Looking Into Hospitality and Recreation
HOTEL INDUSTRY, FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY, RECREATION INDUSTRY, TRAVEL INDUSTRY, EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOKFOR HOSPITALITYAND RECREATION
A business executive travels to a weeklong convention in San Diego and stays at a hotel near the convention center. She plans to visit the city's famous zoo and a few other tourist attractions in her free time. Three college friends go to Daytona Beach for spring break, where they plan to water-ski and parasail for the first time. Newlyweds spend their honeymoon at a bed-and-breakfast in Maine and make arrangements to go bicycling, hiking, and sightseeing. An older married couple visits Ireland in search of their roots. All of these travelers have specific goals that workers in the hospitality and recreation field help to meet. The hospitality and recreation industry involves many types of services, including helping people get to their destinations, making sure they have a pleasant stay, and helping them enjoy their leisure time.
Whether traveling, dining out, swimming, or rooting for the home team, people who use the services of the hospitality and recreation industry are out to have a good time. Those away on business want the most homey and convenient arrangements possible. For this reason workers in hospitality and recreation are most effective when they enjoy helping people enjoy themselves. Because hospitality and recreation are service industries, the key to success is helping consumers meet their goals as travelers, guests, and participants in recreation activities.
Even though the hospitality and recreation field offers much diversity in employment, all sectors of the industry are highly interdependent. The hotel industry depends on the travel industry to bring in its guests. In turn, good lodging and eating facilities contribute to an increase in tourism. Restaurants can expect more business when there are popular recreational facilities in their town or when a major event such as a rock concert, a football game, or a convention takes place there. When one segment flourishes, the others also do well. When one segment has problems, other parts of the industry usually feel the effects.
While all major American industries were adversely affected by the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, the hospitality industry has felt the longest-lasting effects. More than 130,000 airline employees were laid off in the two years following 9/11, and several major airlines edged perilously close to bankruptcy. Had the U.S. Congress not approved emergency loans for the airline industry, the situation would have been even worse. Hotel occupancy declined markedly as a result of 9/11. Recovery began slowly, but by 2004 the hospitality and recreation industry was finally showing signs of rebounding. The number of foreign visitors to the United States was up in 2004—its first increase in four years but still far below the 51 million in 2000.
Even before the events of 9/11, the hospitality industry was affected by the general downturn in the U.S. economy that began in 2000. The 1990s saw the largest peacetime economic expansion in American history, with corresponding growth in the number of hospitality jobs. But as the twenty-first century began jobs in most industries were becoming scarce and new business investment had slowed. The Iraq war, begun in 2003, also had a slowing effect on the economy and sparked anti-Americanism in many parts of the world. But signs of recovery in the tourism industry have appeared since then. More than 14.5 million foreign visitors traveled to the United States from January to May 2004—a 17 percent increase from the first five months of 2003.
Location is one of the most important factors in choosing a hotel. Whether they travel for business or pleasure, people need a place to stay when they are away from home. Some very special hotels—New York's Waldorf-Astoria or San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton, for example—become destinations in themselves. But most travelers know where they want to go and then select a hotel that fits their needs. Many travelers prefer to stay at "branded" hotels—places that offer the familiarity of well-known franchises in both accommodations and food services regardless of the location. Other travelers believe that branded hotels lack uniqueness and seek out smaller, independent hotels when they travel.
Hotel locations are closely linked to transportation. America's earliest hotels were small public inns that catered to passengers who arrived in horse-drawn wagons. They were built along major roads and at river crossings. Then railroads built a travel network across the country, and new, larger hotels sprang up near the main stations.
No innovation has affected the hotel industry more than the automobile. With the invention of the automobile, locations throughout the country became far more accessible to travelers. Motels, or "motor hotels," were built to accommodate drivers as they explored America. Early motels were usually small, family-owned businesses with a few roadside cabins. Air travel has further expanded the possible locations to which people can travel. Moreover, the Internet has had a profound impact on tourism. Potential travelers can explore vacation packages and make reservations online. According to a 2005 article published in Revenue, travel researcher PhoCusWright noted that half of flight and hotel reservations were made online by the end of 2005.
Trends in the Hotel Industry
In the first five years of the twentieth century hotel chains dominated the industry. In 2000 chains controlled nearly 70 percent of the hotel market share in the United States while less than 40 percent of all hotels were independently owned and operated. Just ten years earlier in 1990 nearly 55 percent of all hotels were independent. Hotel chains have flourished because they offer consumers a reliable and predictable visit. Each hotel in a chain offers similar facilities and services. Many are adding services from nationally known franchises such as pizzerias or Starbucks coffee shops. This similarity makes them popular because travelers going to an unfamiliar city know what to expect if they have stayed in another hotel or motel in the same chain.
The hotel industry faces fierce competition due to an oversupply of hotel rooms. A construction boom in the 1980s was followed by a decline in the number of travelers during the early 1990s. Hotel occupancy fell from a high of 72 percent in 1979 to just 59.2 percent in 2003, leaving more than one-third of all hotel rooms empty on any given night. The result of this oversupply has been increased market segmentation. Rather than running huge, five-hundred-room hotels to fit the needs of every traveler, many hotels today target one market segment such as business or budget travelers.
Some innovative hotel designs have also captured markets successfully. One popular trend has been the all-suite hotel. Each unit in an all-suite hotel provides a living area and a separate bedroom. Some also offer a cooking area. Another development is the environmentally conscious "ecohotel," which highlights features such as low-flush toilets, refillable containers for toiletries, and recycled stationery. One of the most popular promotions in resort locations is the all-inclusive package, which offers travelers not only lodging but all meals, drinks, and entertainment for one price.
The growth of the global economy has also affected the hotel industry. Many hotel chains based in the United States have expanded overseas. At home the hotel industry made a slow recovery from 9/11 but was still coping with the effects of the recession through the first decade of the new century. According to a March 2005 report in the Fairfield County Business Journal, the typical U.S. hotel achieved an estimated 13.3 percent increase in yearly profits in 2004. Moreover, an increased confidence in airport security, a decreased fear of a terrorist attack, and a weak U.S. dollar has led to an increase in foreign travel to the United States. During the first half of 2004 international spending in America rose for the first time since 9/11.
In 2004 the U.S. Commerce Department estimated that foreign tourism accounted for over $71 billion in economic activity in the United States—a figure larger than the profits from U.S. automobile, engine, and parts exports. With that much at stake, it is little surprise that President George W. Bush approved a $50 million ad campaign aimed at tourists in England, Japan, Germany, Canada, and Mexico.
Hotels make foreign travelers feel welcome by serving international cuisine in their restaurants and by providing room directories and menus printed in several languages. Some hotels now employ multilingual concierges to help guests with making reservations, arranging tours, and answering questions about the region. This trend increases the demand for workers who speak several languages and who have experience with different cultures. In April 2005 Wyndham Hotels announced it would implement an English language education program for its Spanish-speaking employees.
One major market segment for the hotel industry is business travel. Hotels in all price ranges compete to attract these guests and keep them as clients. Employees who have sales and marketing experience can help a hotel compete successfully.
Hotels seek business travelers by providing special features or services designed to make it easier to work away from home. During the 1980s many hotels built business centers that included computers and copiers. Portable technology has lessened the popularity of these centers, and now many business travelers prefer to work in their rooms using their own notebook computers. By the early 2000s popular hotel amenities included free newspapers, a complimentary breakfast, a large work desk, high-speed or WiFi Internet access, and exercise facilities.
Efficiency is a primary concern for all business travelers whose tight schedules require quick service. Many hotels provide computerized services for speedy check-in and check-out. Employees are trained to help visits run smoothly and to handle problems swiftly. As in any service industry, pleasing the customer is of foremost importance.
Some business-oriented hotels offer facilities for companies to conduct extended staff meetings. It is also common for businesses to schedule "retreats" where employees stay at the same hotel and discuss business strategies in designated meeting rooms, then spend time together participating in leisure activities such as golf, tennis, or swimming. Many hotels are designed to cater to these meetings, especially those at popular resort destinations.
Earning customer loyalty is a key feature of serving business travelers. If a hotel satisfies a business client, the long-term return can be great. One way that hotels promote customer loyalty is through frequent-guest programs. Travelers earn points for every dollar they spend at the hotel. When they have accumulated enough points, they can redeem them for gifts such as free lodging or a vacation at an exotic resort.
Like all aspects of the hospitality industry, business and convention travel was hit hard by 9/11 and the sagging economy. From 1998 to 2003, business and convention travel experienced a 14 percent drop-off; however, business travel grew more than 4 percent in 2004 and should experience even more growth in the next few years, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.
Guest rooms are only one source of revenue for many hotels. They can make large profits by renting meeting rooms and exhibition space and by hosting banquets and receptions. Trade shows and conventions draw hundreds of customers at a time to a hotel.
Many different industries and business organizations hold trade shows and conventions each year. Political, civic, religious, and social organizations also have annual meetings. Hotels hire convention planners to attract conventions, to help businesses plan events, and to negotiate prices. During a convention service managers supervise every stage of the event. Because a hotel's reputation for efficiency and good service is often the key to its success in attracting conventions, the work of the convention staff is critical.
Hotel Worker Teams
The workers in a large hotel generally are organized into teams according to the department in which they work. There are currently more than 170 different careers in the hospitality industry. Common departments include sales, food and beverage, housekeeping, and accounting. Each department is run by a manager, who usually reports to a general manager in charge of the hotel.
Hotel workers are traditionally described as "front-of-the-house" or "back-of-the-house" employees, depending on whether they have direct contact with the guests. Front-of-the-house workers include bellhops, desk clerks, and concierges. Back-of-the-house workers are the behind-the-scenes employees who keep the hotel running smoothly. They include kitchen workers, housekeepers, and accountants.
FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY
Any business that prepares and serves meals, snacks, or beverages is part of the food service industry. The largest segment of the industry includes restaurants serving full menus and offering table service. The second-largest segment is limited-menu, or fast food, outlets. Although large fast food chains are a familiar sight all across the United States, more than seven out of ten eating and drinking places are single-unit, independent operations. Other segments of the food service industry include school and employee cafeterias, catering businesses, hotel restaurants, and vendors at sporting events and concerts.
The food service industry in the United States is booming and appears to be immune from the weak economy of the twenty-first century's first decade. Sales have increased from about $43 billion in 1970 to $426 billion in 2003. The National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 54 billion meals were eaten in restaurants and school and work cafeterias in 2002. Social scientists suggest that the boom is the result of people's busy schedules. They also point out that dual-income families have limited time for cooking. Although the rapid food service boom of the 1970s and 1980s may be slowing, the employment outlook is still very good. In 2002 the food service industry employed about 11.7 million workers, making it the largest U.S. employer besides the government. Food and beverage service employment is expected to reach 13.3 million by 2012.
Trends in Food Service
The growth of the take-out food market is a major trend in the food service industry. This market segment is called the "off-premises sector" because food is eaten away from the restaurant where it is cooked. It includes take-out, delivery, and drive-through restaurants. Many traditional restaurants that offer table service attempt to cash in on this expanding market by offering delivery service. Take-out and delivery accounted for 51 percent of total restaurant business in 2002. The Internet has also had a profound influence on the food service market; many workers now order their lunches online.
After rapid expansion in the 1980s the number of fast food restaurants remained stable through the 1990s. New restaurants are likely to be full-service restaurants, which cater more successfully to America's older population. In fact, the full-service sector is expected to be the fastest-growing sector in the industry. The number of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four—the age group that generally thrives on fast food—is decreasing, whereas the number of Americans age sixty-five or older is increasing. Many older diners have more time for a leisurely meal and do not seek out fast food.
Like any other business, fast food restaurants must adapt to changing times. Many fast-food chains are offering a wider range of choices and emphasizing low-fat items such as salads and grilled foods to appeal to health-conscious Americans. Another significant trend is the growth of the ethnic food sector. Whereas many Americans once limited their exploration of ethnic foods to Italian or Chinese cuisine, today they seek out traditional foods of Latin America, India, Africa, the Caribbean, and other cultures.
Food Service Workers
The people who work in the food service industry include food and beverage managers, restaurant managers, bartenders, chefs and cooks, bakers, dining room and cafeteria attendants, hostesses and hosts, waiters and waitresses, fast food franchise workers, caterers, stewards, dishwashers, and other kitchen workers.
The food service industry employs large numbers of relatively unskilled workers. Restaurants traditionally have depended on young people to fill these positions; however, low birthrates in the 1970s and 1980s limited the number of youths looking for employment in the 1990s. The food service industry was forced to attract workers from other age groups. It became common for food service businesses to offer more full-time employment, higher wages and bonuses, and more training for career advancement than before. The industry also began recruiting more women and minorities, as well as nontraditional workers such as seniors and mentally and physically challenged individuals.
From aerobics and hiking to rock climbing and parachuting, the recreation industry helps millions of Americans enjoy their leisure time. Workers in this industry organize and lead activities, provide instruction and equipment, and maintain facilities.
Trends in Recreation
In the 1990s sociologists identified a trend called "cocooning." If this trend continues more and more Americans will stay at home for relaxation and recreation. Climbing sales of home gym equipment and rentals of DVDs suggest that cocooning will continue for at least the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, some U.S. consumers still seek out a diverse range of activities offered by the recreation industry.
Because many Americans have a limited amount of leisure time, they are very selective about how they spend it. Instead of participating in several leisure activities, many people prefer to focus on just one. More and more people are choosing to take shorter vacations as well; for example, weekend and getaway trips are becoming more popular than traditional two-week vacations.
Physical Fitness Programs and Participatory Sports
The physical fitness movement of the 1980s was led by baby boomers—people born from 1946 to 1964. As members of this generation have reached middle age and become more interested in maintaining their physical fitness, they have devoted more time to working out in gyms, health clubs, and community centers.
The interest in physical fitness continues, but the focus has shifted from workouts to wellness. In addition to building their muscles and toning their bodies, aging baby boomers seek to improve their total mental and emotional well-being. "Total care" health clubs are responding to this trend by offering seminars and counseling in nutrition, stress management, smoking cessation, weight loss, and self-esteem.
Baby boomers seem to have turned to less strenuous sports that can be practiced safely throughout life. Within this age group, "lifetime" sports such as hiking, bicycling, walking, golf, and doubles tennis are increasing in popularity as more strenuous or hazardous sports such as running, jogging, downhill skiing, and singles tennis decline. Sporting goods stores employ instructors to teach customers basic skills and safety precautions pertaining to their sport of choice.
For decades the only place anyone could see a movie was in a theater. By the dawn of the twenty-first century theaters were competing fiercely with cable television and DVD sales and rentals. Movie theaters try to attract audiences by offering amenities such as improved audio and projection systems and concession stands that sell a wide range of food and drinks. Some chains are experimenting with special ultra-large screens that produce a thrilling and vivid viewing experience, and many theaters have added online information, reservation, and prepay ticket sales systems to make ticket purchasing easier. Such improvements are designed to attract an older, more affluent crowd.
Another continuing trend is the multiplex, a theater complex with many screens. Each theater offers a large selection of new releases, giving movie-goers a variety of choices at one location. Multiplexes encourage impulse viewing and increase customer satisfaction. By showing a popular film on more than one screen, multiplexes can increase the size of the audience and avoid the risk of selling out while patrons are still waiting for tickets. Movie theaters provide jobs for managers, projectionists, cashiers, ushers, and concession-stand workers.
The rich cultural history of the United States is reflected in its variety of museums. In addition to museums of art, many American cities support museums devoted to history, science, culture, and children's studies. According to the 2004 Museum Attendance Report compiled by Morey and Associates, the average total attendance at more than eighty museums in the United States increased 2.6 percent between 2003 and 2004. Most museums are seeking to attract wider, more diverse audiences. One common strategy is to plan exhibits that reflect the ethnic or cultural interests within a community. Some museums are dedicated entirely to particular themes, such as the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Many museums now use interactive technology—once limited to children's museums—to increase accessibility and encourage more active, hands-on experiences for visitors. This technology includes displays and kiosks that provide museum maps and helpful information about museum displays. As Americans' travel habits shift from long family vacations to shorter, more frequent outings, museums need to find new ways to attract visitors. According to a 2002 report by the New England Museum Association, museums that "have diversified their offerings to include changing attractions along with special events and new experiences" have been the most successful.
Museums hire curators to plan and maintain exhibits. In a large museum a curator is usually in charge of one department such as photography or African American art. Updating museums requires the services of professional designers and educational specialists. Museums also hire clerks who sell tickets and work in museum stores, as well as tour guides, guards, maintenance workers, and fund-raising experts.
Millions of fans regularly attend professional and amateur sporting events. Baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and football grew in popularity during the 1980s. Spurred by Americans' interest in professional sports, many leagues have expanded in recent years or plan future expansion. At the beginning of the twenty-first century women's professional sports were attracting many new fans as well. The Women's National Basketball Association was founded in 1997, the U.S. women's soccer team enjoyed national attention when it won the 1999 Women's World Cup, and women's professional tennis maintained a decades-long period of popularity. However, men's professional organizations like the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball continue to be so popular that they have cultural significance as well as entertainment value.
Professional athletes are the highly paid stars of spectator sports, but many other people work in this sector of the recreation industry, including coaches, managers, trainers, ticket sellers, and stadium workers. Sales and marketing personnel create special promotions and events that help get fans into the stands. Even the steroid scandal that rocked American baseball could not drown fan interest: advance ticket sales for the 2005 season were up 6.5 percent from 2004. Sports still has its problematic economic issues, however, as evidenced by the lockout that cancelled the 2004–05 National Hockey League season. The lockout affected many local businesses and left thousands of employees out of work.
Community recreation is the most widespread recreation field in the United States. Just about every community and county in the nation has a public recreation center where residents can swim, learn arts and crafts, put on a play, or participate in sports. Many "controlled" communities such as retirement centers also employ recreation staffs. Jobs available in community recreation facilities include recreation director, program director, lifeguard, playground supervisor, and recreation aide. Opportunities also exist for people who can teach activities such as dancing, crafts, drama, and sports.
The Bronx Zoo in New York is a prime example of the changing role and function of American zoos. Its official name—the Wildlife Conservation Park—emphasizes its ties to the Wildlife Conservation Society, formerly known as the New York Zoological Society. Stressing their role in the preservation of animals and their ecosystems, modern zoos have replaced the old-fashioned animals-behind-bars environment with wildlife parks where animals roam free in replicas of their natural habitats. The pioneering and best-known of these zoos, the San Diego Zoo, is noted for its breeding programs for endangered animals. Wildlife park directors feel that today's zoos play a vital role in helping to conserve endangered animals, as well as in teaching the public about the importance of conservation efforts throughout the world.
Wildlife conservation parks require many skilled workers, including directors, curators, veterinarians, and zoologists. Zoos also hire animal caretakers, guides, maintenance workers, and public relations personnel.
State and National Parks
The United States has a well-developed system of county, state, and national parks. The National Park Service administers many frequently visited parks throughout the nation, from Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida to Yosemite National Park in California. Since the 1950s visits to national parks have jumped 500 percent. The park system employs thousands of workers to maintain the parks and help visitors enjoy camping, hiking, picnics, historical tours, and nature studies.
According to the National Park Service Office of Communications, in 2004 more than 276 million people visited America's national parks. Since then many parks have faced a crippling budget crisis. In an April 17, 2006 article, WashingtonPost.com contributor Matt Stearns reported: "The Bush administration has ordered America's national parks to show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets." National park superintendents have to make some hard choices concerning ranger staffs, services, and visitor center hours, according to an article in National Geographic News. Prior to President Bush's budget-cutting announcement, environmentalists and conservationists were urging the government to purchase more land for parks—a proposal that seemed unlikely to gain acceptance in light of the 20 percent cut in park funding set for 2007.
Summer camps are changing to adjust to new population and cultural trends. Camps still offer traditional activities such as swimming, boating, and hiking, but many also offer unique learning opportunities. Some camps focus on developing skills in specific areas, including computers, tennis, music, drama, and foreign languages. Others cater to children with special needs such as those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Modern camps provide job opportunities for instructors and therapists, as well as directors, counselors, lifeguards, nurses, and cooks.
The characteristics of camp-age children are expected to shift in the twenty-first century, with far more attendees coming from urban areas and different cultural backgrounds. The goal for the future is to find new ways to attract an increasingly diverse range of campers.
Taking any trip requires planning and decision making. Travelers must choose where and when to go, how to get there, what to see and do, and where to stay. Despite this the demand for travel agents in the United States is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. This is due in part to the growth of online travel booking, which allows consumers to find the best deals on travel and lodging on the Internet. Other workers in the travel industry, including tour arrangers and directors, destination coordinators, ticket agents, and travel clerks, will find job growth on par with that of other occupations. The growth of international business travel will create an increased need for corporate travel managers and other workers who can plan business trips and contain costs on complicated travel arrangements.
The travel industry enjoyed enormous growth during the 1980s and early 1990s. According to one travel survey, U.S. residents took over one billion trips in 1999. While the travel industry was hit hard by 9/11 and a sluggish economy, by 2003 a recovery was under way. However, in 2005 and 2006 skyrocketing gas prices pushed the trend away from longer family vacations to shorter, more frequent trips.
When Americans do take longer vacations, they are no longer just going to Disney World or Hawaii. According to a study by Randall Travel Marketing, twenty-first-century travelers are looking for an escape from their everyday lives, and tourism marketers have found success by offering a variety of "themed" getaways such as race car driving schools, living as a Native American for a weekend, and cooking school vacations in France and Italy. Another hot vacation trend in 2005 was the "all-girl getaway." Women and Wine, a California-based travel agency, offers female group trips to wine country in Napa Valley and Tuscany. AdventureWomen offers trips for women over thirty, among them a "cowgirl" getaway at a Montana ranch.
The health of the hospitality and recreation industry and the coinciding employment outlook is greatly affected by fluctuations in the U.S. economy. During a recession such as the one that began in 2000, consumers have less income for travel and leisure pursuits and they are usually more cautious about spending money for nonessential items. They also are less likely to contribute money to support historic sites, museums, and zoos. As less money is spent on hospitality and recreation, fewer workers are hired and the number of available jobs decreases. This scenario characterized the beginning of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, during strong economic times, people have more discretionary income (extra money) and the hospitality and recreation industry generally flourishes. Consequently, the employment outlook for the field becomes favorable.
Changing demographics and lifestyles also have a major impact on employment in hospitality and recreation. As the United States entered the twenty-first century, about 25 percent of the population was over the age of fifty-five. This growing market segment has the money and the time to travel and pursue leisure activities. For this reason many analysts predict strong growth in leisure travel designed to appeal to retirees; this in turn will spur employment growth in the field.
Technology and training will be vital for workers in the hospitality and recreation industry. As in all fields, new technology will help people work more efficiently. Training programs can help workers keep pace with new trends and changing needs.
Despite continued economic problems and the aftereffects of the 9/11 tragedy, employment opportunities in hospitality and recreation still exist. Candidates committed to the principles of customer service—those who display patience, knowledge, enthusiasm, and a willingness to go the extra mile for a client—are in the best position to enter, succeed, and advance in this field.
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