A look at the 10 most common myths about the hospitality industry, from the nature of its jobs to its economic value and future.
Before COVID-19 hit, the hospitality industry was one of the biggest sectors in the global economy, worth over $570 billion and employing almost 10% of the world’s working population. And while it’s faced unprecedented challenges in the past year and a half, experts are confident that the industry will bounce-back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as 2023. After all, this isn’t the first time the industry’s faced a setback. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US tourism industry saw a sharp decline in revenues but took just five months to recover. And after the 2008 recession, it made a full recovery in just 12 months. While it may need to innovate, evolve and adapt to cater to ‘a new normal’, the hospitality industry will bounce back – and may even come out the other end stronger than ever.
Yet still, there are so many misconceptions that surround the industry, from the nature of its jobs to its economic value and role in the future. Let’s have a look at the top 10 misconceptions – and put them to bed, once and for all.
1. Hospitality is working in a hospital
While they may sound very similar, hospitals and hospitality are actually very different. Yes, hospitals offer some form of hospitality, as they provide patients with a bed and a warm meal. But for a patient, staying in a hospital is a type of ‘enforced hospitality’, it’s not by choice. Hospitality, on the other hand, caters to people who are actively choosing their destination. That said, hospitality skills do transfer well to the healthcare sector, as the same skills and processes apply. Patients, just like guests, want to be comforted by a welcoming smile, and hospitals, just like hotels, need to rely on a system that works.
2. Only women work in hospitality
Actually, the gender balance in the hospitality industry is actually more or less equal, but when it comes to gender equality, the industry still has a long way to go. According to HotelManagement.net, almost half of the hospitality workforce is made up of women. However, most of the women working in hospitality are performing lower-skilled and consequently, lower-paid jobs than men. A recent study suggests that only 25% of leadership positions in the hospitality industry are held by women. So, while it may seem that there are more women working in hospitality – because they’re the ones you come into direct contact with in restaurants, room service or airlines – there are actually just as many male employees.
3. The hospitality industry requires you to work long and irregular hours
The hospitality industry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. Technically speaking, there are no days off. So yes, if you’re working in most customer-facing roles, it’s likely that you’ll be faced with early starts, late finishes, weekend shifts and missed holidays. But there are also other jobs in hospitality that offer a better work-life balance, including back-of-house, managerial and administrative support functions, i.e. in marketing, purchasing or finance. And if that’s not for you, then you always have the option of working part-time, which can also offer more flexibility and a better work-life balance.
4. Hospitality workers are uneducated
In order to be successful in the hospitality industry you need a significant amount of training and preparation. Sure, you can work as a waiter, bell hop, housekeeper or laundry attendant with minimal training. But if you’re looking to start your career in an upscale or luxury hotel with a focus on service excellence, land a managerial level role in a hotel or F&B business, or in other branches of the sector like in events, entertainment or travel, you’ll need to have formal education. Entrepreneurs dreaming of owning their own hospitality business will also require a high level of business knowledge to develop and build a successful hospitality concept. Hospitality management programs offer specialized training in all areas - from business and marketing to procurement, revenue management and hands-on training.
5. Hospitality jobs are not well paid
This is true for some, but not for all. While average salaries in the hospitality industry are lower, it’s largely because there’s a significant discrepancy between entry-level jobs and executive management positions. The hospitality industry also hires a lot of part-time employees, interns as well as workers from developing or underdeveloped countries for entry-level jobs, which can cause the average to skew downward. But for middle-management and executive-level positions, salaries are very competitive, and can offer you a very comfortable lifestyle. A degree in hospitality management can give you the jump-start you need for a successful career in the industry.
6. Hospitality management is all about dealing with chores
It’s true that many jobs in hospitality require you to take orders, deliver food, wash dishes, clean rooms and run errands. After all, that’s what taking care of guests is all about. If that’s not the type of work you’re interested in, there are endless other opportunities where you don’t have to carry out the hands-on operational tasks of a hospitality business. For example, managerial roles – in revenue management, marketing, sales, R&D, consulting, event planning or even creative roles in hotel design or menu innovation – don’t call for any chores or catering to the whims of guests. That’s the beauty of the industry; there’s something in it for everyone.
7. You’ll be able to travel all the time
Unfortunately, a career in hospitality is not a holiday. While there are definitely a lot of career options available and hospitality professionals do have the flexibility to transfer their skills from one function to another – and from one continent to another - most positions don’t involve that much actual on-the-job travel. That is, unless you’re working for an airline, on a train or cruise-ship - where travel is part of the job description. As with any job, you’ll have several weeks of paid holidays to take – and as an employee of the industry, you’ll likely have access to perks like discounted travel and favorable rates.
8. You either lose or gain a lot of weight
Not necessarily. Sure, odd hours, demanding work schedules and unlimited access to food and beverages can be a recipe for disaster. But most hospitality professionals are also on their feet all day and lead a surprisingly active lifestyle. The truth is that weight struggles can happen in just about any profession - think about office jobs where employees are stuck at a desk all day. We’re all responsible for our own health, regardless of our professional circumstances, so weight loss, or gain, is not a side-effect that the industry is responsible for. In fact, health and wellness Is growing significantly in importance within the industry, and will increasingly influence individual organizational culture, as employers recognize that the well-being of their employees is critical to the success of their business.
9. You will only be able to work in hotels
Definitely not! The hospitality industry is extremely broad and offers more job opportunities than any other sector. By 2027, experts predict that the hospitality industry will account for 1 in 9 jobs on the planet. Hotels actually only form a small (albeit growing) part of the sector. Opportunities in other branches of the sector include hospitality management, entertainment, health & wellness, luxury, food & beverage, online & technology and roles in consultancy, R&D or project management. Finally, If those don't take your fancy hospitality management skills are highly transferrable to other industries such as banking and retail.
10. Technology will take over hospitality jobs
While online booking, digital check-in and other AI or automated-delivery services have gained traction in hospitality over recent years, it’s unlikely that the industry will be run by robots anytime soon. Of course, technology can improve efficiencies and streamline certain processes, but the hospitality industry thrives off human interaction. Studies show that 84% of travelers believe that personalized services is important. And despite the advances of technology, robots just aren’t able to offer the same level of human connection, care and creativity. This is especially true for luxury hotels and services, where the guest experience is tailor-made, and a personal touch is everything.