“Hospitality”, in many people’s minds, is strongly connected with leisure. The sector is far broader than this, however. For many organisations, day-to-day operations would be impossible without the support of some element of the hospitality sector. Whether you’re booking a hotel for your summer holiday, a conference suite for a business event, or a restaurant for a family reunion, you’ve interacted with the hospitality industry.
What is Hospitality?
The hospitality industry is unique among other industries in both its breadth and pervasiveness throughout everyday life. From accommodation such as hotels and serviced apartments, to catering and entertainment, to travel agents and cruise operators, the hospitality industry plays an important role in both leisure and business. Most sectors are dominated by a very small number of firms — a handful of big names. Because the hospitality industry is so varied, however, the number of well-known businesses involved is also impressively large, including international hotel and restaurant chains, travel operators and many, many more. In this article, you’ll find out more about the different sectors that make up the hospitality industry.
Defining the Hospitality Industry
Despite its varied and multifarious character, the industry does have two main defining features. One is its reliance on leisure and luxury activities and services rather than basic physical needs, making it vulnerable during times when the economy is struggling. The other is its chief focus: customer satisfaction. You could certainly make the case that this is true for virtually any business — after all, without satisfaction, an organisation would quickly lose customers. That said, this particular industry is more heavily reliant than any other on customer satisfaction; because the sector is chiefly sustained by luxury and leisure-related activities, customer satisfaction goes from being a marketing tool to the main service on offer.
The hospitality industry can be divided into three general sectors: accommodation, food and drink, and travel and tourism.
Hospitality: A Complete Overview of the Sectors
This hospitality sector deals with providing places for people to stay. These range from basic lodgings intended for stays of one or two nights, such as a motel or youth hostel. These might offer facilities such as shared dormitories or small private rooms containing minimal furnishings. On the other end of the scale are establishments such as luxury hotels and resorts offering higher-end facilities, as well as serviced apartments which may be used for longer-term accommodation.
Bed and Breakfasts
The bed and breakfast or B&B is a fixture of the budget accommodation sector. As the name suggests, guests at a bed and breakfast receive lodgings in a shared or private room and at least one catered meal per day.
Hotels are a little higher up the scale than bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Rooms may be basic, with access to a shared bathroom; luxury hotels offer large suites. Some hotels offer extensive facilities and services, such as spas or gymnasia.
Motels focus on short-term lodgings, often aimed at those taking long journeys who need a place to break their trip for a night or two. Facilities tend to be basic and practical, although there are higher-end chains and “theme” motels have their fans.
Popular with younger guests and other budget travellers, hostels offer basic comforts in a convivial atmosphere. Lodgings may include private rooms but often focus on large shared dormitories furnished with multiple bunk beds. Hostels often emphasise the social element with group activities.
Resorts range from the humble campground and caravan park to luxurious hotel complexes catering to guests’ every need. The difference between a hotel and a resort is the greater availability of external facilities such as recreation areas, private beaches, parks and so on.
A serviced apartment gives guests the comforts of home without having to worry about cleaning and caretaking. It is a full-sized apartment intended for longer stays but administered like a hotel room, with laundry, room service etc. provided for the guest.
In a timeshare arrangement you pay for the exclusive use of a particular apartment or other lodging but only for part of the year. Time sharing can be an economical solution for those who wish to stay at the same place every year.
2: Food and drink
The food and drink sector of the hospitality industry includes places serving fast food at modest prices to sophisticated restaurants. Pubs, wine and cocktail bars are also part of this sector. Entertainment establishments are often involved in providing food and drink. In some cases (such as in the case of a nightclub) food or drink is a major part of the entertainment on offer, while in others (for example in the case of a cinema) food and drink are additions.
Restaurants are among the most obvious examples of the sector. They serve food of varying quality, with a focus on dining rather than providing snacks. Some restaurants may also serve alcoholic beverages, particularly wineñ their primary focus is food.
Catering involves the provision of food and drink at a premises other than a restaurant or other eaterie. This might be the client’s home, workplace or another venue such as a meeting hall or conference centre. Catering ranges from simple sandwiches to banquets.
Bars & Cafés
Bars focus primarily on providing drinks in a social setting. They may also offer light meals and entertainment such as televised sports or live music or comedy. Cafés provide light meals and hot or cold beverages, typically but not always non-alcoholic.
Nightclubs focus more heavily on entertainment and social engagement than bars or cafés. Music is typically provided by a DJ but live acts may also perform and there may be other entertainments as well. Nightclubs typically serve minimal or no food, focusing on drinks.
Tea and coffee shops
Tea and coffee shops focus on providing hot beverages, often in a quiet and refined setting. They tend to attract a more mature customer base. As well as tea, coffee and other drinks, tea and coffee shops may offer snacks such as pastries.
3: Travel and tourism
The travel and tourism sector of the hospitality industry includes businesses that arrange transport and activities for travellers. This includes everyone from tour operators dealing largely with those who travel for leisure, to airlines and vehicle rental specialists who serve both leisure and business clients. In previous eras, these would have been primarily bricks-and-mortar firms; however, in the digital age, more travel is arranged online and new business models have evolved in response to this.
Travel agents arrange transport and accommodation for travellers. They are specialist consultants who work with individual clients to tailor a suitable package, which may include lodgings, activities such as tours, and travel arrangements such as plane tickets.
Tour operators specialise in arranging tours for their clients. This includes liaising with venue operators, tour guides and other key organisations and individuals. Tour operators are not usually involved directly with giving tours — this is the job of a tour guide.
Online travel agencies (OTA’s)
Playing an increasingly large role in the travel and tourism sector, OTAs perform many of the services offered by a traditional travel agency via a web-based platform. Their lower overheads and greater agility allow them to offer competitive prices for their clients.
Cruises combine both transport and accommodation. The purpose of a cruise is to provide a luxury hotel experience while afloat, combined with travel to exotic and interesting destinations. Cruises offer activities both onboard and on land, such as games and musical productions.
Car and vehicle rental is an important hospitality sector both for leisure and business. Vehicles range from chauffeur-driven luxury limousines to budget self-drive options. Rentals may be required for as little as an hour or two or for extended periods of weeks or months.
Casinos can be exciting destinations, offering games of chance and other entertainments. Casinos may offer automated slot machines and video games; they may also include more traditional gaming experiences such as card games or roulette. Many also offer food and accommodation.
As you can see, the hospitality industry is a rich and varied world taking in many different types of business. While somewhat sensitive to the vagaries of the economy, the hospitality industry is highly adaptive and fulfils important roles in the modern world.
Want to Learn More About Related Industries?
The hospitality industry is part of the travel industry and the hotel industry is part of the hospitality industry. All of these industries have in common that they are large service industries in the world and increasingly important in the modern age. But what is the difference between the travel and tourism industry? And what are all hospitality sectors within the hospitality industry? In the following articles you learn more about related industries.
- Travel Industry; An Overview of One of the Largest Service Industries
- Hotel Industry; An Overview of All Different Types of Accommodations
- Tourism Industry; Everything You Need to Know About Tourism
- What is the Difference Between the Travel and Tourism Industry?
- Space Tourism: 5 Space Companies That Will Make You An Astronaut