Resort workers assist the public at spas, luxury hotels, casinos, theme parks, and lodges. Employment opportunities range from entry-level housekeepers and retail clerks to highly specialized game attendants and ski instructors. Each worker is necessary to ensure the smooth daily operation of the business and comfort of resort patrons. Club Med, the largest resort chain in the world, employs about 11,000 workers every season.
History of Resort Worker Career
The travel and tourism industry has enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. Factors such the rising number of two-income families, easier, affordable means of travel, and the public’s love for fun and relaxation have triggered an explosion of travel destinations in the United States and abroad. There are different kinds of resorts, each catered to meet specific tastes, expectations, and budgets. Here are some of the more popular types of resorts:
Beach resorts. Great locations and warm, temperate climates make beach resorts popular vacation destinations. The same factors create tough competition when it comes to employment at such resorts. Does the idea of working in the Florida Keys or Hawaiian Islands sound attractive to you? Beach resorts offer outdoor activities such as snorkeling, surfing, sailing, and swimming. Here’s the downside: The high cost of living in such regions may really eat into your paycheck.
Alpine resorts. Alpine resorts are popular winter vacation destinations—offering downhill skiing, sledding, and snowboarding. Many alpine resorts market warm weather activities such as hiking and biking in the off season. However, some resort areas, especially those located in Colorado, have a high cost of living. Adventure resorts. Dude ranches and rafting companies are some examples of adventure travel options.
They are generally smaller operations and employ fewer workers, and many applicants are attracted to the exciting atmosphere. Most adventure resorts are found in out-of-the-way locations. As a result, if you crave big city night life during your off hours, this may not be the option for you.
Hotels, spas, and casinos. They are the biggest employers in the industry, offering many entry-level positions, as well as openings for specially trained dealers, concierges, golf instructors, and masseurs. Busy seasons vary, though you can expect to have a job year-round. These resorts tend to cater to an upscale clientele, so service standards are quite high and the work atmosphere is more structured. Luxury hotels and spas are located throughout the United States; the larger casino/resorts are located in the gambling meccas of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Theme parks. Theme and amusement parks, located throughout the country, employ thousands of workers every year. Many job opportunities, such as ride attendants, food service workers, and retail sales workers, are entry-level positions; most are seasonal. Some of the larger theme resorts do offer internships, or work/study programs.
The Job of Resort Workers
Resort employment opportunities are endless. Many different positions, all as important as the next, are required for the successful operation of a resort business. Here are some types of jobs typically found in the industry:
Business department. Accountants, human resource specialists, managers, departmental supervisors, and general managers, are just some positions found in the business department of a resort. While industry jobs are seasonal, business department employees work year round. The off season can be quite busy—budgets for the next year are set, marketing and advertising strategies are made, new hires and interns are interviewed. The number of workers employed in the business department is dependent on the size of the resort. A large casino/resort may employ hundreds of business professionals, while a dude ranch may have a single individual responsible for bookkeeping, advertising, and managerial duties. Traditionally, such positions are not considered entry-level but rather require a college degree or prior work experience. Many interns are assigned to a resort’s business department.
Food service. This is one of the largest departments in the industry. Every resort offers food and beverage service, whether simple buffets or elaborate gourmet dinners. Waiters and waitresses are needed to serve food to resort patrons in dining rooms and restaurants. Bussers, or buspersons, help set and clear tables and assist the wait staff in serving food, especially when dealing with large parties. They may also be asked to fill water glasses and bread baskets. Dishwashers clean plates, glasses, utensils, and other cooking or serving implements. Hosts and hostesses show diners to their tables, and may take dinner reservations over the phone. They are careful to rotate table occupation so all waiters and waitresses get an equal share of customers. Prep cooks, sous chefs, and executive chefs prepare all meals served at a resort. Some resorts are known for their food service, so the best-trained chefs are often recruited. Bartenders mix and serve alcoholic drinks.
Front desk. Desk clerks and reservation clerks assign guests to their hotel room or guest quarters. They are also in charge of giving guests their mail or packages, taking reservations over the phone, collecting payment, and answering any questions regarding the resort. Phone operators work the resort switchboard, field calls, and sometimes take reservations.
Guest services. Concierges assist resort guests with travel arrangements, reservations, or provide information. The bell staff, supervised by the bell captain, bring guests’ luggage to their room, run short errands, or make deliveries. They may also be asked to drive resort vehicles. Doormen open doors for guests and help with the luggage. They may also be asked to hail taxis or provide information or directions.
Housekeeping and maintenance. A resort’s reputation rests largely on its appearance. Housekeepers, or room attendants, tidy guest rooms and common areas such as the lobby, dining rooms, and the pool and spa. Most housekeeping positions are entry level and need little or no experience. Maintenance workers make repairs throughout the resort ranging from mending broken chairs to fixing electrical circuits.
Security. Guards are often employed to provide safety and security for all guests. While most guards are uniformed, some wear plainclothes and act as undercover security. Casino resorts employ a large number of security personnel to deter would-be thieves and dishonest gamblers. Security personnel, especially if they are armed, must receive some sort of formal training. Retail. Retail clerks and retail managers work at the shopping galleries and gift shops found at many resorts, selling everything from exclusive clothing labels and cosmetics to souvenirs, candy, and snacks. Most retail positions are entry level.
Childcare and health care. Many resorts cater to growing families, and therefore hire daycare workers to provide care for patrons’ children. Many resorts, especially those that are island-based, also hire a medical or first aid staff to tend to guests needing medical attention while on the premises.
Specialty workers. Specialty workers fill the industry niches or provide services advertised by the particular resort. Most occupations in this category are highly specialized or require particular training, or in some cases, certification and licensure. Lifeguards are employed by resorts to supervise beaches and swimming pools. Ski instructors provide group or individual lessons for alpine resort patrons. Many beach resorts employ recreation workers to manage water activities such as water skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and deepsea fishing. Dude ranches need wranglers, trail guides, and horse groomers. Theme resorts employ many entertainers for parades, musicals, and shows. Guides work for adventure resorts leading tours of wilderness areas. Casinos hire many people to work as table dealers, pit bosses, and change clerks. Golf resorts need golf professionals to give instruction and caddies to help guests with their golf bags.
Resort Worker Career Requirements
Most resort jobs are on a seasonal calendar and attract many students. Area high school students are often recruited to work at theme and amusement parks. Many resorts actively recruit at college campuses and job fairs and offer internships or programs to earn college credit.
There really is no specific high school class to take in order to be a successful resort worker. Rather, a pleasant and outgoing personality and good people skills are what will help you land a job.
If you are interested in something other than an entry-level job, or wish to make this industry a lifelong career, then a college education will be very helpful. Many companies look for college graduates with degrees in hospitality, communications, or business management.
Certification and Licensing
Most entry-level resort jobs do not require certification or a license. This, however, is not the case with specialty workers. Ski instructors, scuba instructors, child-care workers, and lifeguards, just to name a few, must be certified.
Your place of residence is an important factor when applying for a resort job, especially with some of the larger Alpine resorts, and almost all resorts in Hawaii. Blame it on the high cost of living at such places. Since employer-provided housing in Hawaii, for example, is scarce, and rental properties and apartments are so expensive, most resorts will not consider applicants without a local address. You should always research the cost of living in an area when considering resort worker jobs.
Also, some resorts insist that applicants be trained in CPR and first aid. Check with the human resources department of your potential employer to learn about their requirements.
Exploring Resort Worker Career
You can get work-related experience right now—without even leaving your hometown. Get a job working at a nearby golf course, hotel, or restaurant. These types of jobs offer a great introduction to the industry, help you hone your people skills, and give your resume substance.
If you’re thinking of becoming a swimming instructor, join your high school’s swim club, or start one yourself. This suggestion goes for whatever activity piques your interest—skiing, horseback riding, surfing, sailing, etc. Excelling in and enjoying a particular activity is a good stepping-stone for a career in the resort industry.
Check the Internet for resort-related Web sites and employment opportunities, or subscribe to a travel magazine to learn more about travel destinations.
Resorts are located all over the country, from multimillion- dollar hotels to smaller, family-owned adventure companies. Jobs are plentiful. The hard part, especially if relocation is not a problem, is deciding which type of resort to work for. There are several important factors to consider before starting your job search: location, size of company, cost of living, and work availability. Here are profiles of three popular resort regions:
Aspen, Colorado. There are many jobs available in Aspen, such as waiting on tables, housekeeping, or bell hopping. Most pay minimum wage or higher, but tips can greatly increase your weekly salary. Besides world-class venues for skiing, biking, and hiking, spectacular views, and clean mountain air, Aspen attracts a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and interests. Be forewarned. Aspen, as with many other Colorado resort towns, is very expensive. You may have to share the rent with a roommate(s), or consider finding more affordable housing outside of town. Most resort jobs are seasonal, from mid-October to mid-April. Unless you are fortunate enough to land a job year-round, save up for the off season. The big employer in Aspen is The Aspen Skiing Company, which has seasonal and some year-round work at their four ski areas and three hotel resorts.
Las Vegas, Nevada. Not only is this town a gambler’s haven, it is also a place to go for entertainment, culture, sightseeing, and outdoor activities. The growth of megaresorts catering to a diverse crowd of tourists, from wealthy gamblers to families, has turned Vegas into a hot travel destination. The good news: Most resort jobs in Vegas are year-round. This town is host to the largest business conventions and trade shows, so in addition to entry-level jobs, conference planners, chefs, hotel managers, and entertainers are needed to take care of the millions of conventioneers that come to Vegas each year. Housing in Las Vegas is very affordable. Many apartments advertise one month free as an incentive to potential renters. The bad news: It gets really hot in the summer. With temperatures rising over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, be sure to find out whether your resort job is primarily indoors during the months of June, July, and August. Check out the Mirage Resorts Inc., which owns the Mirage Hotel as well as the Bellagio.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Jobs are available for waitresses/waiters, bartenders, beach lifeguards, or as guides for fishing tours. Most jobs are seasonal, lasting from mid- April to the end of October. Because of the location, a ferry ride away from the mainland, and the relatively small size of the island, housing for workers is costly. Prospective resort workers may want to consider working at some of the larger hotels; the hourly pay may be low, minimum wage or little better, but at least they offer free or subsidized housing. Applicants with hotel or restaurant experience are desired.
This is a popular industry, so it’s important to apply early in order to get a choice position. A good rule of thumb is to submit your application at least two seasons in advance. That means no later than early spring for warm weather resorts, and the end of summer for Alpine resorts. Since many resorts recruit heavily at college campuses, and some high schools, your career guidance center would be a good place to start your job search. See if they post job opportunities, or have information on resort companies. The Internet offers a wealth of information on resort employment. Visit the Web site http://www.resortjobs.com/ for industry information, tips on how to land the right jobs, and a listing of available positions. You may also want to check the chamber of commerce in a particular town of interest, or check your local bookstore for a copy of the local paper. Electronic versions of many newspapers are available on the Internet.
Good work skills and a friendly disposition are important qualities in this industry. Recruiters also look for a commitment to stay the length of the season. When new hires leave mid-season, resort managers find themselves scrambling to find a replacement, or the entire department ends up pulling the slack.
Many employees return to resort jobs year after year. If they spend their first summer in an entry-level position, chances are they can advance to a job with more responsibility the next season. Bussers can advance to a waitstaff position, switchboard operators to a job as a front desk clerk, and housekeepers can become floor managers.
Most entry-level jobs in this industry pay an hourly wage anywhere from minimum wage on up. Waiters and waitresses, bussers, dishwashers, cleaning workers, the bell staff, and doormen earn low hourly salaries that are offset by tips. Specialty workers who need certification or special training, such as instructors, bartenders, entertainers, lifeguards, wranglers, or blackjack dealers, may be paid a higher hourly wage. Some resorts supply free room and board for their employees, and offer only a small monthly stipend.
The following is a sampling (from the U.S. Department of Labor) of median annual earnings in 2004 for resort workers: waiters, $14,040 (including tips); housekeepers, $16,245; lifeguards and swimming instructors, $16,740; hotel and resort desk clerks, $17,617. You should keep in mind, however, that most resort worker jobs are seasonal, so year-round, full-time employment is unlikely for more resorts, especially for entry-level jobs.
Since most jobs are seasonal, very few employee benefits are given apart from free use of resort facilities on off days, and some subsidized or free room and board. Some larger companies provide transportation to and from the resort. Full-time, year-round employees receive a standard benefits package including health insurance and paid sick and vacation time.
All employees, regardless of their position, are expected to work hard. Hours will vary depending on the job and season. Most resort workers work eight hours a day, five or six days a week. Some employers, such as hotels, casinos, and spas, require their employees to wear company uniforms. Many places allow their employees to use the resort facilities on off days. Ski resorts give their employees free lift passes for the season. Employees of beach resorts enjoy swimming and sailing during their free time.
Resorts are service-oriented so employees are required to be courteous, helpful, and friendly at all times. They are expected to dress and behave properly whether or not on call. Some resorts such as Disney World, for example, consider their employees as “the cast,” and expect them to be on their best behavior when on stage (working hours).
Not only are employees expected to mix well with the resort patrons, but with their coworkers, as well. Only team players are needed in this industry. Many resorts offer housing options for their employees, with assignments grouping two or more employees to an apartment or room. Oftentimes, especially if the resort is in a remote location, seasonal workers have no choice but to hang out with each other during their free time.
Resort Worker Career Outlook
Until the public has enough of rest and relaxation, or tires of adventure travel and exotic locales, employment prospects in the resort industry will continue to be good. Mega-resorts in Las Vegas, the popularity of all-inclusive vacation packages, and alternative vacation destinations will supply endless employment opportunities for resort workers.
Many positions require little experience, but the best positions (more responsibility, higher pay) require more training and education. Management and hospitality graduates, entertainers, activity instructors, and chefs fare better in this respect. Also, applicants with industry exposure, or the ability to speak a foreign language, will be in high demand.