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Careers in Travel and Tourism

Careers in Travel and Tourism

Globalization is not a buzzword solely associated with international business. It has translated into a booming new career possibility: expanded services in the travel and tourism industry.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry already is responsible for more than 10 percent of global employment. Brian White, PhD, director of the WTTC's Human Resources Center in British Columbia, says the field is incredibly diverse and comprised of seven major areas:

  • Airlines/transport.
  • Conferences and conventions.
  • Arts and culture.
  • Hotels, food and beverage.
  • Ecotourism.
  • Outdoor recreation.
  • Ancillary services associated with tourism.

Industry Trends

With all this opportunity, where should you concentrate your efforts? Focusing on market demands may lead to more job openings.

On the corporate side, according to a piece on Hoover's industry trends online, the travel and tourism industry is in consolidation mode. This means that smaller companies are merging or being acquired by big players like American Express, Marriott and Carlson Wagonlit. So it might make sense to begin your career with one of the larger corporations, where you can gain exposure to many facets of the business while having relative job security.

An obvious trend is the increase in Internet service. The Web has created new and different career options for those interested in travel careers. Individuals can work for travel Web sites like CheapTickets.com, Orbitz and Travelocity.

Additionally, journalists may see more travel writing opportunities available in traditional magazines like Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic Traveler as well as online publications.

Characteristics for Success

This is a service industry, first and foremost, so you must have patience, flexibility and excellent interpersonal skills. Cultural sensitivity and awareness are critical, as tourism professionals deal with different countries and cultures.

Senior-level executives generally have MBAs and develop skills and competencies that can be transferred across sectors. Midlevel professionals need a mix of practical experience and academic credentials, according to White, who also teaches in the field. For example, individuals might work full-time in the travel sector while going part-time for an advanced certificate in travel and tourism.

Pros and Cons

One obvious benefit of working in the travel and tourism industry is the opportunity to actually hop on a plane and see many locales at low prices, or even gratis. Another benefit is the fact that the field is international and changes along with global trends.

One of the downsides to the business, especially the hotel and restaurant side, is the long hours. Management must often work evenings and weekends. Individuals are often asked to move to a new location without much notice.

Ethics and Tourism

White reminds us there is a strong set of ethics required in the field of tourism, noting the industry has profound economic implications for a country's economy and people. It is important for individuals to consider their responsibilities, he adds. Tourism is about more than making a profit; it involves benefiting local communities, creating jobs that provide fair wages and not exploiting the environment.

For more information, visit World Tourism Organization and The International Hotel & Restaurant Association.

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