states that college students pursuing hospitality-related education often have access to the work experience they need during their studies. “Most hotel programs offer internships and/or require a certain amount of work experience prior to graduation to insure that work experience will not be a barrier for recent alumni.”

>>MORE: Check out 7 Ways to Gain Work Experience.

Skills

Interpersonal skills are paramount when working in hospitality, and developing your customer service skills can help you stand out from the crowd. 

“I would look for anything that is customer service oriented, anything where you show you can go the extra mile, that you won’t stop until you achieve the goal,” says Kjeld Schigt, founder of Costa Rica all-inclusive surf resort, Kalon Surf. 

“Speaking several languages is a plus, but perhaps more important is being able to understand (and show it to) your guests. Ideally anticipate their needs — if you love making people happy, are hard working and will go the extra mile, you likely would be welcomed by any hospitality business,” adds Schigt.

>>MORE: Top Communication Skills for the Workplace

Pros and Cons of Working in Hotels and Resorts

Although they can vary significantly by position, there are some general benefits and disadvantages to this career path. This is what experts have to say about the pros and cons of working in hotels and resorts.

Pros of Hotel and Resort Careers

Rewarding

“Working in hotels and resorts can be extremely rewarding,” says Belarmino. “The work can be extremely satisfying because as a service provider, you are a magician. You make magic happen everyday for those on vacation.”

Also, “you get to have a personal impact, every little details matters, in making people happy. They are buying an experience, you are a part of that,” notes Schigt.

Dynamic and Interesting

“You are always on the ‘stage’; meeting new people, solving problems, enhancing people skills,” explains Erdem. “There is never a dull moment and there are many verticals to pursue a variety of career paths within the hotel/resort industry, i.e. front desk rep to revenue analyst, reservations rep to sales lead, etc.”

Schigt agrees. “Not one day will be the same as the next. There is always something that you can improve and learn” working in hotels and resorts.

Opportunities to Advance and Travel

“If you like to travel and live in different cities/countries, the world is indeed your oyster in the hotel/resort industry,” says Erdem. “It is very rewarding to those who are willing to move and relocate.”

Also, advancement opportunities are abundant. “It is one of the few fields that still actively promotes from within and invests in developing its team members,” says Belarmino.

Cons of Hotel and Resort Careers

Long Hours and Non-Traditional Schedules

According to Belarmino, “the hours can be long, work-life balance can be an issue, and many of the positions can be physically demanding.”

In addition, hotel and resort jobs aren’t your typical 9-to-5, Monday through Friday schedules. “Working in hotels/resorts means that you are working during holidays and weekends,” says Erdem. 

Volatile Industry

“The hotel industry is more prone to economic fluctuations,” says Erdem. Fortunately, “many of the skills gained are easily transferable to other industries, i.e. customer service skills, leadership skills, etc.”

Fast-Paced and Challenging

“It is a dynamic work environment where ability to make good judgment calls and counting on soft skills are essential for success. Hence, if one is seeking a slow-pace job, hotels/resorts may not be the best fit for them,” advises Erdem. 

“It’s hard work,” says Schigt. “If you are not a good people person, it may be difficult to deal with some guests.” 

However, while weekend schedules, fast-paced work, and dealing with guests can make hospitality industry jobs challenging, “for millions of hospitality professionals around the world, the benefits outweigh the downsides,” concludes Belarmino. 

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