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Motel Hotel and Resort Desk Clerk Job Description, Career as a Motel Hotel and Resort Desk Clerk, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school and on-the-job training

Salary: Median—$17,700 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Desk clerks, also known as front office clerks or room clerks, are part of the front office staff of hotels, motels, and resorts. They are responsible for checking guests in and out, giving information about rates and the kinds of services their establishment provides, and assigning guests to rooms. Of all lodging employees, desk clerks have the most contact with the public; therefore, it is especially important that they make a good impression and ensure that guests' needs are being met.

There are many kinds of desk clerks in the hospitality industry. Key clerks issue and receive room keys. Reservations clerks handle reservations that guests make by mail, by telephone, or via the Internet and inform the room clerks when the guests plan to arrive. Rack clerks keep track of which rooms are occupied and unoccupied and oversee the work of the housekeepers and maintenance crew. Mail clerks are in charge of the guests' mail and messages. Information clerks tell guests about local places of interest and provide directions. However, only in the very largest hotels are the clerks so specialized. Usually one hotel desk clerk performs several duties such as handling reservations, checking guests in or out, and giving them directions to local sites.

Desk clerks work throughout the country in all kinds of hotels, motels, and resorts. The differences in these types of lodgings lie in their location and needs of their clientele. Hotels are typically found in cities; residential hotels serve people who desire hotel service on a long-term basis. Most motels are located along highways rather than in large urban areas. Because they are designed to serve motorists who are driving a long way, motels are sometimes referred to as motor lodges. Resort hotels are usually located in vacation areas. In addition to providing rooms, many resort hotels provide recreational activities such as horseback riding and swimming.

Most hotels, motels, and resorts are open twenty-four hours every day of the year. There is almost always a desk clerk on duty to take care of the guests' needs.

The desk clerk has the most contact with hotel guests. It is important for the desk clerk to be friendly, helpful, and well groomed. (© Michael Keller/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

Managers of lodging establishments like to hire people who have at least a high school education. Some large hotels prefer hiring individuals with some college experience. On-the-job training is provided. It is helpful to be good at typing, bookkeeping, and office machine and computer operation. Clerks should also have strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Many desk clerks begin as bellhops, switchboard operators, or key clerks. After they gain some experience these workers may be promoted to desk clerk. Desk clerks must have a neat appearance and be able to get along well with people.

Getting the Job

Prospective desk clerks can learn about job openings from state employment agencies, newspaper want ads, or job banks on the Internet. They can also apply directly to hotels, motels, and resorts in which they want to work. Students attending training schools that specialize in hotel work should check for job listings with the school's placement office.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Lodging managers generally prefer to promote their employees rather than hire people from outside the staff. Desk clerks who do their jobs well can move up to the position of assistant manager or front office manager. Education beyond high school is useful in getting a promotion. Many colleges and junior colleges now offer courses and programs in hotel management.

The hotel, motel, and resort industry is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014. An increase in business travel as well as in domestic and foreign tourism will create a demand for all lodging workers. Also, the turnover rate for desk clerks is high so jobs open up regularly.

Working Conditions

Hotels, motels, and resorts are pleasant places to work. They are usually open seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Desk clerks may be asked to work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often put in a five- or six-day forty- to forty-eight-hour week. Employees are usually given extra pay for working irregular hours. Most room clerks rotate their shifts with other workers.

Front desks are generally clean and well lighted and the work is not strenuous. However, clerks may be on their feet much of the time, and their work can become quite hectic, especially in busy hotels and resorts; desk clerks in the hospitality industry need to be patient and tolerant even when guests are unreasonable.

Where to Go for More Information

American Hotel and Lodging Association
1201 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 600
Washington, DC 20005-3931
(202) 289-3100

The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education
2810 N. Parham Rd., Ste. 230
Richmond, VA 23294
(804) 346-4800

275 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001-6708
(212) 265-7000

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks earned a median salary of $17,700 per year in 2004. Those working in large metropolitan areas usually earn more. Benefits for full-time workers include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans. Educational assistance is sometimes available as well.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHospitality and Recreation