Worried AI will take your job? Consider a career in hospitality

Michael Hraba headshot

by Michael Hraba

Partner, Waterford Hotels & Inns

Michael runs operations for Waterford’s portfolio of hotels, which includes San Francisco’s iconic Inn at the Presidio and Lodge at the Presidio

Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University studied how easily hundreds of different kinds of jobs could be automated, and in 2013 concluded that 47% of all professions were at risk of being automated within two decades.

That was 10 years ago, and it feels like we’re further along than halfway there. In the next decade, we’ll see the speed of automation reach a blistering pace.

Just in the past week, AutoGPT has emerged, which is AI that controls other AI to do increasingly complex tasks. AI will start coding itself, which makes formerly hot skills like software engineering far less valuable. It will eventually begin to erode human bias in coding, but it will also remove the need for humans entirely.

We’ve historically seen the impact of technology on professions.  It’s not all doom and gloom, as new technologies may remove a job, but the same technology also creates new jobs as well. 

That has historically been the case, but this new cycle may not see the same level of creation, as humans are phased out of certain roles entirely. It’s incredibly disruptive to a person’s plans and life to have to switch to a new profession without experience, education, or knowledge base, which evaporates institutional knowledge overnight.  

How many journalists had to find new careers? People working in finance or human resources are already nervously finding streamlining tech, new tools, and AI coming to work alongside them.  

One of the problems is that a human who chooses not to work with these tools out of fear of being replaced will likely be left behind and replaced rapidly by people unfazed about adopting these new tools.

In the years ahead, AI has the potential to disrupt much more than the internet did, and many jobs across multiple industries are at risk now. 

Hospitality-oriented service can’t be taken over by AI

Building a career in hospitality provides career security in an increasingly AI-driven world because you’re providing something uniquely human that maybe AI can never replicate. 

If there’s a chance of disruption in hospitality, we will see accounting and human resources hit first, but it’s going to take years for tech to integrate AI into the hospitality vertical in a way that might threaten human-to-human contact. What’s more, with infrastructure and operating supplies becoming so homogenized across the industry, service and people are one of the few ways to truly differentiate. 

In the words of David Kong (former CEO of Best Western), “There’s no such thing as virtual hospitality.” 

Working with hotels is life-changing. You can impact people’s lives in ways that reverberate long after they’ve left.

Michael Hraba

There are so many expressions of this. Think about the huge wellness trend that’s been happening in hospitality. People are leaving hotels with inspiration on how to find peace, meditate and create a new holistic balance of self-care and relaxation. 

Working in areas like this wasn’t always available in our industry. A career in hospitality is so much more diversified now, and there are career opportunities across the board that cater to nearly anyone’s talents, interests, and skills. 

Technology is terraforming the business world

None of us know exactly how AI will advance in the weeks, months, and years ahead. But there’s no doubt it will terraform the business and the career landscape. 

There will be incredible intentionality of people and how they choose work, in the future. Instead of falling into a role, or looking up after years of working somewhere and realizing you have a career, people will have to look at the future like a chessboard, and methodically plan for a secure and rewarding career that won’t fall prey to the acceleration of artificial intelligence technology into the workplace.

AI is going to make many more people look at hospitality as the place to build a durable career because there are so many jobs that can’t be replaced. 

Michael Hraba

Plus, you get to talk to humans! This is an increasingly rare event, and people are waking up to the power of connection.  In hospitality, you have that opportunity in so many ways, working with staff and a team with shared goals, guests who meet and become friends on vacation, and the hallmark of hospitality in powerful friendships developed between employees and return guests.  

For the gregarious, social, and affable, the joy of interaction is something that has been whittled away in almost every other profession. In hospitality? We pay you for it! 

People are rediscovering that post-pandemic, being around people and hearing their stories is a very fulfilling way to live and work. It can be healing, and it can help your mind.  

We evolved as social animals, and technology is eroding it. Hospitality will be a wellspring and a safe haven for a long time to come. 

More people are going to look at hospitality as a career, not just a job

We’ve seen a lot of people who left the hotel industry over the past few years returning and telling us they can’t sit at a desk anymore and continue with the jobs they had in other industries.  

What’s more, the collective fitness of hospitality is currently incredibly strong because, during the soul searching of the pandemic, there were many people who opted out of hospitality as a career or job. The population of staff that winnowed their way through the most complex time in hospitality history are bonafide lovers of hospitality and truly want to be there.  This means the operational teams at the property level are beginning to be stronger than ever.  The teams will gel further in the coming years, and that means new staff will have the luxury of coming into a well-oiled machine, with generally happy staff who believe in hospitality as transformative.  

I believe the next few decades of hospitality will be golden years and a redefining moment for the strength of the future of our industry.

Michael Hraba

People are looking for more human, meaningful, and worthwhile ways to spend their time and energy at work. There’s nothing more marginalizing than feeling like you’re just a part of an algorithm, clicking buttons on the internet for work.  It reminds me of dystopian films, where some worker drone bee falls dead or disappears, and another nearly identical drone is simply put in the empty place.

Moving forward, the human connection is going to be celebrated. People are starting to realize they can make a drink for someone, have a conversation, make them happy, change their life –  and do that as a career that can support them.

In the past, the hotel industry hasn’t properly messaged the advantages of working in our industry. We haven’t done a great job building culture. But that’s changed rapidly. Hotel leaders have learned we have to be more empathetic to the human experience for employees, which makes hospitality a better place to build your career than ever before. 

Today, if you apply to work at a technology or Fortune 500 company, it’s said that a human probably won’t see or touch your resume until three or four rounds of AI processing. Technology is filtering out potential interview candidates before a human ever sees their application.  That’s not only inhospitable, it’s dehumanizing, which is precisely what hospitality works against.  That’s not going to happen at most hotel companies, especially smaller management groups and independent, boutique hotels. It’s easier to get started and it’s easier to grow your career.

There’s never been a better time to build your career in the hotel industry, and it will only become more attractive as technology and artificial intelligence eat into other industries, and people have to restart a new career. 

Why not start with hospitality and ride the wave toward changing lives, while taking advantage of the perks of traveling and seeing the world in a supportive culture that is more human than ever? 

“We’ll leave the light on for you.”

Michael Hraba is Partner at Waterford Hotels & Inns. Follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here.