The travel industry offers lots of variety in jobs, from bartender to museum tour guide. Tourism jobs range from administrative, desk-oriented jobs to active duties as flight attendants, park rangers and raft guides. Working in tourism gives you the opportunity to help people and develop skills that transfer around the world.
Tourism Industry Is Growing
Tourism is growing, both in the United States and internationally. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic travel increased 1.9 percent in 2018 to a total of 2.3 billion personal trips. The travel industry is directly responsible for 8.9 million jobs in 2018, an increase of 1.3 percent over 2017. The tourism industry has grown every year since 2010.
Global tourism has also increased, according to the World Tourism Organization. In 1950, most tourism took place in Europe, North America and South America. Today, travel to countries in Asia and the Pacific region has grown considerably, while tourism in Africa and Middle Eastern countries is also growing.
The list of jobs in the tourism industry ranges from travel agents to lodging managers to event and meeting planners, nature park guides, cruise ship workers, and marketing managers. Golf course managers, airline pilots and cartographers are other tourism professionals.
Some Tourism Professions
When you think of the tourism profession, the job that may first spring to mind is that of tour guide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for tour guides is expected to increase 2.7 percent by 2026.
Museums, cultural and historical sites employ the largest number of tour guides in the U.S., while other guides work for services that arrange travel and reservations. Still others take tourists on scenic and sightseeing excursions, on foot, bus, bicycle or riverboat. Median pay ranges from the low $20,000s, to the upper $40,000s, depending on location and duties.
Fewer travel agents are needed, with the job outlook through 2026 expected to drop by 12 percent. Some travel agents succeed in this internet economy, however, by catering to specialty travelers. Median pay for travel agents is about $38,700 a year.
Other travel agents have transitioned to becoming meeting, convention and event planners. The need for these planners is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2026. Event and meeting planners arrange meeting locations, transportation and other details for events and professional meetings. This job generally requires a bachelor’s degree in event management, hospitality or tourism management, and median pay is about $49,000 a year.
Other Jobs Related to Tourism
If you love to meet people and travel often, becoming a flight attendant might check all your boxes. It’s a flight attendant’s job to make sure passengers are comfortable and safe during a flight. Flight attendants need to be able to think on their feet. They assist passengers in emergencies, whether it’s a health problem or a turbulent flight. Flight attendants often have a little time to explore a new destination. As you get more experience, you can tailor your schedule to suit your lifestyle. The average salary is about $45,000.
Water transportation workers include those who operate and maintain boats that ferry tourists to and through scenic vacation spots. From duck boats to cruise ships, water transportation workers make sure people get safely on and off the boats and have a pleasant experience. These jobs, which include transporting cargo as well as people, are expected to grow by 8 percent by 2026. Median pay is around $54,000 per year.
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes many part-time and seasonal workers, covers a variety of jobs. Restaurant workers, casino workers, actors, amusement ride attendants and musicians all fall under this category. The job outlook for these positions is generally good, with gains outpacing losses. Pay averages around $15 an hour for restaurant workers and $23 an hour for entertainment and casino workers.
Travel and Job Creation
There are almost as many types of travel jobs as leisure interests. The share of travel jobs paying a middle class wage or higher is 52 percent, says the U.S. Travel Association. The travel industry can offer you a job if you’re young and just starting out. If you’re a student, working at a restaurant, amusement park or as a tour guide can give you some extra income along with valuable customer service experience.
The travel industry is the seventh-largest private-sector employer in the U.S. Many travel jobs are unlikely to be outsourced. Between 2010 and 2016, travel employment also grew in all 50 states. About 22 percent of first jobs for all Americans were in the travel and tourism-related industries.
Training for Travel Jobs
More and more universities are offering hospitality and tourism management majors to prepare students for the unique demands of the travel industry. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore has a PGA Golf Management program. This program prepares students to work in all aspects of the golf industry. Prospective students are invited to an annual PGA Golf Management Visitation Day.
It’s not just golf, however. Hospitality majors study lodging management, computers, culinary arts management and tourism management. Cornell University is home to the oldest hospitality major in the U.S. Started in 1922, the program gives Cornell graduates the opportunity to work around the world in hotels, resorts, restaurants and even in hospitality-related real estate.
Thinking Outside the Box
The list of careers in the tourism industry is long, and some may seem only indirectly related. Writers and marketing professionals may not work directly in the travel industry, but they can find opportunities just the same. Writers with a hankering for travel, for example, can turn to travel blogging.
Many travel bloggers start out part-time, but once a blogger has built a following, earnings can come from a combination of advertising, sponsored campaigns, freelancing and affiliate linking. Most travel bloggers earn the bulk of their income elsewhere, but about 17 percent call blogging about travel their primary job, earning an average of $2,000 to $5,000 a month.
If you like the idea of writing a travel blog, but need to earn a living at the same time, consider going into marketing, publicity or sales for companies that cater to travelers. From airlines to adventure outfitters, these firms use web-based publicity to attract and retain customers. If you’re inclined toward blogging or social media, consider entering the industry through the marketing or sales department of one of these companies.
Park Rangers and Outdoor Jobs
When you think of park ranger, you might think of rangers in Yellowstone or Yosemite national parks. But park rangers work in municipal, county, state and national parks all over the country and have a variety of duties.
Some park rangers specialize in law enforcement. Others are historians. Still others are wildlife biologists. Park rangers may give lectures at a historical site, or do historical research. They may refurbish old buildings. Still others may work in environmental education or wildlife demonstration programs.
Salaries can range from $15 an hour for seasonal work at a small state park or as much as $80,000 a year for leadership roles at major state or national parks. Many park rangers work overtime in busy months, often in the summer. Park rangers often work weekends or other premium times when visitor numbers are high.
Park rangers often major in history, environmental sciences, recreation or natural resource management. Many park rangers start out as seasonal rangers and work their way up to full-time positions as they gain experience and training. States and the federal government offer training programs for specific park ranger duties.