Hotel Receptionist

The Job and What's Involved

It is the hotel receptionist's job to make guests feel welcome, to check them in and out efficiently, and to deal professionally with enquiries, face to face and by phone, fax or email.

Hotel receptionists have to be good administrators, but - most importantly - they have to be ambassadors for the hotel. When guests arrive at a hotel or call to make bookings, the hotel receptionist is usually the first person they speak to.

Their tasks are likely to include:

  • Welcoming guests as they arrive.
  • Allocating rooms to guests.
  • Giving guests their keys.
  • Getting a porter to take their luggage, or in smaller hotels doing this themselves.
  • Taking and passing on messages.
  • Passing on guests' requests, eg to housekeeping, the restaurant, maintenance, management or the leisure centre.
  • Handling foreign exchange.
  • Putting together the guest's bill.
  • Taking payments in cash, and by cheque, credit or debit card.
  • Helping guests with any special requests - such as storing valuables in the hotel safe or luggage area, ordering taxis or booking theatre tickets.

In a large hotel, the reception desk will usually have a computer to handle reservations. The system will show up-to-date information on rooms available, and receptionists have to input new information as guests make bookings or cancellations.

They may also use a telephone switchboard to take calls from guests' rooms and from different parts of the hotel, as well as for making and receiving external calls.

There is also a sales aspect to this job. They may encourage a guest to upgrade to a better room, to stay longer, to eat in the restaurant, to return to the hotel - or another in the group - for a special occasion or event.

In an emergency, they may need to help guests evacuate the building, calling the emergency services, and checking that all guests have reached safety.

Every part of the hotel has to work well together, so receptionists liaise closely with the porters, with housekeeping and with security and maintenance staff.

In larger hotels, there might be a small team of receptionists, each with specific duties. In a small hotel, they might do non-reception tasks too, like serving drinks in the bar, helping the housekeeping staff or arranging flowers.

Hotels are open all hours, so someone is always needed to help the guests. Reception desks in larger hotels often stay open all night, but in smaller hotels, night-time duties might be taken over by the porter.

Working hours can include days, evenings, nights, weekends and public holidays. Receptionists might work shifts or split shifts (where they work in the morning and come back later in the day for an evening shift).

There are plenty of opportunities for working part time and for working only in the holiday seasons.

Reception areas are usually in the hotel entrance and are warm and pleasant. Receptionists usually work behind a counter or desk, and have a computer terminal and telephone or telephone switchboard.

They might wear a uniform, which would usually be provided by their employer.

Starting salaries may be around £10,000 a year. Salaries may depend on the size and location of the hotel, and are usually higher in London hotels than in other areas of the country.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector is large and it is growing. There are thought to be more than 17,000 hotel receptionists and there are plenty of opportunities, though there is competition for the best jobs.

There are more than 35,000 hotels and guest houses in the UK, but a large proportion are in the south-east of England, followed closely by Scotland and the West Country.

Jobs are advertised in trade magazines such as Caterer and Hotelkeeper, in Jobcentre Plus offices and on recruitment websites such as Jobs are also advertised in the local press and there are many recruitment agencies that deal with hotel positions.

Education and Training

Although receptionists do not need a high level of qualifications, most employers like to see some proof of their communication skills. They might ask for GCSE's/S grades or equivalent qualifications, particularly in English and maths. Some may want higher qualifications.

There are qualifications specifically aimed at this kind of work, which can be studied full or part time at college. These include:

  • BTEC Level 1 Introductory Diploma in Hospitality, Travel and Tourism.
  • BTEC Level 2 First Diploma in Hospitality.
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Multi-Skilled Hospitality Services (Front Office).
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Front Office Operations.
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality Customer Relations.
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision.
  • NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Customer Service for Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism.

Entry requirements for these courses vary, so check with the college or training provider.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Many larger hotels and chains have in-house training schemes that mean receptionists can combine work with study at college, usually towards an NVQ/SVQ.

Relevant NVQ's/SVQ's include:

- Hospitality (Front Office) at Level 1
- Multi-Skilled Hospitality Services (Front Office) at Level 2
- Hospitality Supervision at Level 3
- Customer Service at Levels 1, 2 and 3

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Receptionists need to be:

  • Welcoming, friendly and helpful.
  • Efficient and professional.
  • Able to use a computer system and telephone or switchboard - though training is usually given on the specific systems at the hotel.
  • Well organised and able to handle several tasks at once.
  • Able to pay attention to detail.
  • A real 'people person', with tact and sensitivity.
  • Patient and unruffled when a guest is difficult.
  • Able to think quickly and come up with solutions.
  • Extremely smart in appearance.
  • Knowledgeable about the hotel and able to sell its services.
  • Able to speak foreign languages, in some jobs.

Your Long Term Prospects

In a small hotel, there may be no opportunity for receptionists to progress in their career, and they might have to move to another hotel. Larger hotels and chains may offer more promotion prospects. With experience and qualifications, receptionists could be promoted to jobs such as shift leader or supervisor, then on to head receptionist.

If they have the right skills, they could progress to become a front office or reception manager. For this they may need further qualifications, such as an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision, a Foundation degree or a more general hotel management qualification.

Receptionists could also move to different areas of hotel work, such as behind the bar or in sales, personnel or accounts and then on to general management. Many large hotels encourage staff to work in different departments to help them broaden their skills.

The experience people gain on reception could also help them into other jobs outside the hospitality industry, such as customer service and administration.

Get Further Information

People 1st, Second Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000

Institute of Hospitality
14 Palmerston Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 4QL
Tel: 020 8661 4900

The Springboard Charity & Springboard UK Ltd, Coopers' Hall,
13 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TH
Tel: 020 7497 8654

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