Coronavirus Update: Our team is here to help our clients and readers navigate these difficult times. Visit our Resources page now »

Skip to Main Content

Baggage Porters and Bellhops

History

Early in the hotel industry, the innkeepers—the hotel owners and their immediate families—were responsible for every aspect of running a hotel. Besides working the front desk, cleaning the rooms, and cooking the food, they also had to carry guests' trunks and bags. As the industry grew, innkeepers, many of whom had more than one hotel to manage, found themselves in need of reliable employees. The bellhop occupation grew from the idea of ultimate guest service. Many of the larger luxurious hotels have numerous bellhops in their bellstand department.

Bellhops and baggage porters are found in other areas of the travel and tourism industry as well. They work at transportation terminals such as airports, train stations, and cruise ships. In the late 1800s, the Pullman trains hired men, many of whom were African Americans, to work as porters for their first-class sleeper cars. Referred to as Pullman porters, they were famous for the fine service and attention they gave to the first class passengers. The early Pullman porters had to abide by a strict behavior and work code and were highly respected members of the community. In time, Pullman porters became somewhat a symbol of black subservience, and the career became less popular.

Today, baggage porters and bellhops are key employees of hotels and transportation companies. They are often the first workers travelers meet, and companies rely on them to leave positive impressions that will encourage repeat business.