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Hotel Industry - Education and Training

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No other industry better exemplifies the American way. Any man or woman who is filled with ambition, energy, and the will to succeed can rise to the highest peaks as a hotel executive and rise there more rapidly than in any other occupation in this country. The annals of hotel history are filled with the success stories of overnight rises to fame. And many of these people learned all they know about the hotel business by working right in it.

Many of the nation's leading hotel executives started at the bottom and worked their way up the ladder of success. They began as assistant waiters, bellhops, room clerks, accountants, and pages. Many leading hotel executives have succeeded without benefit of special training. Years ago, when many of them first started out in the business, few schools or colleges gave courses in hotel management. In those days, hotel employees learned their trade only by apprenticeship or by working for a famous hotel executive and learning his or her system.

Today, as hotels have become a major industry, a large number of schools and colleges in the United States have created special classes or complete courses in hotel work. In 1998, more than 160 colleges and universities offered bachelor's degrees and graduate programs in this field; more than 800 community and junior colleges offered an associate degree or other formal recognition certificate in hotel or restaurant management. Educational opportunities range from individual courses from one, two or four year programs, and approximately twenty-five master's degree programs.

The complex hotel organizations of today require trained personnel. While many executives in the hotel industry came up the ladder without benefit of special educational or training courses, they grew up with hotels in a period when hotels themselves were growing. Today, although the hotel industry continues to expand and improve itself, it needs properly trained personnel to foster its further maturity.


If you are planning to enter the hotel industry, prepare yourself for the field. Above all, do not neglect your general education. Expand your general studies as much as possible. A good general education will shape you into a well-rounded person and give you the ability to deal with people from all walks of life confidently and intelligently.

Include languages in your general studies, especially French and Spanish. Since French is an international language and Spanish is spoken by many foreign business travelers, these two languages are very important in the hotel field. Geography is another good subject to study. Since you are dealing with people who come from all sections of the United States and foreign countries, it is helpful to know your geography. It is good business to know not only your guests, but also the cities and countries from which they come.

If you do not plan to continue your general studies at college, there are many excellent hotel training courses given by high schools and vocational schools. Business schools also offer special courses of study in hotel training. You will find these schools right in your own community with no need (in most instances) to travel daily or live away from home in order to attend. In many instances, you can combine your general high school studies with specialized hotel training. Where hotel training courses are given, consult with your school faculty advisor to see if a combined course is possible.

If you plan to continue your studies in college, complete your general education first, if possible. Here again, you have the choice of combining your general studies with specialized courses of study in hotel management. The individual schools and colleges can best advise you whether such combined courses of study are possible and whether they recommend them in your particular case.

Although it is in your own best interests to complete both high school and college in order to build a good background before undertaking your special hotel training, do not consider this a must. If circumstances prevent you from completing your education, there are still many opportunities for you to enter the hotel industry and advance up the ladder while learning the business from the inside. A large hotel employs a broad cross section of workers in many occupations. It is, therefore, impossible to set up rigid educational requirements for entrance into this field, since necessary training varies with each particular profession. When you realize that the occupations related to the hotel industry include carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and other trades, you can understand the variation possible in educational requirements and preparation.

There are many jobs in the hotel industry for which no special education or training is required. These are mostly unskilled and lower paying positions. Hotel management or department heads train many of these employees. These jobs might include those of waiter, maid, clerk, page, housekeeper, porter, or elevator operator.

However, if you would like to be promoted from these positions, you should continue your education after hours. In cities where special courses in hotel training are available, it is wise to enroll in these programs. Many men and women have been promoted from these unskilled jobs, and this trend will continue.

If you intend to make a career for yourself in the hotel industry, education and completion of special hotel training courses is almost a necessity. Large hotels and hotel chains give preference to educated employees. They particularly seek employees who have completed special hotel training courses given by recognized schools and colleges. Educated and trained personnel make better hotel employees, and they will become the executives and hotel industry leaders of tomorrow.

Computer training is also an integral part of hotel management. Almost all hotels and motels use computers for reservations, housekeeping management, and billing. So, college graduate, high school graduate, vocational school graduate, or plain beginner- continue some form of study or preparation for the future outside of working hours. Success in business must be earned.

Mr. Frank G. Wangman, for many years' senior vice president of the Hilton Hotels Corporation, and executive vice president and general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel of New York, has this to say about education's place in preparation for hotel industry careers:

If one considers the development of the hotel and inn business, which goes back to the days of ancient empires and practically to the birth of civilization, one comes to the realization that this business of ours has changed more in its complexities in the last 100 years than in all the centuries before. Our tempo of change is destined to further accelerate with the constantly improving modes of transportation.

While the basic concepts of service and graciousness and honor to the guest remain the same as in great periods of culture centuries ago, the way of doing business [has changed] as business in the fashion of yesterday no longer stands up under modern demands; and even what is good enough today will be more than outmoded tomorrow. This, then, is the challenge of the hotel executive of tomorrow. It offers a great opportunity to come to the fore. The well-trained and aspiring youth will particularly find a calling in the hotel field-for youth, by its nature, is in tune with the times, and our business has to reflect the fashions of the times.

In the memory of many of us, the hotel business has grown from one of the small enterprises to the sixth major industry of the United States. The fact that we have become big business is amply demonstrated by looking at the Department of Commerce statistics, and it is in being in big business that I foresee the greatest challenges to the rising generation of hotel executives.

The time is already here when employees, even in minor departments, benefit from reading business books developed by the Stanford and Harvard Graduate Schools of Business Administration, thus giving us an indication of the direction in which we grow. Yet, we must never forget that the basic skills in inn keeping will bring us success or failure; however, these basic skills, as essential as they are, will not serve as the future hotel executive's foundation unless they are coupled with modern business methods.

Looking back at the great leaders in our business over the last half century, whether it was Caesar Ritz, E. M. Statler, Luscious Boomer, Conrad Hilton, or others, each and every one was ahead of his time. The future leaders of our business will, of course, also be ahead of their time, which means that they will have to pioneer in fields of scientific and business knowledge that were unheard of in the days of our great predecessors.

I can therefore urge my young friends in the hotel business to equip them with the best possible all-around education. This education will bring rewards well beyond their fond expectations; for what is there more thrilling than to be an integral, vibrant part of a great business that encompasses practically each and every phase of human life, and that is bound to grow and further develop with the progress in the various fields of transportation?


Contact the school or college or your choice as soon as possible is properly prepared to meet the entrance requirements. You can find out if your preparation is along the proper lines only by contacting the individual schools and colleges and ascertaining their requirements.

Some schools that give classes or complete courses of study in hotel work are limited in the number of students they can admit. This is another reason for your early inquiry.

Write directly to the dean or registrar of those schools or colleges you wish to enter. Ask for detailed information concerning courses of study offered, entrance requirements, registration, tuition fees, and other information. It would be an excellent idea to inform the school in advance of the courses you are now taking or your present educational background. In this manner, you can save time and determine immediately whether you are on the right educational track for your hotel education and training.
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