What types of jobs and employers are there in hospitality and travel?

What types of jobs and employers are there in hospitality and travel?
Find out about entry-level jobs, potential for progression and popular areas of work in hospitality and travel, and check out school leavers’ and graduates’ favourite employers.

If you’ve got great customer service skills and want to start work in an industry with plenty of entry-level opportunities and the chance of rapid progression, a career in hospitality and travel could be just what you’re looking for. The industry is tremendously varied and employers range in size from international household-name restaurant, hotel and travel groups to small family-run businesses. There’s also scope to set up your own business, though would-be entrepreneurs are likely to be best off working in the industry to gain experience and understanding before striking out on their own.

This is an industry that offers opportunities to school leavers at both 16 and 18 as well as to graduates and those with postgraduate qualifications. Whether you want to start earning or work your way up or pursue higher education and relevant further study, you should be able to find a route into employment that will suit you.

What types of jobs are there in hospitality and travel?

The range of opportunities is vast, from desk-based sales roles at travel agencies to managing five-star hotels on the other side of the world. Here are some examples of career paths you could choose.

  • Adventure tourism. If you fancy being paid to go kayaking, abseiling, caving or trekking, this could be the career for you. There is also a desk-based aspect to this area of work, as you could spend time researching and planning expeditions. Depending on the precise nature of your role, you’ll need plenty of energy, excellent planning and organisational skills and a friendly, calm and confident personality.
  • Hotel management. There are around 40,000 hotels across the UK, and overseas opportunities ranging from ski resorts to Caribbean island retreats. Big hotel groups often employ staff who specialise in areas such as finance, marketing and human resources, and rapid progression to higher managerial roles is often possible.
  • Restaurants. Responsibilities for restaurant managers include planning shifts, overseeing standards of food, implementing health and safety procedures, and maintaining good service. Large restaurant chains are more likely to recruit staff into specialised roles. Some managers start as waiting or kitchen staff while others join after their A levels. Some big employers have structured training programmes that you can enter at different levels and that offer career progression from waiting roles to shift manager and assistant manager positions. If you want to join a management training scheme, you may need further or higher education qualifications in a relevant subject.
  • Bars, clubs and pubs. You could start with an entry-level job serving customers and progress to a managerial role, or study for a relevant degree and join a graduate scheme. As a manager, your role could include working behind the bar, dealing with accounts and purchasing stock, as well as recruiting and training staff.
  • Events and conferences. There are many different kinds of event that you could get involved in, from trade shows and careers fairs to research conferences and exhibitions. You could start work in a support role on the ground and progress to a senior event management role that calls for organisation and planning. You may be able to join the industry in a higher-level role if you have relevant higher education qualifications. Your employer could be a company or venue with its own event management team or a specialised agency, and you could be responsible for tasks such as booking venues, arranging accommodation and organising material for attendees to take away with them.
  • Travel agencies. Travel agents sell holiday packages and help customers with travel arrangements. You can start work as a junior member of staff on the counter, working as a travel agency clerk or consultant, and progress to management roles. Alternatively you may be able to get a place on a management training scheme, though competition is fierce and you are likely to need a degree.

The most popular hospitality and travel employers for school leavers

The following employers are all listed in The 100 Most Popular Employers for School Leavers 2015, which is based on a survey of 7,000 school pupils in the UK carried out by trendence, a sister company of TARGETcareers. The survey ranks the companies school students say they would like to work for in order of popularity.

The training programmes on offer from these hospitality and travel employers vary, so it’s important to check the details. Some will employ and train those who have not yet achieved GCSE-level qualifications; others recruit school leavers with GCSEs or A levels and some also offer graduate training schemes. You can find out more from our articles on the work-based and study-based routes into hospitality and travel careers.

Broadly speaking, employers in this sector value committed, hard-working employees who provide great customer service. If that’s you, regardless of the level of qualifications with which you start work, you should find that there are opportunities for you to progress and develop your skills.

  • Burger King. The fast food chain has more than 11,200 restaurants in more than 60 countries.
  • McDonald’s Restaurants Limited. This fast food chain has 97,000 employees in the UK.
  • Starwood Hotels is a global high-end hotel company that operates more than 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries.
  • Travelodge. This hotel chain has more than 500 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain, employing more than 6,000 staff.
  • TUI. TUI Group is a leisure and tourism group that owns hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour operators, including the UK-based tour operator Thomson.
  • Whitbread Group. The UK’s largest hotel, restaurant and coffee shop operator is the home of brands such as Costa Coffee and Premier Inn.

The most popular hospitality and travel employers for graduates

The Guardian UK 300 2014/15 lists the most popular graduate employers in a range of industries, and is based on a survey of more than 40,000 UK undergraduates carried out by trendence, a sister company of TARGETcareers. These are the top ten employers in hospitality, leisure and tourism:

  • Hilton Worldwide. The global hospitality company has 4,100 hotels in 92 countries.
  • Marriott International. This hospitality company has more than 3,900 properties around the world under 18 different brands, ranging from boutique hotels to luxury resorts.
  • Thomas Cook. The travel agency employs 22,000 people worldwide and serves millions of customers each year. It provides services online as well as operating hundreds of stores across the UK.
  • Virgin Active. This international chain of health clubs has premises across the UK.
  • Camp America is a US-based provider of summer camps.
  • Merlin Entertainments is the international operator of visitor attractions such as LEGOLAND, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds.
  • Center Parcs. The short-break holiday company runs five holiday villages in the UK.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group. This international hotel operator’s brands include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.
  • TUI. TUI Group is a leisure and tourism group that owns hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour operators, including the UK-based tour operator Thomson (this is also one of the most popular hospitality and travel employers for school leavers).
  • P&O offers a range of job opportunities both on shore and on board the ships it operates, in areas such as finance, marketing and technical maintenance.

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