Careers in Hospitality and Personal Care
Those who work in hospitality and personal care provide services to improve other people’s free time or appearance. Hospitality covers food, accommodation, leisure, and tourism. The personal care sector is now considered to be a separate sector, although the two have long been linked in many people’s minds.
These sectors share a common core of customer service. The vast majority of jobs in these sectors are customer-facing, and require a strong focus on ensuring that customers have a great experience. They also rely heavily on customer recommendations and reviews to maintain their reputation and bring in new customers. This page discusses some of the jobs and careers available in these sectors.
Understanding the Hospitality and Personal Care Sectors
The hospitality sector is split into several areas, including food, accommodation, entertainment and recreation (or leisure) and travel and tourism.
The food sector covers restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, pubs, cafés, and catering services. The accommodation sector is any business or organisation that provides facilities for overnight stays, from caravan and camping sites right up to five star hotels, via holiday cottages and Bed and Breakfast establishments.
The leisure sector covers:
Betting and gambling, including casinos and horseracing;
Culture and heritage, including galleries, museums and sites;
Leisure and entertainment, including cinemas, bowling alleys and theme parks.
The tourism sector covers any businesses that encourage people to travel to spend money, including:
Passenger services, which are all forms of transport such as air, sea and rail; and
Travel and tourism, including travel agencies, and tour operators.
What about sport?
The hospitality sector is often grouped together with sport (and you can find out more about that area in our page on Careers in Sport).
The sector therefore contains many large and multinational businesses, such as hotel and theme park groups. It also contains much smaller businesses, such as travel agencies or small tour operators. Finally, many museums and sites are operated by either public sector organisations or charities. The sector is therefore extremely varied in structure, with a wide range of opportunities for jobs and careers.
The personal care sector covers hair, beauty and spa activities.
The market in personal care
In the UK, estimates suggest that the market in hairdressing and beauty is worth around £2 billion in 2023. This is lower than in 2020, when it was estimated at around £3.5 billion, and the sector often declines faster than others during times of economic downturn.
In the US, the sector is worth around $20 billion in 2023, and seems to be growing rapidly.
The personal care sector is largely composed of small businesses. There were more than 45,000 businesses operating in the hair and beauty sector in the UK in 2021, and 94% of businesses in this sector employed fewer than 10 people.
Careers and Jobs in the Personal Care Sector
Most of us are likely to be reasonably familiar with many of the jobs in the personal care sector. They include roles like hairdresser, barber, beauty therapist, nail technician and masseur.
These careers are extremely skilled and also very practical.
It is possible to obtain relevant qualifications at school or college (although none of these roles require a degree or higher-level qualifications). You can also choose to enter the sector via an apprenticeship. You could also simply get a job in a salon and work their way up, learning on the job. Most salons are likely to require a period of training on the job even among those who have college qualifications.
In terms of skills, these jobs require:
A reasonable level of practical, hands-on skills in the relevant work area, usually gained on the job;
Good customer service skills, because all these careers are customer-facing and require direct interaction with customers on a regular basis;
A willingness to chat to other people—or to say nothing if they prefer. This requires a reasonable amount of empathy and an ability to respond to your customers’ lead; and
A tolerance of working unsociable hours at least occasionally, because salons are usually open at weekends to cater for customers who work.
The nature of the sector means that it is reasonable to consider that you may end up owning and running your own business. If so, you may be interested in some of our content on entrepreneurship and running your own business, including our guest post on the skills needed to become a barbershop owner.
Careers and Jobs in the Hospitality Sector
The hospitality sector is not unreasonably considered to be a challenging sector for a long-term career.
It is characterised by a lot of seasonal employment. Many people therefore spend at least some time working in the sector, especially when young—perhaps waiting on tables in a restaurant, or behind the scenes in a hotel. It is therefore often seen as a short-term option before ‘a better job’ comes along.
However, there are also many longer term jobs and careers available, especially in management within the sector.
Jobs within the hospitality sector include:
- In food, chefs, restaurant managers, waiting staff and caterers;
- In accommodation, hotel managers and staff;
- In leisure, managers and staff of venues such as cinemas and theme parks, including cashiers and customer support roles;
- In travel, travel agents, pilots, and cabin crew; and
- In tourism, museum or gallery staff and curators and event organisers.
Some of these roles require very high levels of qualifications and skills.
For example, museum curators often have postgraduate degrees in a particular area. Many are world specialists in perhaps a single type of pottery, or a particular period in history. Pilots are another group who need particular qualifications and extensive training.
It can therefore take many years to reach the standard required simply to enter these careers—although those involved are likely to consider that time well spent.
Similarly, managers of all kinds are often expected to have a degree, preferably though not necessarily in a business-related subject. However, other roles tend to require lower levels of qualification and more practical on-the-job training. It is also possible to work your way up to management in many of these roles.
Beyond qualifications, there is likely to be a common core of skills and attitudes among the vast majority of workers in hospitality. These include:
A strong customer service orientation. The hospitality industry, perhaps more than any other, exists to serve customers;
Especially in travel-related roles, a reasonable degree of intercultural awareness, so that you can avoid offending people in the countries to which you travel;
Good problem-solving skills—because your job is basically to solve customers’ problems;
Excellent team-working skills because almost every business needs people to work together as a seamless whole to deliver a great customer experience; and
You may also be interested in some of our guest posts, including on the skills required to work in hospitality, and the skills needed to work in the luxury travel industry.
Hard Work but Rewarding
The hospitality and personal care sectors both share the feature of requiring hard work, often outside ‘normal’ working hours. You are unlikely to be working Monday to Friday, nine to five, in either of these sectors. However, they are also uniquely customer-facing, with a very strong focus on helping to give customers a great experience. They can therefore provide very good job satisfaction.
If you want a job that may be hard work, but is also a little bit ‘out of the ordinary’, this could be a good sector to try.