Establishments in the hospitality industry fall into one of these categories: transient hotels; motel or motor inns; residential; resort; and convention hotels.

Transient hotels, also known as commercial hotels, make up about three-fourths of the hotel business in the United States. These hotels cater to commercial travelers, businesspeople, salespeople, and tourists who wish to spend one or more nights at the hotel. Many commercial hotels have swimming pools, saunas, exercise rooms, ballrooms, conference rooms, and some house restaurants and drinking establishments open to the public as well as guests.

Motels are generally located near highways and airports and in small cities. Many motels offer parking beside or near the guests' rooms, eliminating garage fees and unnecessary nightly loading and unloading of baggage. The facilities range from simply a room with a bathroom to motels with swimming pools and restaurants. Others have rooms designed as separate structures, each with a bed, bathroom, and kitchenette. These accommodations are referred to as suites. Some hotels offer suites only, mainly housing businesspeople on extended stays.

An inn is usually a small building, perhaps an extension of somebody's home, that provides simple services such as a clean bed and bathroom. The number of rooms usually ranges from five to 20. A growing number of inns have become bed and breakfasts. They offer a home-like setting, with breakfast included in the room cost, hence the name.

Residential hotels provide permanent or semipermanent housing, on a weekly, monthly, or sometimes yearly, payment basis. These facilities may offer amenities such as maid and food service. Some residential hotels provide small kitchenettes in each room.

Hotels that offer recreational or social activities besides lodgings are considered resorts. Usually located near popular tourist attractions, resorts may have skiing, water sports, tennis, golf, or horseback riding to keep guests entertained. Many of these hotels offer fine shopping and dining, themed decor, and entertainment. Resorts as a complete family vacation destination are another trend in the hospitality industry. Some of the most popular luxury resort meccas include Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Other resorts, especially those in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are built around gambling activities.

Convention centers are usually a complex of buildings, one of which is a hotel. These centers are used as meeting places for large groups or businesses, or for major exhibitions; lodgings for the conventioneers are provided by the adjoining hotel. Convention hotels and centers must have state-of-the-art audiovisual and technical equipment to stay competitive. Many of these convention centers are found in desirable, tourist-friendly locations, such as Las Vegas or Orlando, Florida.

There are seven main branches of the hospitality industry. Front office, service, marketing and sales, and accounting comprise the front of the house positions, or those most visible to the public. Less visible, back-of-the-house jobs include food and beverage, housekeeping, and engineering and maintenance. Most branches of this industry operate on a three-shift system, allowing for 24-hour service for hotel guests.

The front office deals with all the paper and computer work involved with room and reservation assignments. The people working in this department also run the reservation desk, switchboard, and mail room. A general manager heads this department as well as the entire hotel operation and employees. Department supervisors report to the general manager.

The main purpose of the service branch is to make the guests feel welcome. This includes greeting guests, parking cars, running the elevators, opening doors, carrying baggage, preparing rooms, and assisting with travel plans and entertainment. Most jobs in this department require little training or further education, thus creating a great starting place for people eager to break into the hotel industry. Service workers account for 65 percent of employees in this industry.

The accounting and financial management branch controls the fiscal affairs of the hotel. Some of the many responsibilities of this department are financial policy and planning, maintenance of records and statements, expenditures, bank accounts, and payroll handling. Though the accounting staff may not have one-on-one contact with hotel guests, this department is considered as front of the house because the nature of the work is managerial. Many of the accounting executives rise to leading hotel positions.

The marketing and sales sector strives to attract potential customers. The employees of this department try to find out what guests need and desire to make their establishment more appealing. Marketing and sales workers often use surveys, focus groups, or other research methods to gauge the feelings and opinions of guests and potential guests. The creative efforts of those in marketing and sales are expressed in new programs to attract guests or promotional campaigns designed to inform potential guests of current services.

The food and beverage departments make up one of the largest and most lucrative sectors in the hospitality industry. They include all the services involved with the bars and restaurants of a hotel, as well as room service, from purchasing to food preparation and presentation.

Depending on the size of the hotel, the housekeeping department can easily number in the hundreds. The room and floor attendants are responsible for keeping the rooms clean and supplied with fresh linens and towels. They also suggest repairs and improvements for guest rooms. Executive housekeepers oversee the workers in the housekeeping department.

The engineering and maintenance departments keep the facilities of a hotel, motel, or other establishment in working order. Their activities include plumbing, painting, electrical wiring, and general repairing. They also help the housekeeping staff with the heavier tasks of keeping a hotel clean.