Eye on Hospitality: Hotels are Engines for Job Growth, Career Advancement
By Paul Schlienz
You don’t have to look very far in the lodging industry to find stories like Abe Liao’s.
Liao began his hotel career as a bus boy at Washington, D.C.’s Wyndham City Center. During the next 16 years, he advanced first to bartender, then to banquet supervisor, next to sales manager and eventually to front office manager. At that point, he decided he ultimately wanted to one day manage a hotel. Today Liao is general manager of The Kimpton George, one of Washington, D.C.’s top hotels, where he leads a staff of about 55 employees.
Small wonder that a recent survey of mayors by the U.S. Conference of Mayors revealed that 70 percent of respondents said that within the tourism industry, hotel jobs are the first category that come to mind when thinking about jobs with the most opportunity, good benefits and wages.
“Liao’s story is just one example of how dreams turn into real professional opportunities for the millions of people who work in America’s hotel and lodging industry,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). “This story has been repeated across the industry thousands of times. Indeed, each of the officers of the board of directors of the American Hotel & Lodging Association began their careers in entry-level positions within this great industry. In fact, hotels are extraordinary job creators in communities all across the nation. In addition to offering numerous entry-level positions, hotels also provide stepping stones for employees to quickly move up within the organization.”
The numbers support what Lugar is saying.
A recent Oxford Economics study shows that hotel operations and guest spending support 8 million jobs in the U.S. Additionally, typical hotels with 100 occupied rooms per night support 230 local jobs every year.
Numbers from the federal government showed that the entire U.S. hospitality industry provided 15.5 million jobs – a 2.7 percent increase from 15.08 million jobs in June 2015. Hotel-specific jobs, standing at around 15.1 million, in June 2016, increased by around two percent in comparison to June 2015.
A 2015 survey, released by AH&LA and WageWatch, showed that most job titles in the lodging industry pay more than minimum wage. More than half of hotels that responded to the survey offer starting rates above minimum wage for eight out of 10 job titles surveyed. These hourly-positions provide a fast-track to upward mobility, serving as a gateway for new workers in the lodging industry.
“The survey findings show that the hotel industry is a leader in job creation, advancement opportunities and high wages,” said Randy Pullen, president and CEO of WageWatch, Inc.
Pullen, however, has a warning against public policies that could kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
“Current efforts to significantly increase entry level wages could be disruptive and have negative and unintended consequences for the entire hotel wage scale,” Pullan added. “The pervasiveness of local, extreme wage increases will impact the entire wage structure of a business, which will undoubtedly slow or stifle further job creation in a local market.”