Careers in Hospitality Management: Generation Y's Experiences and Perceptions

By Barron, Paul; Maxwell, Gill et al. | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2007 | Go to article overview
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Careers in Hospitality Management: Generation Y's Experiences and Perceptions


Barron, Paul, Maxwell, Gill, Broadbridge, Adelina, Ogden, Susan, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


This article is founded on Broadbridge, Maxwell and Ogden's (2006) work on the job experiences and career expectations of Generation Y undergraduates who are soon to embark on their full-time careers. The industrial context under examination is the UK hospitality industry where research on management careers has been called for (Lakin & Riley, 1996). In addition, Generation Y's distinctive characteristics (Amar, 2004) and the changing structures of careers (Baruch, 2004) underline the relevance of this research. The key inference from the primary work covered in the article is that the hospitality industry needs to understand and respond to the characteristics of Generation Ys so as to enable them to develop their management careers in a way that is attractive to them.

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The hospitality industry continues to be economically important around the world and in the UK (UNWTO, 2006) at a time when career structures (Baruch, 2004) and attitudes to work are changing (Rolfe, 2001). Building on the work of Broadbridge et al. (2006), this article examines the job experiences and career perceptions of young people in the UK who are about to embark on their full-time careers in hospitality management. Such young people, part of the so-called Generation Y, are held to have work motivations that mark them out from previous generations (Amar, 2004) and so present an interesting focus of study. Further, this focus can be seen to be valuable with regard to Ladkin's (2002, p. 387) broad assertion that: 'set against the background of a growing tourism and hospitality industry, a greater understanding of skill development and human resource issues relating to this profession is required'. More specifically, Lakin and Riley (1996) have called for research in the UK on hospitality management careers. Before primary work on Generation Y respondents' experiences and perceptions of careers in hospitality management is discussed, the article reviews the literature on the key features of contemporary hospitality employment, hospitality management careers and Generation Y.

Hospitality Employment

A variety of studies have been conducted that examine the image of working life in the hospitality and tourism industry. In their study of students studying hospitality and tourism degrees in Scotland, Barron and Maxwell (1993) identified that impressions of working life in the industry changed from being wholly positive to wholly negative as a consequence of the period of industrial experience that was core to the students' program of studies. The negative image that prevails regarding working life in the industry was identified in the comprehensive review of employment in hotels conducted by Wood (1997) who identified the themes of long, unsociable hours, low pay, low status and high staff turnover that appear common in the industry.

The dichotomy regarding the image of the industry was also identified by Visit Scotland/George Street Research (2002), who found that while careers in the industry were considered challenging and interesting, they were also perceived as offering long working hours, low pay and comprised repetitive work. Indeed, Riley et al. (2002, p. 17) consider that employment in the industry is 'blighted by the confusing complexity of its own image. On the one hand, the image of tourism employment is of glamour, while on the other hand there is evidence of low pay and low status.

The image of careers in hospitality and tourism is also affected by the transient nature of careers common in the industry. Deery (2002) identified a turnover culture common in the UK and Australian hospitality industry with rates of up to 300% per year. While the level of instability such high rates of turnover would undoubtedly bring, the concept of job mobility, especially as a means of rapid promotion appears a common strategy among graduates in this field (McCabe, 2001).

The negative image of the industry as held by hospitality and tourism students appears to be developed in proportion to the increase in students' exposure to working life in the industry.

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