Hospitality Careers Outlook
As the economy improved in the mid- to late 1990s, travel, tourism, and the hotel industry in general enjoyed an upswing. People were traveling more, often taking more frequent but shorter trips. Business travel increased, despite innovations such as fax machines, email, and video conferencing.
The positive outlook for the travel and tourism industry took a sudden turn after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. The threat of more terrorism affected consumer confidence and corporate travel policies. Air transport and corporate and convention travel were particularly hard hit. Foreign travel to the United States was also affected. In spite of the decline in travel, the industry expects that the downturn in business will be temporary. The U.S. Department of Labor projects jobs in the air transportation industry will increase by 9 percent through 2014 (less than the average for all occupations); employment in hotels and other lodging establishments is expected to increase 17 percent for the same period—or slightly more than the average for all occupations. Employment for workers in the hospitality industry varies by specialty. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts faster-than-average growth for hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks and slower-than-average growth for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; secretaries; waiters and waitresses; and lodging managers.
Consolidation will be key to growth in the future. Consortiums composed of smaller hotels and motels will pool resources and share advertising costs to compete with bigger and better-known hotel names such as Marriott and Hilton. Many larger hotels have joined with airlines, car rental agencies, and travel agents to offer complete travel packages. These businesses can present savings and convenience for travelers while providing name recognition for themselves.
Additionally, more establishments will branch out and target the fast growing elderly population, many of whom have substantial retirement funds. Called assisted living communities, these complexes offer housing, food, and medical services.
World Travel and Tourism Council research in 2001 showed that the travel and tourism industry employs more than 200 million people worldwide, more than any other industry. Employment opportunities in this field look extremely good. This industry also employs a high percentage of women and minorities compared to other fields.
Though many employees in the hotel industry have worked up from unskilled entry-level positions, advancement opportunities are best for people with college degrees in hotel or hospitality management. It is becoming increasingly important to hire skilled workers to fill new openings created by retirement, high turnover, and industry growth. The problems of finding and keeping staff are expected to become more difficult as the pool of younger workers shrinks.
Another challenge for the industry will be how it integrates new technology. Most hotels, resorts, and other organizations have already established data processing terminals to process reservations, bookkeeping procedures, and other services. Other advances include security systems based on card-activated access, in-room checkouts, and TV-based guest shopping. Those establishments that are best able to provide these and other services should be able to attract a wide range of customers. As the labor force continues to shrink, the hotel industry will increasingly automate many of its services.
While the long-term prospects for growth in the hotel industry are good, it should be remembered that the industry is tied directly to the amount of money people can spend on leisure and business activities. Therefore, any downturn in the economy usually has a negative impact on industry growth.
Related Career Fields:
- Adventure Travel Specialists
- Amusement Park Workers
- Baggage Porters and Bellhops
- Cooks and Chefs
- Cruise Ship Workers
- Food Service Workers
- Gaming Occupations
- Hotel and Motel Managers
- Hotel Concierges
- Hotel Desk Clerks
- Hotel Executive Housekeepers
- Inbound Tour Guides
- Lifeguards and Swimming Instructors
- Recreation Workers
- Reservation and Ticket Agents
- Resort Workers
- Restaurant and Food Service Managers
- Tour Guides
- Travel Agents