Introduction to the Hospitality Industry

Hospitality is a word we all know and recognize, and if you are wondering what is hospitality, its official meaning is defined as the relationship between host and guest. Good hospitality is important in restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and theme parks as well as on cruise ships and the term has become synonymous with the travel industry. However, if you have ever been a guest in someone’s home or had family to stay in yours, you have also experienced or practiced hospitality. Hospitality goes hand in hand with customer service and is basically about giving your guests a memorable experience, whether in a restaurant or hotel, or your spare bedroom, and ensuring that they will return. It isn’t a new concept; making sure that guests were happy and their every need catered for was important to the ancient Greeks, and many Celtic cultures.

In the US, the hospitality industry is one of the largest, employing almost 8 million people, in positions ranging from hotel housekeeper to cruise ship entertainer. One in every 17 people is employed in the hospitality industry in some way. In the US alone, the travel and transportation industries generate around 1.5 trillion dollars annually, with hotels and resorts, food services and air travel making up about 50 percent of this. Most income in the US hospitality and travel industry is generated by domestic travelers, although overseas visitors also spend billions of dollars every year on lodging, meals, transportation and entertainment.

One of the reasons it is important to offer outstanding hospitality is that the industry depends almost entirely on disposable income. Most people don’t have to stay in hotels, or visit resorts, restaurants and casinos and if they don’t have the extra money, they are reluctant to spend it. The overall state of the economy can have a significant income on hospitality industry revenues, as can the weather and threats of terrorism. There is also some truth in the fact that someone receiving good service in a hotel or restaurant will tell several people, while someone receiving poor service will tell a lot more people of their experience. In other words, word of mouth is important, and many places rely on repeat bookings. An unsold hotel room or an empty restaurant table is known in the industry as spoilage; once gone, it can never be sold again and airlines and hotels strive to have every seat and room filled.

Working in the industry can be challenging yet rewarding. There are literally hundreds of different jobs available, ranging from flight attendant to casino card dealer to restaurant dishwasher. Not all these jobs are especially well paid, and many people in the industry work the night shift, or on holidays and weekends. However, the benefits can often be good, including free or reduced rate hotel rooms, meals or air travel. Of course, you have to be a people person and you have to realize the importance of keeping the customer happy and making sure that he or she has a memorable and positive experience and will return.