There's more variety in a hotel career than you can shake a CV at. So, if you're ambitious, sparky and want to rise fast, get out there and make the most of it, says Rosalind Mullen
If the Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon and the Olympics fail to put the UK at the heart of world tourism this year, then we might as well all emigrate. The truth is, though, that with or without these amazing crowd-pullers Blighty manages to pull in millions of visitors every year - in 2011, for instance, there were 28.2 million tourists from abroad. This year should top that.
For the hotel industry, this vibrant travel market creates enormous demand for a variety of service levels. While the money-conscious head to budget hotels such as Premier Inn, the super-rich sashay into luxurious retreats such as Gidleigh Park. And there's everything in between, including pub-hotels, boutique chains, chic townhouses, spa hotels, country house properties and the big chains such as Hilton or InterContinental.
As an aspiring hotel professional, this gives you a rich choice in how you develop your career. If you are interested in operational roles or a graduate trainee programme, for example, you might choose an international or national chain, while for more all-round experience a smaller independent hotel might fit the bill.
The magical thing about hotels is that they require a workforce with so many different skills: concierges, porters, housekeepers, receptionists, front-office staff, HR gurus, department managers, sales teams, general managers, chefs, waiters the list goes on. This gives you the option of gaining experience in a number of departments before you settle on one that suits your talents. Read on and find out how three young professionals are shaping their careers
The independent hotel
Who? Katie Meyrick, 28
What? Assistant general manager
Where? Battlesteads pub, hotel and restaurant, Wark, near Hexham
Did you plan to have a career in hospitality?
No. I actually studied for an Animal Science degree at Newcastle University and then got a job in the animal health product development department of a contract research organisation.
Couldn't be more different - so why did you make the change?
In 2008, I was trying to relocate here from Edinburgh to be near my partner, so I had to change jobs. I saw a vacancy for an office manager at Battlesteads and as my previous job had given me good office skills, I felt confident to apply.
You've just been promoted, so how have you learned the ropes?
All of my training has been on the job. I've learnt from the owners, Richard and Dee Slade, who have been in the trade for the past 25 years. I'm inquisitive, so I ask questions. I also gained a personal licence through a course with the BII.
Sounds like you've now embraced hospitality as a career
Yes. I didn't think of it as a career at first, but it was a complete change and I realised I enjoyed it. I like the variety. Obviously I have progressed and the job I do now is different from the one I started in. I have taken more control of the day-to-day running of the hotel, including managing staff, rotas, managing the website, social media, events and marketing. I have also been the hotel's Green champion since 2009.
Tell us about your Green role
Well, the hotel has won a number of awards, including a Green Hotel of the Year trophy at the 2011 Hotel Cateys, Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2011 and Considerate Hotel 2010/11. It's my responsibility to check all aspects of the hotel, from the use of eco-friendly cleaning products to recycling and I also carry out a full Green induction with new staff.
How have you developed your management style?
In an independent business there is a small nucleus of staff, so you need to be versatile. My management style is to show other members of staff that I'm prepared to do anything to keep the hotel running well - not just manage. I wouldn't want them to think that I'm not part of the team because it is such a small hotel.
How does this get results?
It helps to show them good customer service and keeps morale high. Another benefit is that we have a low turnover of staff. I manage about 10 people in the hotel and very few leave. This reflects well with return guests and comes through in reviews of our service standards.
What are the downsides of working in hospitality?
There are few downsides for me because I am interested in the hotel and want to be involved in its success. I like the fact I get to work in different sections of it, but I suppose some people would find it difficult because you have to be able to multi-task. You have to be prepared to drop one thing and then start another. I am constantly on the job - it's not 9 to 5.
So what do you love about it?
I feel passionately about the hotel and my job and want everything to be right. We have won several awards and I don't want standards to drop.
How would you describe this sector to someone thinking about a career in it?
It's a life-change.
What does the future hold?
I have evolved with this hotel and looking ahead I want to progress and move on to a general manager role. We've got permission for an extension on the hotel, so my role might change. On the whole, though, the job takes over and I just live for the here and now.
battlesteads in short
Richard and Dee Slade have been running this independent hotel since 2005
â- It has 17 bedrooms, a pub and a restaurant
â- It's Green. Of the 173 hotels across Northumberland, it's the only one with a carbon-neutral heating system and one of only two to hold a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme
The boutique chain hotel
Who? Georgina Parrish, 22
What? Graduate trainee
Where? Hotel du Vin Cheltenham
When did you join the company?
I started at Malmaison & Hotel du Vin in July 2011, having graduated in hotel and hospitality management with marketing at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. I've been at this 49-bedroom hotel for a few months and before that I was at the Oxford hotel.
So what made you want to work in hotels?
I've just always wanted to do it. I'm the fourth or fifth generation of my family to work in hospitality. I've got a background in hotels, but I would consider working in other sectors of the industry.
Tell us about the graduate trainee programme
The programme has shown me a lot. It lasts 18 months, with three six-month placements. For the first six months I was working at operations level in each department, experiencing the day-to-day running of the hotel. After six weeks I was promoted to assistant front office manager. I've had experience of duty manager, night manager, front office manager and F&B, so I've been plunged in at the deep end. Front office, for instance, was a new experience, taken reservations, night audits, dealing with complaints and coping with drunks and difficult customers.
How will you progress?
I hope to become a deputy general manager or general manager in the next five years. It depends on the opportunities that come up - it's a good company to work for.
What qualities do you need to work in hospitality?
You have got to be customer focused and have a natural ability to attend to customer needs. You have to put a smile on your face and deliver good service.
And what do you love about it?
Diversity is good. With the recession, for instance, you need to think of different ways to bring customers in to the hotel. I've seen lots of different sides of the industry and I've grown as a manager, but I have a lot to learn.
Give us a reality check
You have to be dedicated to the job and prepared to work long hours, work odd time shifts, get few weekends off, so you struggle with work and personal life - that's a drawback.
What's your goal?
I'd love to run my own business.
Malmaison & Hotel du Vin at a glance
â- There are 12 Malmaisons and 15 Hotel du Vins across the UK
â- The company offers comprehensive training and development packages to ambitious employees, including management development and rising stars
â- Hotel du Vin won Best Smaller Hotel Worldwide 2010 in the Business Traveller Awards
The Five-star hotel
Who? Sam Kirby, 25
What? Guest experience assistant
Where? Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire
You've got vocational qualifications, it seems
Yes, I took a degree in hospitality management at Bournemouth University and graduated in 2009. It was four years, with a placement year in Canada where I worked at Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff, Alberta.
Sounds exciting - tell us more about that
I spent six months in F&B and six months on the front desk - both were fun. I went back after I had qualified. It was the Winter Olympics in Vancouver that year and Fairmont was opening a new hotel there, so I was in the opening team.
So you've had a fair bit of travel through this job?
Definitely. After Vancouver I travelled to Australia on a working holiday visa and got a job at a resort on Hayman Island in the Whitsundays for six months. I spent two months as a porter and then got promoted to concierge.
Is travel why you want to work in hospitality?
I do love the travel opportunities, but I've always wanted to work in this industry - since I was in secondary school. I really enjoy it. Every day is different and there is the challenge of different guests. Some can be difficult and I enjoy seeing if I can rise to their demands. I love chatting to people and working in beautiful five-star surroundings.
Will you remain in the five-star sector?
I'm definitely interested in the luxury sector. It started when I did work experience at Chewton Glen years ago.
OK, so you've just finished your training, so tell us about your job
Well, it's just me - it's a developing role. During my training I spent time working in different divisions of the hotel to enable me to understand each department thoroughly. There are 133 bedrooms, including 22 suites. My role is to personalise each guest's visit and to ensure they get what they want from their stay. It's a service that is mostly aimed at those who book suites. I give them a pre-arrival call, introduce myself and find out the aims of their visit. Then, I meet them on arrival, show them around the hotel and make sure I'm on-hand when they have any requests. I'm there to help them, make arrangements, ensure they get restaurant bookings, escort them, arrange check-out and give them a call for feedback afterwards.
What's your dream ambition?
Eventually, I would like to have somewhere of my own, but if the right opportunity came up on the corporate side that would be good, too.
How would you sell hospitality as a career?
Every country in the world has hospitality at different levels so the opportunities are amazing.
Four Seasons in three sentences
â- There are more than 85 luxury hotels across 35 countries
â- New hotels are opening this year in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Toronto, Baku and St Petersburg
â- Progression is good and there are three types of training - introductory, non-management and supervisory & management