Hospitality and leisure is a popular and competitive industry; approximately 2.5 million people in the UK are employed in this sector, accounting for 10% of the working population.

Careers in hospitality and leisure

The hospitality and leisure businesses are worldwide industries, with many different working environments. One of the key benefits of entering a career in hospitality and leisure is that there is enormous scope for travel. If you are keen to travel the world, experience a new culture or learn a new language, hospitality and leisure may be the perfect sector for finding your future career. We have compiled a brief list of some of the career paths you could enter:

Adventure tourism

A career as an adventure tour guide could be the perfect fit for thrill-seekers keen to enter a profession that excites and entertains daily. As an adventure tour guide, you could host activities such as abseiling, skydiving or caving, and may be involved in the researching and planning for treks or expeditions in remote areas of the world.

Bars, clubs and pubs

Licensed retailing is a service industry where excellent customer service is the number one priority. The sector has excellent career prospects, where you could see your role evolve from a bartender or waiter level to a manager or director position. Friendly and sociable people fair best in this industry, and being business-savvy will be vital in helping you stay ahead of the competition.

Health and fitness

Careers in health and fitness range from hands-on fitness coaches and personal trainers to managerial and director roles. You will be working with the public, responsible for keeping customers happy and ensuring the business is running smoothly.


The hotel industry is continuing to grow worldwide. In the UK alone there are over 45,000 hotels. Large hotels employ a range of staff including staff in marketing, health and safety, finance, human resources and event organisers.


There is a huge variety when looking for a career in the restaurant industry, not only in terms of location and size of the business, but also in the type of food served and whether the company is independent or part of a chain. The majority of restaurants are owner-operated, meaning there is also scope for setting up your own business too.

Travel agents

Travel agents are responsible for advising and selling holiday packages to customers. This could include providing information on holiday locations, hotel choices, car hire, insurance and vaccinations requirements. Many travel agencies offer significant benefits to their staff, typically heavily-discounted flights or holiday packages.

Key qualifications and skills

There is a range of degrees well-suited to entering a career in hospitality. While it may not even be necessary to be educated to degree level, having a certain degree could help increase your employability and may provide an opportunity to enter management level directly. This includes a degree in:

  • Hotel or hospitality management
  • Languages
  • Business and marketing

Alongside relevant qualifications, there are several skills needed to excel in the hospitality and leisure industry, including:

  • Customer service skills
  • Communication
  • Enthusiasm
  • Flexibility
  • Language skills

Graduate opportunities

With many big companies in this sector, there is a range of exciting and competitive graduate schemes on offer. Most businesses are looking for candidates with strong leadership abilities, excellent communication skills, and an enthusiastic can-do attitude. We have highlighted a few of the most popular graduate schemes:

Hilton Worldwide

Hilton Worldwide offers five different graduate schemes, the most popular and sought-after being the Elevator Manager Development Programme. The Elevator graduate scheme is a year and a half programme that prepares trainees with the skills and experience required to enter a hotel manager role within five to eight years. To qualify for the scheme, all candidates must speak English and one other European language fluently. To find out more and explore the range of graduate schemes on offer, visit the Hilton careers site.

Merlin Entertainments

The Accelerate graduate scheme consists of four six-month placements at various locations around the world, with the ultimate goal of entering a general manager or marketing director position.


TUI offers a wide range of programmes aimed at training graduates to enter senior leadership and management roles. The programmes offered include Analytics, Finance, Technology Development and International Leadership.

For more information about careers in customer facing roles, visit our guide to Retail.