4 Authentic Activities on Teaching English for Hotels

I always make a point of asking new students why they want to learn English.

Most say they want to get jobs in international companies or get better grades.

Then there was one student who exclaimed: “I want to get a foreign boyfriend!”

It was funny at the time, but she wasn’t joking. Now, five years later, she’s happily married to an Australian man and has emigrated with her whole family.

She knew what she wanted and made a plan to achieve it.

Which leads me to this question: Do you know your students’ goals?

If not, you should make a point to ask them. You’ll be surprised what you learn from them.

Ultimately, teaching ESL is about preparing your students for real-life experiences.

Many ESL learners want to improve their English in order to travel abroad. If that’s the case for yours, you’ll have to teach them some hotel English to help them navigate the hospitality industry. Others might even plan on working for international hotels and cruises.

Why Your Students Need an English for Hotels Lesson

In your classroom, students should acquire the tools they need to have conversations with travel agents, receptionists and fellow travelers in English. That way, whether they’re booking the vacation of a lifetime, having a smooth check-in or complaining to the manager, they’ll be able to do it with confidence.

In order to get your students to that stage, you need to give them lots of practice with challenging hotel ESL activities. We can help you with that by showing you how to create engaging and effective hotel lessons that prepare students for life abroad.

If students practice making reservations and asking questions in your classes, they’ll feel confident in doing it when they’re on vacation. That’s not all these lessons are good for, though. They also give students the tools they need to study or work in hospitality. If they travel for work, they’ll be able to:

  • Make bookings for business trips with ease.
  • Create itineraries for their bosses, co-workers or themselves.
  • Expand their vocabulary and improve their fluency.

Now that you’re sold on why hotel lessons are a good idea, let’s look at some exercises to really get your students pumped.

4 Teaching English for Hotels Activities for Your Globetrotting Students

No matter what skill level you’re teaching, these activities can help you to plan, prepare and teach some great hotel lessons.

1. Teach Polite Check-in Questions

When speaking a second language, it can be easy to inadvertently speak in an impolite way. Students often use very direct or blunt terms when they don’t know how to express themselves politely. In some cases, this causes misunderstandings. In others, it even causes offense because native speakers perceive students as being rude. A hotel lesson is an opportunity to give your students the words and phrases they need to avoid problems like these.

Start by asking your class to brainstorm questions they need to ask when they check into a hotel. This can include the following:

  • “Where is the swimming pool?”
  • “What time is breakfast?”
  • “What time is check out?”

When they’re done, choose one question from the list and ask students how they could make it more polite. This will help you to elicit terms like:

  • “Can you tell me…?”
  • “Do you know….?”
  • “Would you mind…?”


Spend some time teaching the class how to use these different structures to make polite, indirect questions. ISL Collective has a worksheet you can use to help with this.

Once your students are comfortable with these structures, they can use them to change the questions they listed at the start of the class. Then, students can use these questions to carry out role plays in pairs. One student will play a receptionist, while the other is a guest. Remind them to be as polite as possible throughout the conversation.

2. Give Hotel Reviews

These days, reading reviews is an essential part of vacation planning. In fact, 90% of customers read reviews before visiting any business. You can use them to create a reading comprehension activity for your students.

Collect several different reviews of one hotel. Make sure that the vocabulary is appropriate for your students’ skill levels, and that a variety of responses are included. Arrange them into a worksheet to hand out in the class. Before you do so, it’s a good idea to teach some basic hotel words to lay a foundation. Here are some examples you could cover:

  • Reservation
  • En-suite
  • Guest
  • Complimentary
  • Receptionist


English Club has a list of hotel vocabulary with meanings and example sentences. You could use this as a warm-up worksheet at the start of the class.

Have your students read through all the reviews before answering a list of comprehension questions. Some new vocabulary is bound to crop up along the way, so allow them to highlight any words they don’t understand and ask you for definitions.


At the end of the lesson, students can write their own hotel reviews. These can be based on their own experiences or completely fictional, as long as they use the language. If you need some extra materials, here’s a worksheet for writing hotel reviews.

You can even make your lesson even more authentic by having students read some actual reviews on TripAdvisor. Pick three good reviews and three bad (or rude) reviews and give students pointers on how to construct a proper review that’s effective without being unnecessarily impolite.

3. Can I Speak to the Manager?

Have you ever had a bad experience at a hotel?

Perhaps it didn’t look the same as the pictures on the website, the staff was rude to you or the location was inconvenient. If you have a story like this, share it as an opener. Then, ask students to talk in pairs about any similar experiences they’ve had at hotels.

After a few minutes of conversation, have each pair write a list of other potential problems they could have at hotels. Once they’re done, they can then list ways that staff or managers can rectify these issues. This will provide an initial structure, which you can flesh out into a full conversation.

Give an example dialogue between a hotel manager or receptionist and a guest who’s complaining. One way to do this is by printing it on a worksheet. You can either mix up the sentences and have your students put them in the right order, or remove keywords and ask them to fill in the blanks. The best option will depend on the skill level of your class. You could also use a YouTube video, such as English 4-U’s hotel problems video lesson. Breaking News English also has a full lesson plan on hotel complaints, which includes reading and listening activities.

At the end, finish the class by letting students role play, where they make and handle complaints with the language you’ve given them.

4. Booking with Travel Agents

What are the most important characteristics of a hotel? Ask your students, and they’re likely to say things like price, location, facilities and food. In pairs, ask them to rank these things in order of importance.

After that, ask students to write a question for each item they’ve listed. For example, if they’ve listed price, they can write “How much is it per night?”

If they’ve listed Wi-Fi, they can write “Does this hotel have free Wi-Fi?”

Then, students can add questions that travel agents might ask customers when they’re making bookings.


Best of all, you don’t have to make your class materials by yourself if you’re short on time. ESL Fast has some example travel agent dialogues you can use. If you need something more in-depth, use these sentences for hotel booking. Educational website, English for My Job, also has a short vocabulary quiz on the subject, and the British Council has a listening activity for hotel bookings.

Students can remain in the pairs they started the class in. One of them will be a travel agent, while the other is a customer. Travel agents will have lists of fictional hotels, while customers will have a specification and a designated budget. Together, they can role play a conversation to find the best hotel for them and book a stay.

Cover the Formalities

In all of the activities listed above, students are presented with scenarios where they’re talking to people they don’t know. This means they’ll have to use formal words, which can be a struggle for language learners. Students often know what they want to say, but are unsure of how to say it the right way. As a result, they hesitate.

During each class, provide extra support by giving them lots of new vocabulary and expressions for formal English conversations. As well as being essential for the class, these expressions will also help them to expand their vocabulary, improve their fluency and even to write formal emails. That way, your students will be able to navigate the outside world confidently and effectively.

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