Running a hotel comes with a variety of responsibilities. If you have a professional manner, friendly personality and are able to think on your feet then this might be the career for you

In the role of hotel manager you would be responsible for the day-to-day management of a hotel and its staff. You would have commercial accountability for budgeting and financial management, planning, organising and directing all hotel services, including front-of-house (reception, concierge, reservations), food and beverage operations, and housekeeping.

In larger hotels, managers often have a specific remit (guest services, accounting, marketing) and make up a general management team.

While taking a strategic overview and planning ahead to maximise profits, the manager must also pay attention to the details, setting the example for staff to deliver a standard of service and presentation that meets guests' needs and expectations. Business and people management are equally important elements.

Responsibilities

Managerial duties vary depending on the size and type of hotel, but will include:

  • planning and organising accommodation, catering and other hotel services;
  • promoting and marketing the business;
  • managing budgets and financial plans as well as controlling expenditure;
  • maintaining statistical and financial records;
  • setting and achieving sales and profit targets;
  • analysing sales figures and devising marketing and revenue management strategies;
  • recruiting, training and monitoring staff;
  • planning work schedules for individuals and teams;
  • meeting and greeting customers;
  • dealing with customer complaints and comments;
  • addressing problems and troubleshooting;
  • ensuring events and conferences run smoothly;
  • supervising maintenance, supplies, renovations and furnishings;
  • dealing with contractors and suppliers;
  • ensuring security is effective;
  • carrying out inspections of property and services;
  • ensuring compliance with licensing laws, health and safety and other statutory regulations.

If you manage a large hotel you may have less direct contact with guests but will have regular meetings with heads of department to coordinate and monitor the progress of business strategies. In a smaller establishment, you will be much more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day running of the hotel, which may include carrying out reception duties or serving meals if the need arises.

A significant number of hotel managers are self-employed, which often results in a broader set of regular responsibilities, including managing finances.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for an assistant general manager are around £19,000 to £40,000. There will be variations depending on levels of competition, as well as the location and size of the hotel. Where a position requires the manager to 'live in', this will also be reflected in the salary offered.
  • If you manage a small hotel or are the deputy manager of a larger hotel, expect a salary in the region of £20,000 to £35,000.
  • In London, general managers earn, on average, £85,000 with a range of £50,000 to £200,000 for the largest, most prestigious hotels.

Salaries rise with performance and progression but will be lower in small, independent hotels. For managers employed by large, global hotel groups, where there are opportunities to work overseas, the financial rewards are considerable.

Salary data from the Berkeley Scott Hospitality & Leisure Salary Survey. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Employee benefits

Additional benefits can include pension and life assurance schemes, private healthcare, shared-ownership schemes, live-in accommodation, meals on duty, clothing allowance or provision of uniform, a flexible working pattern and discounted hotel accommodation worldwide.

Working hours

Working hours vary according to the type of hotel and location, but typically include regular unsocial hours, including working late nights, weekends and bank holidays. Working hours can be long and could restrict social and family life.

What to expect

  • Although some of the work is office-based, much of the time will be spent with customers and staff.
  • Career breaks are possible, as is self-employment. Around 50% of hotel managers are self-employed in small hotels, motels, inns and residential clubs.
  • Women make up almost 60% of the hospitality and leisure industry, yet only 6% of senior board executives are women. In recognition of this imbalance, the sector skills council People 1st set up the initiative Women 1st, in order to support and help women move into senior management roles.
  • Jobs are available all over the UK and in many countries overseas. The more geographically mobile you can be, the greater the opportunities are for promotion. Relocation may be frequent and necessary for promotion purposes.
  • Hotel management requires total commitment, as the work is exacting and demanding, with erratic, unsocial hours and constant pressures.
  • Managers must dress smartly when on duty and must remain diplomatic, polite and patient at all times.
  • Travel within a working day and absence from home overnight are common.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates and those with an HND, a degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business with languages;
  • business or management;
  • hotel and hospitality management;
  • travel, tourism or leisure studies.

If you want to work in a particular section of a hotel or hotel group, such as advertising or accounting, you may need a relevant qualification or professional accreditation.

Some of the management training programmes run by large hotel groups are for graduate entry only, for which a minimum 2:2 degree is usually required.

It is possible to enter hotel management without a degree, HND or foundation degree, since employers place a lot of emphasis on relevant experience. A general standard of education is expected but you can work your way up to management through on-the-job training and external qualifications.

A postgraduate qualification is not normally necessary for entry unless your first degree is in a non-relevant subject or you lack work experience. Masters, diploma and certificate courses in hotel and/or hospitality management are offered at various institutions. Many of these courses are open to graduates from any discipline with little or no experience, as well as non-graduates with significant hotel or managerial experience. Search for postgraduate courses in hotel and catering management.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • a friendly personality and a genuine desire to help and please others;
  • the ability to think clearly and make quick decisions;
  • numeracy and logistical planning skills;
  • a professional manner and a calm, rational approach in hectic situations;
  • the ability to balance customer and business priorities;
  • flexibility and a 'can do' mentality;
  • energy and patience;
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills, especially when dealing with speakers of other languages.

Language skills may also be an advantage, especially for hotels which are part of an international chain.

Work experience

Employers often ask for relevant work experience, not all of which needs to have been in a hotel, although this is particularly helpful. Other experience might include any customer-focused work such as catering, bar or retail work.

Employers

There is a large range of establishments, from small, family-owned independents to large multinational chains, each offering a different kind of experience for staff and guests. Management opportunities exist in every type of hotel, from the small, privately-owned town hotel, where the manager (who may also be the owner) deals directly with all business issues, to huge, global hotel groups in exotic locations with a variety of restaurants, bars, fitness centres, shops and entertainment facilities that employ hundreds of people.

Other employers include motels, travel lodges, inns, bed and breakfast accommodation and residential and country clubs.

It is important for anyone planning to specialise early on in their hotel management career to select their first job with care, as some hotel groups offer wider opportunities than others.

Look for job vacancies at:

Hotels often advertise specific vacancies locally, which provide entry routes for graduates wishing to work in a specific location.

Larger hotel chains often advertise vacancies on their own websites. It can prove useful to do some research to see if a particular hotel is part of a wider chain.

Professional development

Some large hotel groups operate graduate recruitment programmes for managers, although they are not the only route to top management posts. The length of training varies but is usually between one and two years, with the aim being to create future operations managers.

Graduate programmes differ depending on the employer, but as a general guide, hotels seek to provide graduates with as wide an understanding of the operation as possible. Trainees spend time posted in operational roles such as food and beverage management, which includes:

  • restaurants;
  • bars;
  • room service;
  • conference;
  • banqueting.

Another typical role is in rooms management, where trainees cover:

  • reception;
  • reservations;
  • guest relations;
  • the concierge desk;
  • housekeeping.

Employers often require graduates to be geographically mobile, particularly within larger hotel chains, and trainees must be prepared to relocate during their training, which could involve time spent at hotels abroad or throughout the UK. On successful completion of the programme, trainees will be placed as heads of department or assistant managers.

Throughout the programme, graduates are supported and coached by senior managers and personal development plans are mutually agreed. Regular progress reviews are conducted.

Much of the training is in-house but external qualifications may also be taken, including S/NVQs. Specialist courses in customer service, finance, revenue management, marketing, human resources and food safety are likely to form part of the training where required.

An MBA qualification is an increasingly popular way for managers to improve their business skills. Many senior managers have also obtained financial and accounting qualifications or experience.

Career prospects

The industry has a continuous need for talented, hardworking, energetic and multi-skilled staff. As the workforce is generally young and staff turnover is quite high, promotion prospects can be good for motivated graduates.

Most organisations operate mentoring schemes and regular appraisals to assess the training and development needs of staff. Typical career development may include either moving to a larger or more prestigious hotel in another part of the country or going abroad to gain more experience. Self-employment is another way to progress according to your own priorities.

Speed of promotion to hotel manager mainly depends on the size of the hotel and the flair and success of the trainee in a management role. Promotion can be rapid for capable and flexible entrants, with strong graduate trainees progressing from assistant front-of-house manager or assistant food and beverage manager to deputy manager and head of department roles within two years.

It may take some time to reach the post of general manager (perhaps a further five to six years) and may mean relocating and/or changing employer several times. The best paid posts are in larger hotels.

International hotel groups offer career opportunities around the world with the possibility of working overseas, combining travel with a structured training programme. For those who wish to remain in the UK, significant opportunities exist.

Within larger hotel groups, promotion may be to a more strategic role, such as corporate marketing, human resources or finance, for which additional qualifications may be needed. There might also be opportunities to work at head office or regional level. Opportunities also exist for experienced managers to work as management consultants.