Service industry seeks commitment
In one year, more than 1 million people visited Catawba County.
While those visitors were here, they likely interacted with one or more employees in the county's hotel industry.
On average, about 338 people were employed both full- and part-time by Catawba County hotels in 2009, according to recent findings by the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. These jobs range in skill set and duties, from managing each hotel's daily services to ensuring each room is cleaned before a new guest arrives.
According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, lodging alone for North Carolina tourists generated more than $3 billion a year in revenue for the state.
So what characteristic do those more than 300 people have to make them right for the service and hospitality industry?
If you ask Amber Williams, front desk manager of the Hampton Inn in Hickory, she'll tell you it's a passion for the job.
"If you don't like what you're doing, it reflects toward your service," she said.
Kent Reitzel, of the Sleep Inn in Hickory, agreed.
"You have to be friendly," he said. "You have to actually care."
On average, each hotel employee in Catawba County earns about $15,558 a year, which amounts to $5.26 million in total wages, according to the WPCOG.
In North Carolina, economic activity from tourism sustains 378,000 jobs, and almost 9 percent of all wage and salary employment is dependent on the state's tourism.
Teamwork is also a necessary element of a successful hotel.
"We have a really good team here," Williams said, adding the hotel employs about 25 people. "We call ourselves the Hampton Family."
The Hickory Hampton Inn opened up almost one year ago, and in that year, Williams said the staff grew into a close-knit group.
"We're very proud of the staff that we have," she said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 83 percent of hotel and service industry workers were employed in service and office and administrative support positions. These workers learn their skills on the job, and most entry-level positions don't require a post-secondary education.
Another important element of a successful hotel is the ability to make guests feel at home.
Williams said the hotel's decor is designed to make guests feel as comfortable as if they were in their own living rooms. Even the Hampton Inn's breakfast aims to please.
"Everyone loves the waffles," Williams said. "It smells like being at home."
Reitzel said another important aspect of hotel service is the ability to know what your guests want.
In the United States, the hotel and service industry provided almost 2 million wage and salary jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.