It is always a pleasure to write about my experience as well as new destinations, and even more so when I get requests from you for more information.
In this case, the request is to do with working in Hotels vs Resorts.
For a better understanding of the following article, I have added the questions that someone sent me, followed by my response. I thought it would be useful for everyone to get an insight, not just the person who sent me the request.
Question 1: While I understand that the principles of hospitality are generally similar across different properties, what is the biggest difference in the operations between hotels and resorts?
Answer: The main difference between hotels and resorts tends to be the guests and their purpose of stay. While Hotels tend to target mainly business and working men with their fast-paced lives, resorts aim to attract the vacationers and people who want to rest and unwind, and who seek a rather slow pace, without disturbances.
What you will find in both types of properties is that although the pace of the guest is different, for staff of all departments and divisions, the pace is still intensive due to the fact that there is more to be prepared in order to pamper guests while staying in Resorts: more attention to children and their needs/amenities that go with it, special services by the pool, remembering guests preferences especially when it concerns dietary restrictions (gluten free, diabetic, allergies to certain types of food etc…)
In city hotels (yes, I do tend to call them CITY hotels for the main reason that it attracts the business clientele) the pace is much faster for the guest. Your typical customer wants an efficient check-in and check-out, done in just under minutes, the room should be ready (at least this is what they expect, though in reality, we hoteliers know that it always depends on the circumstances of that particular day), breakfast buffet should be ready first thing, and there should be the exact same availability of products whether it be at 7AM or 10AM.
So, the staff in this kind of property is trained to do just that: the regular services and tasks, day-in and day-out, almost (and I don’t like the word here) ‘formatted’. There is nothing much different from one day to the next. City Hotel Guests have little requirements compared to Resort Guests.
So in the end, this choice is entirely up to you. It comes down to, perhaps, a personal preference -whether you like routine or change, whether you like to live in a city or in remote locations (the latter can be absolutely amazing in terms of the destination as well as for yourself if you are psychologically prepared for it). It also depends on what you envision for yourself: sacrifice now to enjoy later.
Question 2: Which path presents a steeper learning curve and more transferable skills?
Answer: I believe in sacrifice at the beginning. Why a sacrifice? Well, of course if you’re single and you have the ability to move now, you might as well get some experience of remote locations at an earlier stage. It is difficult for couples to find employment in the same establishment or even in the same location (take a small island for example, such as one of many in the Maldives), or if you have children and you have to provide them with schooling and things to keep them entertained. Not so easy when you are committed.
What you sacrifice now will be (greatly) rewarded in the future if you decide to return to city properties. The fact that you have experienced something completely different also makes you think differently in terms of the daily operations and the options and choices of what is possible in terms of delighting customers.
Those ideas are what make you stand out. Of course, in both kind of properties, the realization of this is only possible if the establishment has the financial means to make it happen.
One thing that I can recommend, and it’s not easy to always find out about this during the interview stage, is to go for very challenging properties. Most of the time they will be challenging either due to the lack of staff, or lack of training, or even lack of tools to work with. This all comes down to poor financial support.
From my recent experience in some paradise location, I know for a fact that for the (short) time that I was there, I learned a lot about keeping my costs down, as well as how to deal with my staff complaints’ about not having enough equipment to work with.
This was the same for other departments. It’s always a struggle to work in those condition. At the end of your day, week and months, however, it makes you stronger as a hotelier.
Not only do you learn more about the financial aspect of your department and hotel (if you’re in a management position of course), but you learn how to work as a team and deal with the frustrations of your staff as well as yourself. Keeping calm is probably rule number 1 in the Hotel Industry; without it, you won’t make things any better.
So it really depends on the type of property you have and the challenges that they present you. These will make a difference in what you learn, in your learning curve and also on how much you can grasp so that you can apply this in the future.
From experience, I do know that having owners that invest back into their properties tend to make things better for both the customers as well as staff. So, being financially strong as a hotel does offer a wider variety and options for guests, hence making you do more things and learning more. But having the financial struggle is also of interest as our paths aren’t always set in stone and options need to be weighed.
Question 3: If I am interested in developing a career focusing in Catering and Banqueting / Events, which option would present a greater opportunity and why?
For a career focusing on Catering and Banqueting or Events, the answer tends to be: city hotel.
However I firmly believe in researching more about the property you are going to.
Take a Resort, for example, that probably has maybe around 400-500 rooms (to me this number is too vast to create personal service, but that’s my personal opinion), you will most likely have vast banquet halls that cater for their needs: weddings, corporate conferences…
However, their locations are usually set already in cities where the style and pace of life is oriented towards a vacation destination such as Florida, Hawaii, and other big places where people come in their masses to relax.
A good example of this could be the numerous hotels around Disney locations. They are situated near large cities yet present the feeling of relaxing and having fun at the amusement park. Many companies also come to unwind and retreat; yes, business never ceases. So you would be able to find a compromise there.
However I wouldn’t go as far as saying that you would have more conventional setups for the banquet halls as it entirely depends on what the client desires. You could find extravagant setups even in a small city hotel.
What I could say, and this comes back to studying the property you wish to work at, is that it all depends on the customers and their needs.
Do study the hotel and who they are targeting, the type of customer they tend to attract, the style of the hotel (take a classical Four Seasons compared to a modern and upbeat W hotel. It’s very different). But when choosing a hotel, do make sure that you are able to find yourself in that hotel/company. Always ask yourself: Is this who I am? Does it reflect my personality?
Because at the end of the day, if the philosophy of the hotel does not match yours, then you will most likely not fit in with the team. I believe this is the most important thing, no matter what your position and department. Although I have gone from 5-star company to 5-star company, this is probably the reason why I have made a couple of moves during the last few years.
It’s all about WHO you are.