How Much Can You Earn Annually Working in the Hospitality Industry?

What is the hospitality industry?

This is a sector of the workforce that focuses on services. These services include lodging, travel, and tourism; as well as food, drink, recreation, and leisure. It is a multibillion-dollar industry dependent on the amount of leisure time and disposable income a person, family, or any type of group has. 

These services are grouped into four main categories: lodging, travel and tourism, recreation and leisure, and food and beverage. In addition to leisure time and disposable income, each of these categories depends heavily on customer satisfaction, with positive reviews generating more customer retention, and more customer retention generating more revenue.


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Lodging includes any place where visitors can stay for a night or more, including lavish hotels, luxurious campgrounds, motels, and large resorts. The target audience of this sector includes vacation-goers, business travelers, airline staff, and the military. 

The hotel industry itself generates over $160 billion per year, with an average annual growth rate close to 5%. As a hotel manager, you can expect to make no less than $75,000 each year. You also have the option to actually own a hotel. Three different ways to invest in a hotel include buying stock, buying a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns a hotel, or buying an actual hotel. Commercial real estate loans help with this type of investment.


Travel and Tourism

These two activities are the foundation of the entire hospitality industry. Tourism’s main task is to inspire people to travel. Modes of transportation, such as airplanes, trains, buses, and ships are considered to be a part of the travel and tourism portion of hospitality.

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In the last 10 years, jobs in this industry have seen an amazing 22% increase. Although travel came to a halt in 2020, it is expected to increase again in the coming years. Some of the highest-paying jobs in the travel and tourism industry include:

  • Air traffic controllers: $124,540 per year
  • Airline pilots: $115,670 per year
  • Flight attendants: $56,000 per year


Recreation and Leisure

Recreation, leisure, and entertainment refer to activities that provide relaxation, rest, and enjoyment. Specifically, recreation can refer to any type of leisurely sport, and entertainment describes anything from movie theaters to museums.

This division of the hospitality industry usually sees the lowest amount of income compared to the others. Top-level recreation workers’ annual salaries begin at $35,000, whereas starting-level recreation workers earn about $18,000 per year. Salaries also differ by location, with recreation workers in Washington, D.C. making the most at $46,000 per year, and workers in Nevada earning on the lower end at $18,000 per year.


Food and Beverage

This is considered to be the largest component of the hospitality industry because food and drinks are a part of every sector. It includes quick-service restaurants, such as snack shops found in malls and outlets; full-service restaurants, including fast-food and fine dining; and catering services.

Depending on what type of food and beverage establishments you’re working in, you can earn a pretty decent salary, or fall somewhere on the lower end. For example, waiters and waitresses don’t typically make a lot of money, but a food service manager’s average salary is $53,000 per year, and chefs make $47,000 per year, on average. Other jobs related to the food industry include (median salaries included):

  • Food scientists ($62,000 per year)
  • Dieticians ($58,000 per year)
  • Nutritionists ($56,000 per year)
  • Restaurant Managers ($51,000 per year)


There is so much diversity within the hospitality industry itself, so there’s a diversity in salaries as well. The most lucrative careers are related to the lodging (specifically hotels) and travel/tourism sectors of the industry. This is understandable because travel and tourism are the foundations of the entire hospitality industry, but couldn’t function without lodging and accommodations.

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