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The hospitality industry includes the hotel and motel, or lodging, trade. As defined by the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education, it also includes food services, recreation services, and tourism. The hospitality industry provides accommodations, meals, and personal services for both the traveling public and permanent residents.

Establishments in the hospitality industry are divided into five categories. Transient, or commercial, hotels make up three-fourths of the hotel business in the United States and cater to commercial travelers, businesspeople, salespeople, and tourists. Motels, or motor inns, are generally located near highways and airports and in small cities; residential hotels provide permanent or semipermanent housing on a weekly, monthly, or sometimes yearly basis; resorts are hotels that offer recreational or social activities in addition to lodging; and convention hotels and centers are used as meeting places for large groups or businesses, or for major exhibitions. As well as providing lodgings for the conventioneers, convention hotels and centers must have state-of-the-art audiovisual and technical equipment among other services to stay competitive and attract business. 

Regardless of an establishment's category, all require staff to fill similar positions. The range of employment opportunities in the hospitality industry is vast. All positions, from bellhops to executive managers, share the same goal: serving the public. The primary responsibilities for those who work in the hotel and lodging sector include making sure that guests’ needs are attended to, their accommodations are comfortable, and that general hotel operations are running smoothly. Front office, service, marketing and sales, and accounting workers fill front-of-the-house positions, or those jobs most visible to the public. Less visible, back-of-the-house jobs include those in food and beverage, such as bartenders, chefs, and waitstaff, as well as housekeeping, and engineering and maintenance. Most establishments in the hospitality industry also operate on a three-shift system, providing 24-hour service for their guests.

The U.S. travel and tourism industry employed more than 8.3 million people in 2018, according to an Oxford Economics study on the economic impact of the U.S. hotel industry. Other findings in the report: the U.S. hotel industry had $1.2 trillion in business sales in 2018, and contributed $659 billion to the gross domestic product.

The United States is home to more than 55,900 properties, ranging from small boutique hotels to internationally renowned resorts, and includes 5.3 million guestrooms. Although over the long term, growth in the hotel industry looks positive, it should be remembered that the hospitality industry is tied directly to the amount of money people can spend on leisure and business activities. When the economy is slow or there is a recession, people tighten their budgets and spend less money on travel, entertainment, and leisure activities.

  • There are many jobs to choose from in hotels and restaurants. You can get your foot in the door by starting as a busboy or waiter in a restaurant, or as a bellhop or an office assistant in a hotel. There are also plenty of employment opportunities in other areas of the hospitality industry, such as on cruise ships, in casinos, and even in spas within hotels and resorts.
  • No two days are alike in most hospitality jobs. The nature of the work and environment changes daily, so people are rarely bored. Many of the jobs are outside of the cubicle. There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and to also find work anywhere in the world.
  • A career in hospitality can be rewarding if you enjoy making sure that people are having fun, enjoying their stay, appreciating their meal, and having a positive experience. Dedicated, enthusiastic people with strong communication and people skills thrive in this type of work.
  • If you want to live in a beautiful place, such as Hawaii or the Florida Keys, chances are you can find work in a hotel or restaurant nearby. Hospitality jobs also offer opportunities for travel and working in exotic locations.
  • Large hotels and restaurants usually pay higher wages than small businesses. Larger businesses may also offer more options for career paths. On the other hand, small businesses may offer more opportunities for workers to contribute creative ideas and solutions to help improve the business.
  • The work can be hard and grueling. For instance, not all guests are clean and neat. Housekeepers and maids never know what to expect when they show up to clean a room. The jobs can also be physically demanding. Many hotel and restaurant workers are on their feet for hours at a time.
  • It's not always possible to please everyone. Some customers are demanding and difficult, no matter how excellent the hotel or restaurant and no matter how accommodating the staff may be. Diplomacy, tact, and professionalism are of utmost importance in these situations.
  • Hotels and restaurants are open for long hours, with many operating 24/7. Job shifts may be in the evenings and over the weekends. Some people may enjoy the odd hours because it enables them to get chores done during offbeat hours, when there are fewer crowds. The hours present more of a challenge, however, for people with families and small children.
  • Stress and pressure are part of the job. Hotel and restaurant managers must work hard to meet specific standards set by their employers. Restaurant workers also have intense pressure to create and deliver meals under deadline pressure.
  • The hospitality industry is directly linked to the economy. When the economy is weak, the first things people scale back on are their travel and leisure activities. The domino effect continues from there, with hotels and restaurants tightening their budgets and laying off workers.