10 Essential Skills for a Career in Tourism and Hospitality

Want to pursue a career in tourism and hospitality? Check out the top skills you’ll need to break into the industry and succeed on the job!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Essential Skills for a Career in Tourism and Hospitality

Due to the wide availability of jobs and the positive economic impact it has on local communities, hospitality is an important industry. It’s also hugely varied; whether you choose to work in hotels, catering, beverages, cruises, events or nightlife, there are hundreds of roles on offer, with many choosing to stay in the sector long term and work their way up the ladder.

In order to be successful, though, there are a core set of skills that you’ll need to possess. After all, hospitality is all about providing outstanding service and leaving customers with a smile on their face, which is a role that isn’t necessarily suited to everybody.

Therefore, to help you determine whether you have what it takes to make your way in this field, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 key hospitality skills required for success.

1. Customer service skills

Above all else, the one thing that can make or break you in hospitality is your ability to meet customer expectations. Whether you’re simply serving drinks or running an entire hotel, it’s your job to ensure that your customers are having a great time and that they have nothing to worry about.

Essentially, customer service is about being both positive and proactive. Even when you’re dealing with a difficult customer, it’s important to smile, be polite and remain professional; alternatively, on certain occasions, it can also be about going that extra mile for a guest or a patron.

Remember: the more positive the experience you provide, the more likely you are to receive good feedback — and a good tip, too.

2. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills go hand in hand with customer service.

If you plan on pursuing a front-facing role in hospitality, then you’ll be required to interact and assist people on a daily basis. For this reason, you must possess interpersonal skills such as empathy, active listening, negotiation and conflict resolution.

This collective of social skills will prove very useful when you’re dealing with distraught or angry customers, as they will allow you to de-escalate situations and address their concerns in a way that will appease disgruntled patrons.

3. Multitasking skills

One of the reasons why hospitality can be so difficult to work in is because it’s almost always hectic. In most cases, there’s no such thing as a quiet day in the office and, therefore, the ability to multitask and handle several tasks at once will serve you well.

This means learning how to prioritise and manage your time effectively, while you’ll also need to be able to handle pressure and remain calm when things get chaotic. Even if it’s just a part-time role while you’re studying, these are key soft skills that are highly sought after in any workplace.

4. Communication skills

Strong communication skills are highly valued in every industry, but especially so in hospitality and tourism. Each day, you’ll be dealing with people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, nationalities and temperaments, so it’s important that you can communicate in a way that is both clear and understandable, as well as representative of your employer’s brand. As already mentioned, you want your customers to come back, so the ability to build and cultivate relationships can make a big difference.

It’s also important to be able to communicate clearly with your fellow staff members, especially in busy, high-pressure environments like kitchens or nightclubs, where effective teamwork is crucial.

5. Compliance knowledge

Most positions in hospitality require you to have certain training and knowledge in compliance. Indeed, being well-versed in industry-specific laws could be a prerequisite for your role.

For example, if you work as kitchen staff, you’ll need to be familiar with health and safety regulations, and ensure that ingredients are stored properly, workstations are cleaned thoroughly and that food safety protocols are being followed.

6. Foreign languages

Although not necessarily a requisite, language skills are a huge bonus in this field because they allow you to communicate with a wider range of clients. They’re particularly useful if you want to work in the tourism sector, where your knowledge of languages is useful on an in-person, day-to-day basis.

Language skills can also benefit your career in the long term, too. If you speak French, for example, then there could be operations or management opportunities available to you on a more senior level, such as in a customer liaison or relationship management role.

7. Professionalism

Most employers in the hospitality industry rely on their customer-facing staff to uphold the reputation of their brand; therefore, it’s important that, at all times, you remain highly professional.

Usually, this means ensuring that you look tidy and well-groomed, are on time for your shifts and are not caught doing anything you shouldn’t be (such as smoking outside the main entrance or not washing your hands before handling food). It also means keeping your cool and not reacting negatively when dealing with an angry or irate customer, especially at the end of a long and tiring shift.

8. Teamwork skills

In hospitality, regardless your role, you’ll always only ever be one cog in a much larger machine. Whether it’s within a particular hotel department, in a busy kitchen or as part of the bar staff, you need to be able to work well with others, especially during busy periods.

Given the high turnover rate within the industry, this can be challenging. After all, you’ll have to adapt to new faces constantly and build relationships from scratch all over again. But if you’re not working seamlessly in union, the whole operation can start to go south, which is bad for customers, your employer and, ultimately, you.

9. Attention to detail skills

Although your attention to detail skills won’t make or break your hospitality career, there are times when they can come in handy. Whether it’s spotting billing or administrative errors at reception or noticing that a particular ingredient is past its best-before-date, it’s the little things that can make a big difference.

It can also help you to develop relationships with customers and provide a more positive experience overall. For example, suggesting a particular wine to accompany a dish, remembering how a certain customer prefers their drink to be made or even noticing that somebody is struggling to carry their luggage and offering to help are all small details that can leave a big impression on customers.

10. Problem-solving skills

Again, this is a skill that is highly valued in any industry; in hospitality, though, the ability to think on your feet and solve problems quickly can save yourself a lot of potential hassle.

For example, if a guest complains about their room, you could offer them complimentary drinks in the bar while you wait for another guest to check out. This keeps the customer happy, leaves a good impression of the hotel and saves you the trouble of a potential conflict. Alternatively, if a customer has very specific dietary requirements, you could consult with the chef on their behalf to offer a tailored alternative solution.

Remember: the easiest way to keep customers happy is to provide solutions to their problems (within reason, of course), so if you’re proactive and keen to get issues resolved, hospitality could be a good fit.

Final thoughts

Although it’s not for everybody, the hospitality industry can be a fascinating and rewarding place to work, especially if you enjoy meeting and interacting with new people.

If you possess the skills on this list, there’s no reason why you can’t be successful, either. Whether it’s for a part-time summer job or an entire career, the basis of everything you will need is the same.

Do you work in hospitality? What other skills do you think are important in this field? Let us know in the comments section below!


This article is an update of an earlier version published in March 2015 and contains contributions by staff writer Melina Theodorou.