Career paths in the hotel industry

Server Jaimie Krauss is always ready to welcome guests to Edie Rae's Café
Server Jaimie Krauss is always ready to welcome guests to Edie Rae’s Café

By Maureen Latta

In the hotel industry, it’s often feast or famine. Business in the Powell River region fluctuates depending on factors like season, ferry service, and strength of the Canadian dollar.

This summer is sure to be a feast with the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) being held in June, and the BC Bike Race and Kathaumixw International Choral Concert scheduled for July. Along with a host of other festivals and celebrations, local happenings are sure to boost the population of Powell River with visitors from far and wide, which means the hospitality industry will be looking to add new workers for a variety of roles.

Hotels, motels, and resorts typically require housekeeping staff, front-desk clerks, night auditors, gardeners, and, for full-service hotels, cooks, servers, dishwashers, bartenders, and banquet staff.

There are positive and negative points to consider when contemplating a career in the hospitality industry. Work is often seasonal and wages are generally lower than in other industries, with many positions starting at minimum wage ($10.25/hour), although unionized hotels offer higher wages (Powell River Town Centre Hotel is the only unionized hotel in town).

Head chamber maid Elizabeth Ickringill makes up the king size bed in The Old Police Station.
Head chamber maid Elizabeth Ickringill makes up the king size bed in The Old Police Station.

On the plus side, the hospitality industry is one of the few that still offers the possibility of working one’s way up in the ranks. The Old Courthouse Inn owner JP Brosseau says his innkeeper (similar to a front-desk clerk) started as a dishwasher. Powell River Town Centre Hotel General Manager Shelley Halliday says one of her front-desk clerks started as a housekeeper. And it’s not uncommon in the industry for front-desk clerks to work their way up to management positions.

For most hotel positions, there’s no need for formal education, although night auditors typically must have bookkeeping and computer experience.

“A lot of the roles depend on attitude and general work experience,” Halliday says. At Town Centre Hotel, in-house training is provided for housekeeping, banquet and dishwashing staff. For positions in the kitchen, as well as bartending and waitering, Halliday looks for previous related experience. Front-desk positions generally require customer-service experience and exposure to the hotel industry.

Brosseau says he looks for a nice smile, good demeanour, and a willingness to learn. “I’m pretty open,” he says. “I like to look at their resumes and make sure they haven’t had six jobs in the past six months. That’s a red flag for me.”

Joan Barszczewski, General Manager of Beach Gardens Resort and Marina, says working with the public can be challenging and hotel staff have to be mature and able to deal with all types of guests and their needs. Housekeepers need to be physically fit and front-desk clerks need to be familiar with computers and good at spelling. “The most important thing is to be personable—it can get you through a lot of different situations,” she adds.

As a marina hotel, Beach Gardens needs dock attendants to handle marina reservations, dispense fuel, answer the telephone, and promote Powell River to boaters. Dock attendants are typically university students on summer break, and Beach Gardens plans to hire three this summer. Barszczewski points out that physical stamina is necessary because attendants have to walk up and down the ramp and work outdoors.

Another plus of hotel work, particularly in smaller establishments, is the variety in workday tasks. As a heritage boutique hotel and café, The Old Courthouse Inn needs staff who are willing to pitch in. For example, everyone takes turns polishing the silver and Sunday waitering staff might be called upon to clean rooms. “It’s like a family business,” says Brosseau, who will have five hotel positions to fill within a few months. “Everybody looks after each other and everybody helps each other out.”

Every hotel has its own niche, which has an effect on what employees can expect. Beach Gardens handles lots of conferences, weddings, and sports groups, which means that staff have to enjoy working with large groups of people. Town Centre Hotel caters to business travellers, which means a steadier stream of business throughout the year resulting in a more stable workforce—no seasonal layoffs and rehires. Town Centre Hotel also has a policy of cross training and advertising new positions internally first. As a unionized hotel, all jobs and hours are awarded according to seniority.

For hotel job openings, check Career Link’s job board and sign up for job alerts at http://careerlinkbc.com/jobs.php.

See BC Tourism Compensation Tables for wages in the hotel industry.

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