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A Day in the Life of a Hotel Manager

A hotel manager oversees all of a hotel’s daily operations, from staffing to coordinating fresh-cut flowers for the lobby. Many, over time, are given long-term responsibility for negotiating contracts with vendors (such as maintenance supplies), negotiating leases with on-site shops, and physically upgrading the hotel. Hotel managers usually relish “the ability to put your own distinctive style on the [hotel] experience.” While managing a hotel and giving it your unique flair are wonderful, they come with full responsibility for failure. “The better you are at what you do, the more responsibilities you are given, the more chances you have to fail,” mentioned one hotel manager. When things fall apart, “no one is a hotel manager’s friend.” Hotel managers can feel great about their positions, create strong relationships with regular customers, and maintain an amicable working environment. But should the bottom line waver and financial woes occur, the first neck on the chopping block is the hotel manager’s. Those in the hotel management industry say that sometimes it seems that you need “to be born on the planet Krypton” to be a good hotel manager because only Superman could juggle the administrative, aesthetic, and financial decisions which constitute daily life on the job. Over 70 percent of the respondents said that “tired” was an understatement about how they felt at the end of the day (or night); “Exhausted is more like it,” wrote one, in shaky, spider-thin handwriting. A hotel manager’s position as a liaison between the ownership and the staff can be difficult and isolating. But those who can put up with the long hours, the high degree of responsibility, and the variety of tasks emerge with a solid degree of satisfaction and a desire to continue in the profession. The average tenure of a hotel manager is 6.7 years, though this figure doesn’t represent the number of managers who work for two years and those who work for decades. Many work at a variety of hotels, build up their resumes, and then find positions that allow them the freedom to operate their own establishments.

Paying Your Dues

Aspiring hotel managers used to begin at the reception desk, as part of the wait staff, or as members of the cleaning staff, then work their way up the ladder. As hotels have become more commercial properties and the duties of hotel managers have expanded, this avenue of advancement has closed off. Now hotel manager hopefuls go to hotel management school, and those who don’t should garner as much practical hotel experience as possible. Each chain or specific hotel puts new employees through their own training programs, so those applying for jobs should learn all they can about the scope and functioning of the specific hotels where they wish to work. Part of life as a hotel manager can be similar to the life of a doctor, as managers can be called to duty at any time of the day or night. Hotel managers must handle any and all emergencies, and those who wish to remain in the profession and maintain respect must be quick-thinking and decisive. Candidates should have a good organizational and financial background, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and strong self-discipline. They should also be extremely detail-oriented; when running a hotel, there is no such thing as an unimportant detail. The good manager drives himself to improve and upgrade the hotel at every available opportunity.

Present and Future

In the past, hotel managers were often the owners of the place and ran the establishment themselves. They decided when to fix crumbling walls and how much to charge; aesthetic decisions were less pertinent. In the mid-1800s came the advent of the water-and-rail traveling age, and not only were the very wealthy able to move about more easily than before, but the merchant class began to travel as well. This mobility encouraged the rise of the competitive and attractive affordable hotel, and thus arose the need for the permanent manager who could take care of all duties while the owner was involved in expanding, advertising, and popularizing the location. Hotels have faced a consistent demand for the past fifteen years which should continue for the next ten. Positions as hotel managers should remain at about the current level for the next ten years as well.

Quality of Life


The first two years are a type of “apprenticeship” when theoretical coursework is fleshed out by practical experience. Hotel managers hone their interpersonal skills, and those who wish to advance sometimes continue their education in business, organizational development, or psychology. Duties may include arranging for regular deliveries of supplies and handling client complaints and payroll. Little input is expected on issues of design, decor, or promotion. Hours are long and pay is low; satisfaction levels, unsurprisingly, are below average.


Satisfaction levels leap as hotel managers jump from job to job. Getting positions with increasing responsibility means two-to-three year stints at different hotels, learning a variety of skills-staffing, negotiation skills, event planning-and then moving on. The hours increase during these years, but few managers cite this as a downside. Their input on larger issues, such as hotel renovations and decor, begins to be taken seriously, depending on the individual manager’s relationship with the ownership.


While many ten-year veterans have impressive resumes, few find cause to need them more than a few more times in their careers. As managers understand more and more about what type of hotel they like to run, they choose their positions more carefully. Tenure can run as long as twenty years at a single hotel. Hotel managers’ input is significant at this level; most systems have been adjusted to be efficient and responsive to management and client needs; satisfaction levels are high. Pay can become extremely competitive for those who have good relationships with regular, high-paying clients. A mere three percent of hotel managers who’ve survived ten years leave; many view this as a job for life.