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An Overview of the Hotel Industry

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Hotels and motels are not only places where one can obtain good food and comfortable rooms; they are also centers of community life, with facilities for meeting, entertainment, communication, and personal services. Their stock in trade has always been hospitality and service, and hotels and motels have made an art of dispensing comfort, pleasing the palate, and creating an atmosphere of home for guests.


Hotels and motels have been a part of the American scene from the earliest days of history. From the simple roadside inns of the original colonies, which provided food and rest for weary travelers, to the modern steel and brick giants of today, which are practically cities within cities, hotels and motels have been an integral part of every community.

From individually owned properties the industry has grown in size to a multinational giant. Every year new hotel chains form. This is not only an American phenomenon, but it is common to Great Britain, Ireland, France, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and almost every developed country in the world. Most of the major hotels today are part of international chains. This trend extends to other industries, such as the airlines, real estate firms, and financial organizations that have come into the hospitality field for many reasons, including direction of business, cash flow, ability to increase rates to follow exchange fluctuations, and pure investment.

Today, across America and worldwide, cities, towns, and villages are dotted with hotels and motels of every kind-from small, simple rooming houses to elaborate fully contained motels, skyscraper hotels, and sprawling resorts providing employment to thousands. In the United States alone, the hospitality industry is one of the largest of all industries, surpassed only by the automotive and food industries.

The hotel-motel industry is unusual among the major industries of the country in that it is comprised of a great variety of skilled and unskilled occupations. Many of these jobs are common only to the industry; others relate to various outside trades and professions. Those employed in the industry include chefs, managers, plumbers, carpenters, porters, bookkeepers, secretaries, engineers, salespeople, printers, telephone operators, elevator operators, upholsterers, painters, bellhops, accountants, cashiers, waiters, electricians, foreign language interpreters, security people, public relations specialists, and scores of other workers.

We shall concentrate on analyzing the occupations found in the larger hotel and motel operations because, for the most part, these jobs are duplicated in the smaller establishments. Depending on its size and locale, the small hotel or motel performs basically the same functions and services as a larger one, except for having a smaller, less specialized staff.

However, keep in mind that although larger operations offer a greater number of opportunities, the small hostelries offer an excellent training ground for fundamental experience in overall hotel-motel operation. Remember, too, that although many beginning jobs do not require any special educational preparation, a broad education will improve your chances for advancement and give you the ability to perform many necessary duties outside your own sphere of experience.

Dr. Robert A. Beck, former dean of the School of Hotel Administration. Cornell University, and an eminent consultant, describes the challenges and opportunities of the hotel industry.

The hospitality industry offers today's young men and young women a most interesting and exciting career. Management of a hotel or a restaurant calls for a wide range of capabilities. Guests must be received with cordiality and provided with comfortable, well-designed, and tastefully decorated surroundings. They need appetizing, wholesome food that has been wisely bought, properly stored, skillfully prepared, and graciously served. Various other conveniences in public areas, conference and exhibit rooms, communication systems, and travel services are required for proper guest service. Further, a staff of employees must be recruited, trained, and motivated to provide hospitable service. Moreover, all must be successfully coordinated to return a profit to the establishment's investors. For those wishing a rewarding and challenging life in service to their fellow man, a future in the hospitality field should certainly be considered.

Types of Hotels

There are many different kinds of hotels and motels. The three major types of hotel operations are commercial, residential, and resort. Commercial or transient hotels make up about three-fourths of the hotels in this country. According to 1997 American Hotel and Motel Association statistics, there are more than 49,000 hotels and motels, with a total of more than three million rooms. At $85.6 billion annual sales combined, they represent a major industry in the United States. These commercial or transient hotels cater to commercial travelers, including businesspeople, salespeople, transient visitors, tourists who spend one or more nights at the hotel. Some of the guests may spend longer periods at the hotel, even though the essential business is still commercial. Commercial or transient hotels that operate public dining rooms and restaurants generally make these facilities available to the general public as well as to the hotel guests. This food business is an important part of many commercial hotel operations.

Another major source of revenue is the convention and meeting business. Newly built hotels are constructed with this in mind and older hotels, when modernized, add public space facilities. Hotels and motels without these meeting and banquet rooms are at a competitive disadvantage.

Residential hotels make up about one-tenth of the total number of hotels in the United States. These hotels provide permanent and semi-permanent quarters for their guests. Most of them, though not all, also provide food. Some of them have opened their dining rooms and restaurants to the general public. In general, residential hotels are located in suburban or residential districts. But there are also numerous residential hotels located in or near business sections in order to provide their guests with swift and easy access to and from their businesses.

About one-sixth of the total number of hotels in this country is resort hotels. Resort hotel operation varies greatly depending on size and the hotel's distance from large urban centers. In some resort areas, the hotels are expected to provide only food and lodging, but many large resort hotels could not stay in business unless they also provided sport and meeting facilities. Some of the most famous resort hotels offer magnificent provisions for golf, tennis, swimming, boating, dancing, horseback riding, and planned social activities and entertainment.

Resorts also need to generate business to fill in when regular vacation business tapers off. So today, many top resorts, especially those with huge public spaces, solicit commercial business in the form of conventions, sales meetings, and incentive tours, especially during off-season periods. This is a major source of revenue.
An additional source of business is conference centers, which are generally located in the suburbs. Fully self-contained, these centers provide state-of-the-art audiovisual and technical equipment and meet all physical requirements for business functions. Located where they are, they can ensure few or no distractions for corporate meetings.
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