Great books inspire, educate, and have a way of nourishing the soul. Whether they are fictitious or factual matters little when it comes to their appeal. I might be so bold as to claim that if we don’t read, we’re missing out on an opportunity for even greater emotional and intellectual growth. Learning through the written word as well as through experience has a powerful impact on both our personal and professional development, no matter what trade we’re in.

But it’s easy to get lost in the tidal wave of titles flooding the market these days. How are we to know if one book is more worth reading than another? With the onslaught of published copy, daily demands on the hotelier, and our increasingly digitized world, it’s more difficult than ever to not only sort through all the rubbish out there to identify the best books, but also to find the time to actually read them.

That’s why I’m determined to take the guesswork out of it for you. Over the past several months, I’ve sorted through numerous titles in order to compose this short list of 5 must-read books that anyone in the hospitality business—from a front-desk clerk to a budding restauranteur to a seasoned hotelier—can appreciate. Each is exceptionally unique and has been chosen for its authenticity, boldness, practicality, and insight.

Here are the 5 must-read books for those in the hospitality business:

1. Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew into a Global Hotel by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.

Regardless of the business you run, you can certainly appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit embodied by the Marriott family. Funny thing is, Marriott is now the largest hotel chain in the world (thanks to their recent deal with Starwood), but few people know that it began as a humble family business. Without Reservations by Bill Marriott, the founder’s son is a classic all-American success story as inspiring as it is enlightening, and it maps out the road that led the family to triumph in the hotel industry.

Bill Marriott Jr., now in his 80s, passes down his father’s industry know-how along with tips for future generations involved in hospitality. This book is chock-full of savvy learnings and management insights for everyone, no matter what sort of property or business they run. For example, Marriott strongly suggests that you know exactly who your competition is and what they do at their core so that you can out-manoeuvre them.

Marriott is known for being ahead of the curve; in addition to the rich management learnings he offers in his book, he also recommends keeping a sharp eye on trends in order to anticipate what’s next before your competition does.

2. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

This is a very atypical memoir from the 1930s, and is as much a socio-economic treatise on poverty as it is a first-hand account of the hospitality industry, as told through the voice of the lowest ranking staff member, the Plongeur—who is, in fact, a young George Orwell.

I recommend this book not only for its literary merit and classic Orwellian entertainment value but for two other reasons as well. First, it’s relatable. Especially for those in the hotel business who have worked their way up the hospitality ladder. Despite having been published more than 80 years ago, it remains timeless. Second, it forces you to think about all level of staff. How they are producing, and how they are regarded, treated, and compensated. It makes you think about how they influence the staff dynamic. And it makes you think about how a restaurant and hotel function like a machine with many busy and interdependent components. And how that machine, much like a clock, depends on every single piece to fastidiously carry out its own specific function for the greater success of the whole system.

3. Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism by Elizabeth Becker

The travel business is the biggest industry in the world. As Becker says in this book, one in every twelve people worldwide is employed by it. Chances are that if you’re reading this post, you’re one of them.

In Overbooked, Becker explores the global impact that travel has economically, politically, and culturally. And it’s sensational. It underscores the importance of focusing on the details to deliver a superb level of customer experience—especially in this industry, given the nature of hospitality. That said, the most successful businesses are often those led by visionaries: forward-thinking individuals who are constantly considering what’s next in the bigger picture.

If you want to grow your business, or simply challenge your way of thinking and open up your mind to new concepts within the context of global travel, this book is for you.

4. The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company by Joseph Michelli

When it comes to delivering stellar customer service, you could say that no one does it better than the Ritz-Carlton. Even with all the major luxury chains out there, they are known for their “customer first” approach. Even before I entered into the hospitality industry myself, I’d hear management and CEOs in other industries touting the Ritz-Carlton name. They wanted to learn the secret to their success. Why? For starters, guests of the Ritz sing the hotel’s praises, and they keep coming back, generating  a strong word-of-mouth that has permeated many other industries. And it’s still strong.

So much so, that a former employer of mine once asked me to study and report on their customer service policies so that we could learn how to better our own business in transportation.

What’s most remarkable about Ritz-Carlton is the autonomy they grant their staff. Every staff member at every level is empowered to act in the way they see most fitting, as long as it enables them to deliver a phenomenal guest experience. If this means shelling out a thousand pounds or so, so be it. As long as the end goal is exceptional service, the company backs their staff’s decisions and reimburses any associated expenses. It’s a practice that ensures remarkable service for guests and is indicative of incredible leadership in management as well.

Leadership is exactly what this book is about—as it should be. With exceptional leadership, everything else, including remarkable service, falls into place. This book is as much about empowering employees as it is about leaving guests feeling special. And it’s also about delivering on an enduring promise, which leads to a self-perpetuating and highly recognizable brand.

5. 100 Tips for Hoteliers: What Every Successful Hotel Professional Needs to Know and Do by Peter Venison

I love the no-nonsense nature of this book. Apparently, so do many others, as it’s a must-read among industry professionals. In fact, it’s even a bestseller. The forward alone will convince you that you need to read it.

Venison has lived a colourful life with over three decades of experience in the hotel business. Starting off in his teenage years, almost by accident, he entered into a hospitality school. Soon after, he began working his way from the bottom up and went on to lead some of the most prestigious companies in the business. He combines this experience with his avid travels and provides a robust set of tips and ideas for any hotelier to take and adapt to their own space.

From the inception of a hotel to handling operations efficiently, this book covers hotel management from A to Z. I highly recommended it for active hoteliers, as it also contains a checklist of what to expect.

How about you? Do you have any books you’d like to recommend to other hoteliers and travel industry professionals? Let us know what inspires you in the comments below or via Twitter.

Jamie Patterson

Jamie believes that playing host to guests from far and wide enriches the soul. Especially when it means having a full hotel. Born to entrepreneurial parents, she’s passionate about business growth. With a decade of traditional and digital marketing work behind her, she’s joined trivago to demystify metasearch and hotel marketing for you. One blog post at a time.

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