About this hospitality management course
This is a free online hospitality management course split into five areas. You will be introduced to a general overview, history, and current developments in hospitality management. Then explore what’s on the horizon, and then current problems and opportunities in the field. And since there is deep value in practicality, this course ends with a next steps section for hospitality managers
- What Is Hospitality Management?
- History of Hospitality Management
- Future of Hospitality Management
- Challenges & Opportunities in Hospitality Management
- Next Steps for Hospitality Management
This free online hospitality management course directs you toward free videos, articles, and resources coupled with questions to aid in processing this exciting field. Each course section is created to offer two to three hours of learning material.
Whenever you see this icon, it is time to stop and watch, read, or reflect.
At the end of each course section is an opportunity for further investment. These suggestions offer courses, associations, and certificates within a wide range of financial and time investments, to further enrichment in the exciting field of hospitality management.
1│What Is Hospitality Management?
Hospitality management is a growing field that deals with the oversight of hotels, resorts, casinos, and other types of destinations to ensure visitors have the kinds of experiences they are coming for. Hospitality managers can specialize in various areas, from guest services to event planning to culinary services. This can look like onboarding new staff, tracking budgets and inventory, and scheduling, all with the eye towards providing a positive experience for guests while keeping your establishment profitable. However, it is wise to be familiar with all departments in your particular establishment, especially if you’re seeking to move to a higher level.
Here is an overview of a variety of different career paths you might take in hospitality management. This is not an exhaustive list, so there might be a path you’re considering not listed here; also, check out this post, which breaks more areas down into more specific directions. Are there particular areas you’re already considering in the industry? What career paths are you most drawn to?
Education & Background for Hospitality Managers
Many hospitality managers landed their positions by moving up in their industry, starting as clerks or waitstaff or in other positions in an establishment. This background is helpful for hospitality managers because it means they have already gained an understanding of what their customers are looking for.
Nevertheless, some places do require some type of hospitality management degree, often associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. It would also not be unusual to be promoted into a management role and then go to school to earn a hospitality degree. Many hospitality programs allow you to concentrate on a particular area, such as food service or a specific type of establishment, like resort management. The education you’ll gain from going through a degree program will set you up to understand the industry more deeply and gain skills to improve efficiency, create and manage wise budgets, or develop risk assessments, as examples.
Service Is a Skill; Hospitality Is a Spirit
The question of what hospitality is remains an important one. The word hospitality means friendly, generous, helpful. And while it can be wearing to be in the service industry day after day, customer after customer, at the end of the day, a hospitality manager is responsible for helping their enterprise create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. And, it can be argued, genuine hospitality is lacking in many areas of the hospitality industry.
In this TED Talk, Anna Dolce discusses this missing piece of hospitality. And in this TED Talk, Alex Cabañas outlines how to raise the low-bar when it comes to service in the hospitality industry. As you watch, consider what makes an environment feel warm and welcoming. Where are your favorite places to go? How much does the hospitality you encounter at your favorite places influence your choices? And what are your thoughts and motivations around this hospitality aspect of hospitality management?
On this subject of hospitality, read this Forbes interview with Caroline MacDonald, group vice president of sales, distribution, and business performance, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. What strikes you about how she discusses hospitality within the luxury hotel industry?
A career in hospitality management has a massive variety of career opportunities to choose from. It’s also one of the world’s largest industries. This course is an introduction to hospitality and tourism from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which is offered through EdX. In this course, you will have an overview of the industry and cover particular job areas you might want to consider, like tour operations, food service, event planning, and travel marketing. You can complete this course in six weeks if you spend one to two hours a day on it. While the course is free, you can opt to pay for a certificate at the end.
Cornell University offers a certificate program in hospitality management. The program covers various aspects of the industry over six courses, including courses like Understanding Financial Statements, Building Guest Loyalty, Building High-Performance Teams, Services Marketing Planning, and Management.
2│History of Hospitality Management
Roots of the Hospitality Industry
People have been traveling since antiquity, and for many civilizations, hospitality plays an important role in society. We still see this in many cultures today, as Anna Dolce discussed in her TED Talk in the previous section. The idea of hospitality is seen in many religious texts, often tying the need to care for the foreigner to one’s spiritual well-being. In the Western world, we see evidence of hospitality dating at least as far back as Ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient people traveled on religious pilgrimages, for military and political reasons, and trade.
Read pages 5-7 in this paper (although you’re welcome to read all of it) to go more in-depth about the roots of the hospitality industry. What do you notice about how this industry was created that is still present today? What aspects do you feel have fundamentally changed, if anything?
The oldest hotel still in operation is the Koshu Nishiyama Hot Springs Keiunkan in Japan and is over 1300 years old. Built in 705 AD, this hotel is known for its hot springs, as the name indicates. Read more about this inn and its history; what do you note about how it uses the idea of hospitality to invite potential guests?
Tremont House 1829
In the 1700s in Europe, there was a rise in hotels built solely for housing travelers due to the development of faster modes of transportation that made traveling long distances more accessible to more people.
1829 could be considered the birth of the hospitality industry in the United States when architects built the first Tremont House in Boston, Massachusetts. From its private ensuite to its running water, the Tremont set the stage for hotels to come. Read this piece from Boston Magazine on the Tremont. What do you note about the ingenuity of Tremont House that we see in a typical hotel today? What do you note about how Tremont House combined the idea of luxury with the concept of hospitality?
As an increasing number of people became car owners and air travel became more commonplace, the hospitality industry took off. Many large hotel chains that are still around today were established in the early and mid-20th Century, such as Hilton in 1919, Marriot in 1927, Sheraton in 1937, Holiday Inn in 1952, Hyatt in 1957, and Four Seasons in 1961.
Motels, a portmanteau of “motor” and “hotel,” was born out of the increase in intercity travel in the mid-20th Century. They were smaller and more affordable than hotels and were built close to highways to make it easy for people to stop for a few hours or overnight.
The 1950s-1980s are considered the Golden Age of hospitality, driven by both service and luxury ideals and spurred on by mass tourism. This was partially due to the rapid increase in wealth for the wealthiest Americans after World War II. In this paper, you’ll explore the factors that led to the creation of mass tourism. What do you see still at play in the hospitality industry today? The COVID-19 pandemic aside, how have things evolved since the 1980s?
There is more to explore on the subject of the history of the hospitality industry. This blog post from Tourism Teacher will give you a broader timeline of hospitality and tourism to add to what we just covered. Be sure to watch the linked videos in the post as well. This context is important for understanding wh
Since we’ve been talking about luxury in the hospitality industry, check out this course through edX from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This is an eight-week course that you can complete in 50 to 65 hours. It covers a considerable amount of content related to managing a luxury hospitality brand. While the course itself is free, the certificate has a fee attached.
3│Future of Hospitality Management
Sustainability in hospitality (and, by extension, tourism) is rapidly gaining awareness and momentum. And it’s something that consumers are starting to be more savvy and particular about. The idea of sustainability relates not just to the environmental aspects of how an enterprise is developed and run but also the economic, social, and cultural factors.
Before you read this piece on why investment in sustainability is the future of hospitality, jot down some thoughts about how sustainability might benefit your enterprise. Consider both the customer and the enterprise’s point of view.
The topic of sustainability in hospitality is extremely wide-reaching, and the more you explore what true sustainability might mean for your particular enterprise, the more you’ll see the massive expansion of things you’ll need to consider. In this TED Talk, Bar Manager Tom Egerton walks through the anatomy of a single cocktail.
For this reason, greenwashing is so prevalent in all industries, including hospitality, when it comes to sustainability. If you are unfamiliar with greenwashing, read this brief overview.
Here are some hotels that are working towards greater sustainability. Where do you see opportunity? After considering Tom Egerton’s TED Talk and reading about greenwashing, where do you see red flags? Thinking about your own enterprise, what might you do similarly or differently on the sustainability front?
The contactless payment trend was already here, but it was spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for new hygiene and social distancing policies in the hospitality industry. Contactless payment methods allow customers to avoid using cash and take away the physical nature of traditional debit/credit card readers instead of relying on wireless methods of payment. Smartphones, smartwatches, and debit/credit cards can all be used for contactless payments. Customers simply put their payment method near a payment terminal, rather than needing to touch anything, like keying their pin into a card terminal.
Here are five trends around contactless hospitality technology. How do you think these trends will help the hospitality industry navigate the remainder and post-pandemic challenges? How do you see these trends shaping the industry long-term? Do you think any of them will not come to pass or will not have a significant impact?
COVID’s Impact & Communication
For obvious reasons, the hospitality industry (including tourism) has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has and will continue to require significant changes in how hospitality managers think about the way their enterprises run. We see this in the rise of contactless payments, as we just discussed. But there are other aspects to consider in regards to how to keep customers safe proactively, and hospitality managers who are focused on communications and marketing will have a large part to play in helping customers feel safe and confident about returning to their establishments.
This webinar looks at the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry and trends, and strategies hospitality managers can look for and capitalize on moving forward from a digital marketing lens. This conversation is from a UK perspective, but the general trends and strategies apply more globally.
Explore the blog Regenerative Travel for new perspectives on sustainability in the hospitality industry. Learn about what some enterprises are already doing, and explore the future of sustainability in the industry.
Take this class on sustainable tourism offered by the University of Copenhagen through Coursera. This class explores the challenges of the growth of tourism in low-income countries. This is a beginning-level course that will take you around 14 hours to complete.
4│Challenges & Opportunities in Hospitality Management
Loyalty programs, a long-time mainstay for the larger hotel chains, are a space of opportunity for the hospitality industry. Loyalty programs offer discounts and other specials to their members. And for customers who frequently travel, such as the business traveler, there are obvious incentives for joining one or a few loyalty programs. Since they are usually free to join, it can be the thing that keeps a customer coming back to your enterprise instead of a competitor’s. And attracting and retaining customers is more important than ever right now.
Here are some trends hospitality managers see when it comes to loyalty programs. What has your experience been with loyalty programs, either as a customer or from within the industry?
It’s not new. And some enterprises in the hospitality industry do it really well. It’s where people are; if anything, social media use has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be used to build customer engagement, improve or build on your enterprise’s reputation, and help keep you in front of your customers. But social media can be an underutilized resource that can also bring you ample opportunities. However, there is indeed no one-size-fits-all social media strategy.
How does your enterprise currently use social media, if at all? If you already use it, what’s the strategy behind it? Does this article offer you any thoughts on how you might better harness social media as a hospitality manager?
If social media and digital marketing are something you’re interested in as a hospitality manager, check out Tambourine’s blog for hotel marketers to do a further dive.
Employee Recruitment & Retention
The hospitality industry as a whole tends to have relatively high employee turnover, and retention of talent has long been a particular challenge for hospitality managers. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, new challenges have also emerged, such as the tension between lay-offs and needing enough staff to maintain what is for many a new level of cleanliness. And since customer service is at the heart of a strong hospitality enterprise, this is significant value in retaining good employees.
This webinar discusses the challenges facing hospitality managers and the industry from an HR perspective. While this webinar was recorded in the fall of 2020, their conversations around human resource optimization and their forecasting for the industry’s future provide valuable insight for hospitality managers during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. What knowledge or tips did you pick up from the panel?
Watch this webinar from Cornell’s The Hotel School, Innovating for Post-Pandemic Future: Challenges and Opportunities in the Hospitality Industry. The webinar is free to watch, but you will need to give them your name and email to access it. The panelists discuss how the pandemic has forced the hospitality industry to develop new ways to serve guests, lessons hospitality managers can take from other industries, moving to a cloud-based operation, and other innovations for the industry.
In this course, we’ve focused most heavily on the hotels and the like. But the hospitality industry is vast and full of different types of opportunities. One area to consider as a hospitality manager is in private service—yes, like Downton Abbey. It might sound antiquated, but there is still a demand for hospitality professionals to help manage private estates in various capacities. You can learn more about this niche in the industry by exploring the International Institute for Modern Butlers and consider enrolling in one of their courses, such as their online hospitality course. While this is an excellent course for anyone considering becoming a butler or expanding their skills in that capacity, it’s also a valuable course for housekeepers at resorts or hotels or anyone in the hospitality industry who seeks to improve their professional services.
5│Next Steps for Hospitality Management
Hone Your Communication Skills
It sounds obvious, perhaps simplistic, but finely tuned communication skills for hospitality managers are paramount to success in your role and for your enterprise’s reputation. We’ve discussed earlier the difference between service and hospitality, and good communication plays a significant role here. As the industry continues to move toward individualized guest experiences, excellent communication skills will be even more critical.
Here are some aspects to consider when discussing the importance of solid communication in the hospitality industry. How do you see the connection between communication and emotional intelligence? How would you navigate good communication skills across cultural and linguistic barriers?
Build Intercultural Awareness
On the topic of culture, hospitality managers need to have strong intercultural awareness. This isn’t just for those who work with international customers. All customers come to your establishment with their own cultural lens. Whether it’s similar to your own or not, as a hospitality manager, it’s your job to navigate any potential challenges with grace, helping your customers feel seen and valued.
An excellent place to start is to consider what your own cultural positioning is. What are your values, beliefs, and norms? Realize that while there may be similarities across cultures here, that’s not necessarily true for everyone, and that’s ok. But before you can improve your intercultural awareness, it’s essential to know where you’re coming from first. Here are some ways to help with this exercise that you’ll want to consider.
Notice the Details
A lot of what goes into hospitality management is the ability to notice details. Think for a minute about a typical customer who might come to your establishment. What types of details do you usually notice about this customer? What might you be missing? Here is an example of how noticing details can make all the difference for a customer. And, as a result, it helps boost your enterprise’s reputation and increase customer retention.
Communication, intercultural awareness, and details—what they all have in common is they are about the people, your customers. We started the course by talking about what hospitality is, and that’s a meaningful way to close. At the end of the day, hospitality managers should be focused on welcoming the guest.
Bashar Wali is, among other titles, a hotelier with a passion for hospitality. In this TED Talk, he reminds us that humanity matters more than your physical hotel (or resort or restaurant or cruise ship, etc.). After you listen to his talk, make a note of what inspired you to become part of the hospitality industry in the first place. Has that changed over time? Many hospitality managers would say that the key to success in the industry is keeping the customers—the guests—front and center. Do you share a similar perspective?
Brentwood Open Learning College offers a free, 20-hour, entry-level hotel management course. This course is based in the United Kingdom but is applicable to students around the world. And, unlike many free online courses, there is no cost for a certificate. In this course, you’ll receive an overview of what it’s like to run a hotel. You’ll learn about the various departments and various roles, such as housekeeping, front-office, and management. It’s a great foundation for those who are just beginning their hospitality management journey.
Join the American Hotel and Lodging Association (or another professional hospitality association). The AH&LA believes that hoteliers are a vital part of the community. As a member, you’ll have access to industry news, training, and networking opportunities with its 24,000+ members. The AH&LA also works to advocate for legislation on behalf of the hotelier community.
This is the end of our free online hospitality management course. We hope it gives you a good background on the topic!