The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the biggest in the world, employing roughly one in ten people worldwide. One of the reasons why so many people are drawn to work in this industry is because it is so accessible for newcomers.
Anyone who wants to get started in hospitality or tourism can get a foot in the door by waiting tables, serving drinks or in-room service. Employees learn a lot on the job and employers typically provide a lot of free training.
Do you need to complete a degree to work in the hospitality and tourism industry?
The simple answer is that if you just want an entry-level, part-time job in a hotel, restaurant or bar, then no, you don’t need a qualification. You can definitely get to junior management level positions without any tertiary education, and if you’re hard-working you might make it even further.
However, if you want a career in hospitality and tourism that will take you to senior management levels quickly, it’s a totally different story.
Research shows that hospitality and tourism course graduates are promoted to manager levels years before their colleagues who don’t have qualifications.
A number of different industry studies from the past two decades show that while it may not in every case be necessary, having a tertiary education is consistently one of the top defining factors leading to fast promotion to senior levels in the hospitality industry. Tertiary education includes diplomas, graduate certificates, bachelors and masters degrees.
One study from New Zealand of 534 hospitality managers and employees under 39 found that increased seniority was associated with three factors: being over 25, having a tertiary qualiﬁcation, and more than ﬁve years’ experience in the industry. A similar industry study found that 64% of hospitality general managers surveyed believed that “vocational qualiﬁcations support a fast-track progression to the G.M. role.”
As you can see, although it’s not necessary to study if you want to work in hospitality and tourism, you might be slowing down your own career progress if you skip education.
What are some common skills and qualifications needed for a career in hospitality and tourism?
The industry encompasses a broad range of sectors offering different hospitality career pathways: accommodation, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, travel and tourism.
Although there’s a lot of diversity across roles there is also some crossover in the skill sets required for management positions across all these sectors. A degree in hospitality management teaches you skills that could be used to manage a hotel or a conference centre, for example.
Broadly speaking, to get to senior levels in the industry you will need to acquire a foundation of core essential skills and knowledge such as:
- Accounting, bookkeeping, revenue management and other financial skills
- Marketing and social media
- Customer service and communication skills
- Strategy and planning
- Soft skills such as listening, problem-solving and conflict management
- Operations and logistics
- Restaurant, food and beverage and culinary knowledge
That’s not to say you have to be an expert in all these areas, but you will usually need to have an understanding of the role that each of these areas plays in the overall function of a typical tourism or hospitality operator.
If you are thinking of making a career in the hospitality and tourism industry, the best choice you can make is to pick a course that blends industry skills-based vocational learning with core theoretical knowledge.
A course that encourages internship and work experience opportunities will also help you transition directly into your career while teaching you all the essential skills you need to work in the industry today.
The qualifications required for these hospitality and tourism careers
Food and BeverageService Manager
This role could encompass the management of a restaurant, cafe, bar, ghost kitchen, food truck, catering company or any other food and beverage service business. A food and beverage manager is typically a jack-of-all-trades role requiring an education that covers all aspects of the business from finance to staffing, marketing, operations, bookkeeping and menu preparation.
Tourism and Destination Marketing Manager
A tourism or destination marketing manager is a skilled sales professional who develops campaigns to attract visitors to a specific destination or to use a specific travel or accommodation service. This could mean developing attractive travel packages for hotels and airlines or marketing a destination on behalf of a local government or tourism board.
Hotel and Accommodation General Manager
The General Manager of a hotel, lodging, guesthouse, resort or motel needs to have a broad skill set and sound understanding of all the different areas of an accommodation business, including guest service, rooms division and operations.
Conference, Festival and Event Planner or Director
Conferences, cultural festivals, sporting and private events make up a large portion of the international tourism market. Anyone who wants to work in senior roles responsible for the planning, execution and direction of large events needs a foundational skill set covering: logistics, marketing, fundraising and financing, operations and food and beverage management.
Spa and Wellness Operator Manager
The spa and wellness sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of the international hospitality and tourism industry. But, you don’t need to be a health practitioner or health professional to enter into this part of the service sector. If you’re passionate about wellness and see yourself managing a wellness retreat, day spa or hotel day treatment centre, you will actually need a typical hospitality or tourism management qualification.
As you can see, there is a crossover between courses and careers on offer in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Most degrees in hospitality or tourism management will allow you to specialise in a chosen area, or to choose electives that are more focused on a particular industry role. On the other hand, you can also choose a more general education with a broad array of elective subjects.
It’s important to remember when you start a course that ultimately, you get to decide which career to steer your education towards through your choice of subjects. But if you change your mind later on, it’s ok too: a tourism or hospitality management course teaches a lot of transferable skills that you can bring to a new role or type of business.