Job opportunities should be plentiful, because of substantial
Evening, weekend, and part-time work hours create potential
for flexible schedules.
Professional appearance and personality are more important
than formal academic training in landing a job.
Nature of the Work
Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks perform a variety of
services for guests of hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments.
Regardless of the type of accommodation, most desk clerks
have similar responsibilities. They register arriving guests,
assign rooms, and check out guests at the end of their stay.
They also keep records of room assignments and other registration-related
information on computers. When guests check out, desk clerks
prepare and explain the charges, as well as process payments.
Front-desk clerks always are in the public eye and typically
are the first line of customer service for a lodging property.
Their attitude and behavior greatly influence the public’s
impressions of the establishment. And as such, they always
must be courteous and helpful. Desk clerks answer questions
about services, checkout times, the local community, or other
matters of public interest. Clerks also report problems with
guest rooms or public facilities to members of the housekeeping
or maintenance staff for them to correct the problems. In
larger hotels or in larger cities, desk clerks may refer queries
about area attractions to a concierge and may direct more
complicated questions to the appropriate manager.
In some smaller hotels and motels, where smaller staffs are
employed, clerks may take on a variety of additional responsibilities,
such as bringing fresh linens to rooms, which usually are
performed by employees in other departments of larger lodging
establishments. In the smaller places, desk clerks often are
responsible for all front-office operations, information,
and services. For example, they may perform the work of a
bookkeeper, advance reservation agent, cashier, laundry attendant,
and telephone switchboard operator.
Hotels are open around the clock creating the need for night
and weekend work. Extended hours of operation also afford
the many part-time job seekers an opportunity to find work
in these establishments, especially on evenings and late-night
shifts or on weekends and holidays. About half of all desk
clerks work a 35 to 40 hour week—most of the rest work fewer
hours—so the jobs are attractive to persons seeking part-time
work or jobs with flexible schedules. Most clerks work in
areas that are clean, well lit, and relatively quiet, although
lobbies can become crowded and noisy when busy. Many hotels
have stringent dress guidelines for desk clerks.
Desk clerks may experience particularly hectic times during
check-in and check-out times or incur the pressures encountered
when dealing with convention guests or large groups of tourists
at one time. Moreover, dealing with irate guests can be stressful.
Computer failures can further complicate an already busy time
and add to stress levels. Hotel desk clerks may be on their
feet most of the time and may occasionally be asked to lift
heavy guest luggage.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks deal directly with the
public, so a professional appearance and a pleasant personality
are important. A clear speaking voice and fluency in English
also are essential, because these employees talk directly
with hotel guests and the public and frequently use the telephone
or public-address systems. Good spelling and computer literacy
are needed, because most of the work involves use of a computer.
In addition, speaking a foreign language fluently is increasingly
helpful, because of the growing international clientele of
Most hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks receive orientation
and training on the job. Orientation may include an explanation
of the job duties and information about the establishment,
such as the arrangement of sleeping rooms, availability of
additional services, such as a business or fitness center,
and location of guest facilities, such as ice and vending
machines, restaurants and other nearby retail stores. New
employees learn job tasks through on-the-job training under
the guidance of a supervisor or an experienced desk clerk.
They often receive additional training on interpersonal or
customer service skills and on how to use the computerized
reservation, room assignment, and billing systems and equipment.
Desk clerks typically continue to receive instruction on new
procedures and on company policies after their initial training
Formal academic training generally is not required so many
students take jobs as desk clerks on evening or weekend shifts
or during school vacation periods. Most employers look for
people who are friendly and customer-service oriented, well
groomed, and display the maturity and self confidence to demonstrate
good judgment. Desk clerks, especially in high-volume and
higher-end properties should be quick-thinking, show initiative,
and be able to work as a member of a team. Hotel managers
typically look for these personal characteristics when hiring
first-time desk clerks, because it is easier to teach company
policy and computer skills than personality traits.
Large hotel and motel chains may offer better opportunities
for advancement than small, independently owned establishments.
The large chains have more extensive career ladder programs
and may offer desk clerks an opportunity to participate in
a management training program. Also, the Educational Institute
of the American Hotel and Motel Association offers home-study
or group-study courses in lodging management, which may help
some obtain promotions more rapidly.
Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks held about 195,000 jobs
in 2004. Virtually all were in hotels, motels, and other establishments
in the accommodation industry. Few were self employed.
Employment of hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks is expected
to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through
2014, as more hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments
are built and occupancy rates rise. Job opportunities for
hotel and motel desk clerks also will result from a need to
replace workers, because many of these clerks either transfer
to other occupations that offer better pay and advancement
opportunities or simply leave the workforce altogether. Opportunities
for part-time work should continue to be plentiful, because
these businesses typically are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days
Employment of hotel and motel desk clerks should benefit
from an increase in business and leisure travel. Shifts in
preferences away from long vacations and toward long weekends
and other, more frequent, shorter trips also should boost
demand for these workers, because such stays increase the
number of nights spent in hotels. While many lower budget
and extended-stay establishments are being built to cater
to families and the leisure traveler, many new luxury and
resort accommodations also are opening to serve the upscale
client. With the increased number of units requiring staff,
employment opportunities for desk clerks should be good.
Growth of hotel, motel, and resort desk clerk jobs will be
moderated by technology. Automated check-in and check-out
procedures reduce the backlog of guests waiting for desk service
and may reduce peak front desk staffing needs in many establishments.
Nevertheless, the front desk remains the principal point of
contact for guests at most properties and most will continue
to have clerks on duty.
Employment of desk clerks is sensitive to cyclical swings
in the economy. During recessions, vacation and business travel
declines, and hotels and motels need fewer desk clerks. Similarly,
employment is affected by special events, business and convention
business, and seasonal fluctuations.
Median annual earnings of hotel, motel and resort desk clerks
were 17,700 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between
$15,190 and $21,270. The lowest 10 percent earned less than
$13,040, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $25,200.
Earnings of hotel, motel and resort desk clerks vary by a
number of seasonal or geographic factors, such as whether
the establishment is in a major metropolitan area, a resort
community, or other economic or regional characteristic. Earnings
also will vary according to the size of the hotel and the
level of service offered. For example, luxury hotels that
offer guests more personal attention and a greater number
of services typically have stricter and more demanding requirements
for their desk staff. However, these higher standards of service
also result in higher earnings for employees.
Other positions in the hospitality industry include lodging
managers. Occupations that also require workers to deal face-to-face
with the public include counter and rental clerks, customer
service representatives, receptionists and information clerks,
and retail salespersons.
Sources of Additional Information
Information on careers in the lodging industry, as well as
information about professional development and training programs,
may be obtained from:
Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging
Association, 800 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite 1800, Orlando,
FL 32803. Internet: http://www.ei-ahma.org/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07