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What separates a decent hotel from a great one? Bed quality, room size, lobby decor – they all matter. But a hotel is nothing without its staff, and it's the manager's job to lead and direct the staff. That's one of the reasons that a good manager is such an asset to a hotel of any size. It's a challenging role that requires quick thinking, solid management skills and plenty of customer service finesse. Do you dream of running a hotel someday? These jobs aren't easy, and you're unlikely to land a manager job right out of school. But with enough experience and a passion for hospitality, you could launch a fulfilling career as a hotel manager.
What Does a Hotel Manager Do?
Typically, a hotel manager supervises everything and everyone involved with running the hotel. This person will manage the front desk staff, housekeepers, kitchen staff, maintenance workers and other employees. In a large hotel, each department often has its own manager – for example, the head of housekeeping – and all those will also report to the hotel manager. The manager will also be involved in troubleshooting. . When customers have complaints or when rooms need renovation or the water main breaks, the hotel manager should oversee the way those issues are resolved.
Many of a hotel manager's core responsibilities involve budgets and money. Generally, it is this person's job to oversee the hotel's operating budget and payroll. She'll also communicate with the hotel's owners about the financial state of the business and what the hotel is forecasted to earn in the future. It also falls to the manager to make sure that the hotel is in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations such as fire codes and food safety laws.
But anyone with a goal of working as a hotel manager should know that there's a lot of variation in the way hotels are managed. A major hotel might have several managers, each of whom is responsible for overseeing a different area (for example, guest relations or event management or budgets). There may be different managers who work different shifts or, in a quiet hotel, the manager may only work during the day but be reachable at night in case of emergency. In a small, independently-run inn, an owner may oversee budgets and personnel and other big-picture issues while the manager attends to day-to-day tasks that keep the hotel running.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like for a Hotel Manager?
Many hotel managers would tell you that there's no such thing as a "typical" day in this job. After all, the guests change every day, so new challenges arise all the time. The hotel manager will usually have a private office but will spend much of the day moving all around the hotel and its grounds. A manager might have a plan for each day, but that plan may go out the window if problems arise that require his or her attention.
A manager who works during the day can expect to be on duty early in the morning. Mornings are busy because that's when guests check out and housekeeping has to turn rooms around for the next guests. As guests check out, the manager may need to help with billing disputes or customer complaints. He might spend a few hours in his office, signing paychecks or doing other paperwork. If the hotel is currently hiring, the manager might spend some time reviewing applications and interviewing candidates. As guests arrive in the afternoon, the manager may be checking in with housekeeping to make sure rooms are ready, greeting guests in the lobby or making phone calls to vendors.
A night manager's duties are a little different. The night manager makes sure that the hotel is secure and the guests are taken care of overnight. She might supervise the night desk clerks or, in a small hotel, serve as the desk clerk overnight. If guests have complaints or need help, the night manager will make sure they get what they need. This person will also make sure that the hotel is safe and locked down overnight. She might walk the entire building and make sure that certain outside doors are locked, that the spa and pool areas are empty and locked up, that alarm systems in private areas are activated, and so forth.
How Does Someone Become a Hotel Manager?
Experience, experience, experience. Doing other hotel work is often the key to earning the role of hotel manager. The people in these roles are often promoted from within, which makes sense. The manager has to know the hotel inside and out. He should understand what each hotel employee does, from the maintenance people to the room service waiters. He should have experience with finance, marketing and advertising, customer service and maybe even fine dining if the hotel has a restaurant too. A lot of those are skills that a manager develops while holding different jobs in the hospitality industry.
A manager might start out as a front desk clerk, become front desk supervisor, get promoted to assistant manager and ultimately land a role as manager. But because different hotels have different roles and structures, a manager on his way up might have some other job titles like front office supervisor or marketing manager.
If you find hotel work and want to make your way up to manager someday, put forth an effort to learn about other parts of the hotel other than just your responsibilities. Understanding the ins and outs of how a hotel operates is a critical part of preparing for this role.
How Common Are Hotel Manager Jobs?
Unfortunately for interested candidates, hotel manager jobs aren't hugely easy to come by. Not only is the field competitive, but there are only a limited number of these jobs available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4 percent growth for the field of lodging managers between the years of 2016 and 2026. That's significantly slower than the average growth rate for all industries, which is around 7 percent.
Do you Need a Degree to be a Hotel Manager?
Probably. In a small hotel, the owner or outgoing manager might be willing to hire a candidate who has tons of experience but no college degree, especially if it's an internal candidate. But major chains often make a college degree one of the requirements for a management position. A degree in business may be enough. A degree in hotel management is even better, and might set you apart from other candidates – and the coursework will definitely give you a good foundation of knowledge for this career.
What Makes a Successful Hotel Manager?
The people who hold these jobs have to have excellent customer service skills. Managers have to be concerned about maintaining a high occupancy rate – basically, getting paying guests into as many rooms as possible. Some swanky places might regularly be full, but the average hotel needs all the guests it can get and can't afford to alienate them, and unhappy customers can write negative online reviews that hurt business. So that means that a hotel manager has to be comfortable adopting a "customers are always right" mindset.
Managers also have to have a great eye for detail. If a plant in the lobby is dying, the manager should notice and delegate someone to tend to it. If paint starts chipping in a hallway or housekeeping carts are being left in the hallway for too long, the manager should notice. The person in this role should also be able to think on his feet and react calmly in a crisis. The hotel manager is a little like the captain of a ship: if an emergency strikes, he's the person that employees and guests will look to for guidance.
A hotel manager should also be adept at navigating IT issues. Reservations and payments are all handled electronically in most hotels these days, and it may fall to the manager to troubleshoot if some system error strikes when an IT person isn't around. That doesn't mean that a prospective manager has to be a programmer or tech whiz, but knowing your way around computers is a must.
What Does a Hotel Manager Wear?
Grooming is an important part of the job. The manager is the face of the hotel, so this person has to look the part. Chains often require managers to wear uniforms and adhere to certain grooming standards, but even in independently-owned places, the manager will typically be expected to wear a suit and look polished at all times. Unnatural hair colors, visible tattoos, lots of piercings and any other remotely extreme style choices may not be allowed for the hotel manager.
How Much Does a Hotel Manager Make?
The salary range for hotel managers is broad. Typically, the manager of a small inn or a budget chain hotel will earn significantly less than the manager of a luxury hotel. Geographical area and the scope of the job are also factors. Managers who work in expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles will earn more than those who work in small cities or towns, and a manager whose duties involve overseeing a spa or managing major events like weddings should earn a larger salary than one who works in a smaller hotel that doesn't offer those services.
All that said, hotel manager salaries are typically fairly average compared to other industries. According to data shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a lodging manager was $51,800 as of 2017. The median means that half of hotel managers earn more than that amount and half earn less. But for managers of upscale hotels, it's not uncommon to earn more than $100,000 per year.
Also keep in mind that some hotel managers are eligible for bonuses and commissions, depending on the success of the hotel, so total compensation could turn out to be significantly higher than salary alone would suggest.
What Else Should I Know About Becoming a Hotel Manager?
Polishing your special skills is wise if you hope to become a hotel manager. Specifically, knowing how to speak multiple languages is useful, especially in a major city or a region that attracts a lot of visitors from other countries. Being fluent in a language other than English may even earn you the opportunity to work in a hotel in a foreign country.
Prospective managers should know that, although hotels may be fun places to visit, working in one can be very stressful. You're never truly "off, " because the hotel is always open. In addition to long hours, managers should be prepared to do some business travel. It's not always necessary, but managers are sometimes required to attend conferences, scout the competition or travel to meet with vendors. In fact, working with vendors – and doing things like choosing suppliers and negotiating prices – is often a part of a hotel manager's job.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.