Travel and Tourism Careers Outlook
Travel and hospitality is one of the largest retail service industries in the United States. Total 2005 expenditures for domestic and international travelers in the United States were more than $646 billion, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). TIA reports that more than 7.4 million jobs were directly supported by tourism spending.
The TIA reports that overall domestic travel grew by 12.1 percent from 1994 to 2004. Additional statistics show that 81 percent of travel in 2004 was for leisure activities, 12 percent for business, and 7 percent combined business with pleasure. The vast majority of travelers, 84 percent, used ground transportation. The top three travel activities for domestic travelers were shopping, attending a family event, and outdoor activities.
The positive outlook for the travel and tourism industry took a sudden downturn after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. The threat of more terrorism has affected consumer confidence and corporate travel policies. Air transport and corporate and convention travel were particularly hard hit, with air travel being reduced to 1995 levels. Foreign travel to the United States has also been affected. Though many sectors of the travel industry have returned to normal business, some, such as airlines, are still struggling with the repercussions of terrorism and with carrying the expense of new, strict requirements imposed in the aftermath.
Regardless, air travel remains one of the most popular modes of transportation and The U.S. Department of Labor projects jobs in this industry will increase by 9 percent through 2014; employment in hotels and other lodging establishments is expected to increase 17 percent for the same period.
Lodging and transportation organizations are working with the government to make facilities more secure and to encourage people to continue traveling. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans convened and chaired a meeting of the Tourism Policy Council in October 2001 to address the continuing impact of the attacks on the American travel and tourism industry. “This administration is committed to getting rid of the terrorists and bringing back the tourists,” said Evans. “The Tourism Policy Council says to travelers and those who work in the travel and tourism industry that this Administration means business when it comes to their business.” The Tourism Policy Council is an interagency committee established by law to ensure that the nation’s tourism interests are considered in federal decision-making.
Before the terrorist events, there was a trend toward more frequent, shorter vacations. Three- and four-day weekends were replacing the two-week vacations that were common in the 1960s and 1970s. As the working population in the United States finds it more difficult to take extended vacations, many travel organizations had designed their programs around shorter trips. That trend is likely to continue.
Another trend was the growth in adventure travel and ecotourism, which involves visiting a pristine natural area, learning about its ecosystem, perhaps even performing some environmentally helpful work while there, and making every effort to preserve and protect that ecosystem without altering it by the act of traveling there. Ecotours to such places as the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica have become very popular. Public interest in environmental issues is likely to encourage this trend in the future, although travelers may choose domestic rather than foreign destinations.
While adventure travel, ecotours, and cruises were gaining in popularity, the traditional package tour lost ground. This may be due in part to how much easier travel planning has become with increasing access to the Internet. A computer user can now sit at home, access almost all the necessary information about any given location, and plan his or her own package tour, diminishing the demand for others to do this. This easy access, along with the increasing popularity of making reservations online, may ultimately affect travel agencies as well. Attempting to target the specific needs of their clientele has proven to be effective for many travel companies, for example tailoring services to the business traveler who works for a small firm. To compete with the larger travel agencies, local and regional agencies use a focused approach to attract small businesses. This is expected to result in additional careers in the industry, particularly in marketing and sales.
These trends may change completely in the near future. The entire travel and hospitality industry is very sensitive to political crises, such as terrorist acts or civil wars, and shifts in economic conditions both at home and abroad. The decline in the travel industry has not been experienced in the United States alone but worldwide. Tourism is the single most important industry in many cities and countries, and many areas suffered greatly because of the slowdown. The number of overall job opportunities will fluctuate widely in the next few years.
For More Information:
- Air Line Pilots Association, International
- Air Transport Association of America
- Council on International Educational Exchange
- Federal Aviation Administration
- International Ecotourism Society
- National Tour Association
- Outdoor Industry Association
- Society of Government Travel Professionals
Related Career Fields:
Careers in Travel and Tourism:
- Adventure Travel Specialists
- Amusement Park Workers
- Baggage Porters and Bellhops
- Bed and Breakfast Owners
- Cooks and Chefs
- Cruise Ship Workers
- Flight Attendants
- Food Service Workers
- Gaming Occupations
- Helicopter Pilots
- Hotel and Motel Managers
- Hotel Concierges
- Hotel Desk Clerks
- Hotel Executive Housekeepers
- Inbound Tour Guides
- Lifeguards and Swimming Instructors
- Park Rangers
- Recreation Workers
- Reservation and Ticket Agents
- Resort Workers
- Restaurant and Food Service Managers
- Tour Guides
- Travel Agents