What Is Hospitality Management? A Comprehensive Guide to a Growing Industry

For Candidates, Hospitality

What is Hospitality Management?

Hospitality is a broader industry than some people realize. Included under this umbrella are most businesses related to tourism and leisure activities, from lodgings and transportation to attractions like theme parks, casinos, cruise ships, and sports and concert venues. The sector also includes related fields like event planning and food service, so there are ample options for professionals who want a career in this industry.

After a couple of rocky years during the pandemic, the hospitality industry is back on a growth path. The Bureau of Labor projects the industry will add 1.9 million jobs by 2031, the fastest projected growth rate of any economic sector. In short, there are plenty of jobs to go around, but that variety can be overwhelming for students or career switchers trying to choose their ideal role. A bit of research into the various sectors included within hospitality can help you make that decision, and the insights in this article will get you started. 


What does a hospitality manager do?

In short, hospitality managers are the ones who oversee the teams and operations in hotels, resorts, and other businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry. The day-to-day responsibility of the role will vary depending on what type of business you work for and the size of its staff and property. 

In hotel chains, major resorts, and other larger properties, there will often be several managers, each focused on a specific area like housekeeping, food & beverage, or guest experience. A smaller business, like a self-contained restaurant, motel, or bed & breakfast, there may be a single general manager who coordinates all the departments and employees. 

While there’s a lot of variety within the field of hospitality management, all of these jobs share certain aspects. These professionals take charge of hiring, training, scheduling, and managing staff, as well as communicating with guests and customers to ensure their needs are met. Other typical tasks include scheduling and overseeing property maintenance, monitoring and ordering supplies or equipment, planning and running events and activities that take place on the property, and keeping track of the accounting, budgeting, payroll, and other important financial records. 


Different types of hospitality management

The main thing that differentiates types of managers in the hospitality sector is the location and type of business where they work. Here are some of the most common types of managers in the hospitality industry, with a brief overview of the typical tasks and work environment for each. 


Hotel management

The hotel industry is one of the most common sources of job opportunities for those with a hospitality management degree, in part because there are a range of roles available within each location. There are usually multiple levels of leadership within a hotel, with a Property Manager or General Manager at the top overseeing a team of individual department managers. These commonly include a Housekeeping Manager and a Front Office Manager, who coordinates things like the front desk and concierge. Full-service hotels and resorts will also have people on staff like a Banquet Manager and Food & Beverage Manager, while large properties may also have leadership positions in areas like sales, marketing, or revenue management. 

Across roles, a hotel manager oversees the day-to-day operations of everyone in their area of the business. This makes communication and interpersonal skills crucial for success, along with strong organization and attention to detail. In addition, the fact that hotels are by necessity a 24/7 business means managers in a hotel or resort need to be flexible and willing to work odd or long hours, often including holidays and weekends, often the busiest times for companies in the tourism industry. 


Tourism and event management

Tourism and event managers can work for places that help people plan trips, like travel agencies, or for places where events and celebrations are hosted, like convention centers, music venues, or attractions like zoos and museums. 

Because they can find employment in so many different places, the typical responsibilities of an event or tourism manager vary even more than those of a hotel manager. In some cases, they choose, plan, and carry out the program of events for their employers. Others are in more of a sales and customer service role, working with people who want to book the venue for concerts, conferences, parties, and other occasions. While some event managers oversee a team of employees, others work more independently, interacting mostly with customers and vendors.


Restaurant management

Most of the day-to-day duties of a restaurant manager are similar to those of a hotel manager. They hire, train, and manage employees, track and record sales and other financial information, and oversee the restaurant’s operations. This can include things like creating the menu, ordering ingredients and other products, and ensuring the kitchen is complying with health and safety standards for how food is stored and handled, though in some restaurants some or all of those things are the responsibility of the executive chef. 

As a rule, the restaurant world isn’t a 9-5 type of job. Managers need to be on-hand during business peaks and that often means working evenings and weekends, whether you’re working for a small catering company or a well-known fine-dining restaurant. While having an interest in food can be useful in restaurant careers, you don’t need to be a chef to be a restaurant manager. These roles tend to be focused more on the front of the house and customer service aspects of the restaurant, and the best restaurant managers are strong communicators, effective delegators, and have the ability to stay calm in stressful situations.


What skills are necessary for a hospitality manager?

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the key skills for managers across hospitality niches. First and foremost, you need to be able to communicate with people from all walks of life. Empathy and a high emotional IQ make managers more effective in interactions with both employees and guests. You’ll also often be working as part of a leadership team, requiring an ability to collaborate and cooperate with others, along with the ability to motivate and direct reports. 

Another must-have skill set is task and project management. This includes the ability to set goals, prioritize work, and delegate it to the correct employee for the job. Managers are also in charge of managing and allocating resources, and may be responsible for improving or establishing systems and policies. Nestled under this umbrella are skills like organization and planning, which are especially crucial for event managers but are useful for managers across the industry.


Steps to become a hospitality manager

1. Get experience in the industry.

Hospitality is one of the few remaining industries where it’s not just possible but common to make career progress without formal education. While having a Bachelor’s degree can open doors to more opportunities and career paths, it’s not a substitute for hands-on experience. Spending some time working in a hotel or restaurant can also help you decide whether the industry is a good fit and which area of hospitality you want to focus on, before you invest time and money into your education. 


2. Earn a degree.

There are no specific degree requirements to become a hotel manager, but many high-end hotels and resorts look for applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Resort Management. The curriculum in this degree program includes general business topics like revenue management and marketing, along with more specific knowledge like guest relations or food and beverage inventory systems. Aspiring restaurant managers may instead pursue a degree in Culinary Management.


3. Reinforce your skills with a certification course.

Along with university degrees, there are several certifications you can get to demonstrate your expertise in a particular area of the industry. These are available through professional organizations like AHLEI and HSMAI Global and cover a range of topics, from Exhibition Management and Event Strategy to Revenue Management and Hotel Industry Analytics. 


4. Gain leadership experience.

Between the individual employees and the hotel managers, there are often a crew of team leaders, supervisors, and other mid-level roles who help the department leaders keep the business running smoothly. Taking on this kind of role can demonstrate your ability to motivate and manage other people, something most employers are going to want to see on your resume before they hire you into a management role. Many large hotel chains also offer apprenticeship programs, often targeted at recent graduates, that give you hands-on experience with a variety of areas within the operation.  


The path to success in hospitality management

There are a variety of management roles within the hospitality industry, and for each one there are an equally wide variety of paths you can take to get there. If you’re sure which area of hospitality you want to focus on, getting a degree or certification can help you make faster progress toward your goal. For those who aren’t sure if hospitality is a good fit, getting hands-on experience as a front desk agent, server, housekeeper, or other entry-level role is the best way to decide if you want to work in the industry long-term. 

Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 55 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; CBD; Facility and Concession; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Healthcare; Hotel and Resort; Nonprofit; Restaurant and Foodservice; and Travel, Tourism, and Attraction industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here

Get The Newsletter

Receive Exclusive Career Opportunities, Hiring Best Practices, and More Straight to Your Inbox