Training and transformation


How learning and professional development grow your employees and your business

by Loucretia Wylie

Hospitality boasts a wide gap between lowest and highest average salary, so it’s no surprise that the trends in hospitality education are also inconsistent. Many of those in various hotel management positions report a broad assortment of levels of formal and informal education. According to, U.S. hotel general managers’ salaries range from $39,000 to $121,000. While there are multiple levels of management to consider, the salary range for others in adjacent and similar roles in other industries does not vary as much.

The hospitality industry has seen decreases in the number of students graduating but increases in the number of available jobs. Seasoned managers in hospitality look at experience and continuing education as vital.


One such manager for Holiday Inn, Janet Price, said, “My Bachelor of Science in business definitely helped me find my first few jobs in travel sales, but the hands-on experiences I got in entry-level sales jobs have been infinitely more valuable.” Price has been a manager in several different hotel departments for about 10 years. Before that, she accumulated five years of sales experience. Price currently works for a large national hotel chain as a guest services manager, working with companies who hold rooms for business travel as a concierge. But her job is so much more than that as Price helps facilitate needs and requests on a large scale as well.

Price said she considered an MBA after her first few years in management but opted for corporate leadership training within her employer’s framework. As far as Price’s staff is concerned, she said she often sends them to professional development and continuing education courses in topics such as customer service, communications, guest discretion, and facility safety.


In 2017, PEW Research findings revealed that only 28 percent of hotel employees had undertaken any continuing education in the 12 months prior to the survey. Hotel chains, individual resorts, and facilities are scrambling to keep up with training initiatives to match the demands of a rapidly growing workforce. U.S. Labor Board statistics show that by 2024, the hospitality industry will add another million jobs. In addition to this growth, other challenges are creeping into the immediate view. With the rise of social media and reliance on online communication platforms, our industry has seen a noticeable increase in sharing economy companies like VRBO, Airbnb, HomeAway, and FlipKey. Private accommodation markets have seen a 100-percent increase in the U.S. travel industry since 2016. Services like these rely primarily on customer service, with flexibility and affordability coming in a close second and third. An unsure economy, drastic changes in spending, and the next generation of adults reprioritizing how disposable income is spent is shaping how our industry is growing.

Learn with AAHOA

AAHOA is committed to the continuing education of its members. AAHOA HOTEL OWNERS ACADEMY™ provides:

✒  Online webinars, such as CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research – Looking Ahead to 2020 on September 17.
✒  1- and 2-day workshops
✒  Education sessions
✒  Human Trafficking Awareness Training
✒  CHIA and CHO certifications
✒  And more!

Visit to learn more about AAHOA’s exclusive education opportunities.


In spite of the more than 85,000 undergraduate and graduate hotel and restaurant management degrees awarded in 2018, formal education (in the form of college, university, or institutes) is more often the exception and not the rule. Many hotel workers do not specifically study hospitality management, or they have little to no formal education. Most learn the job as they go. With the exception of roles that require specialized certificates or training (like accounting, culinary services, and safety or security officers, for example), it is suggested that a little less than 85 percent of hospitality employees receive all official job training once hired, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a survey conducted by American Hotel Lodging Association.


This can be anecdotally evidenced by seasoned manager for Drury Hotels, Beth Wyatt. “All of the best lessons I’ve learned have been in hands-on situations,” Wyatt said. “I have been able to move up in my hotel because I learned how to do my job and relate to my department better than those who have the degree but no real-world experience. Ultimately, I even make the same salary as my ‘better-educated’ peers.”

Wyatt also takes every opportunity for free continuing education that Drury offers. She keeps an eye out for free sessions from civic organizations, such as a safety session Homeland Security is offering locally next month.

Mike Kurts, a retired bed and breakfast manager and previous Hilton employee, said, “Before I got my first job as a customer service manager at a chain, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts. I made almost nothing. I started taking some courses hotel upper management offered. I gained human resources credits, and basic accounting skills, and I learned how to improve my customer relations skills. I knew how to cook and handle day-to-day operations for hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants, but I needed to learn how to deal with people better.”

Kurts said he almost envies those going into the hotel business in today’s market. The technology alone would have made his first job, with a national chain in a moderately sized Midwest city, incredibly more efficient. “I would have loved to be able to book and order and do all the things customers want online,” he said.


In spite of the nation’s fluctuating economy, statistics show there is an almost 3-percent yearly increase in available positions in the hotel workforce, and the need for educational opportunities will grow in tandem. Both traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities in hospitality are growing as the industry grows, but workers and employers still seek new, innovative training programs and professional development.

Regardless of growth or fluctuations in the industry, training employees will always be the key to meeting higher customer service standards and growing the prestige that comes with a successful hotel business.


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