But it is first necessary to dispel the illusions that surround travel careers. A career in travel is considered very glamorous and adventurous. Once inside the industry, however, some people find that the reality of hard work, long hours, and low pay dulls the glow.
Most people who have not simply fallen into a career in travel seek it because they love to travel. If this is your main reason for entering the business, you are better off staying in some other field where you are likely to earn 20 to 40 percent more in salary and have three or four weeks of paid vacation a year to travel as you wish. For you are not apt to travel as frequently, as cheaply, or as spontaneously as you might expect in the travel industry-especially now since free and reduced rate travel are becoming more restricted and the federal government is hoping to tax free trips as fringe benefits. Also, most people in the industry who travel do so for business purposes to the point where traveling can become too much of a good thing, bringing more stress than satisfaction.
You should pursue a career in travel because of the business and the product itself, namely, travel. Travel and tourism is one of the most dynamic industries anywhere, offering extraordinary opportunities for mobility, creativity, and personal satisfaction. Having a role in the betterment of society and contributing to world peace are not just ideals, they are integral to an endeavor that brings disparate peoples and ideas together.
In many ways, the travel industry is a business like any other, with many of the same concerns and problems that arise in selling groceries, making women's shoes, or designing office buildings. There are the same concerns for profit and loss and for accounts receivables and payables; there are the same problems of productivity, market share, and high cost of investment capital that affect most industries. But people who have had an opportunity to experience other occupations find something special in the travel industry energy, creativity, fast pace, diversity, challenge, and growth that they had not found elsewhere. In fact, so often in this book, people refer to their particular part of travel as "fun" and "show time." And when for one reason or an other, people are forced to leave the industry, many feel a sense of withdrawal.
The industry's product travel is like no other. Travel becomes addictive; it is for good reason that people say they have been bitten by the "travel bug." Travel is "a life changing, life enhancing experience," explained travel agent Richard Dixon. Working in and with "travel" brings an excitement to the job that airline people feel even if they work miles away from the airport and that travel agents feel as they sit for hours on end searching the computer display for schedules and fares. There is a sense of sharing in some marvelous adventure.
Travel is very much a "people" business. No matter how sophisticated airplanes or computer reservations systems or video text systems become, there is no getting away from the fact that the business is all about servicing people. The industry attracts "people people," individuals who are energetic and open to new experiences, ideas, and, most of all, people. Because people tend to stay in the industry, even if they move from one area of work to another, a close camaraderie usually develops even among those who work for competitors.
In some respects, travel is a service; in others, it is a commodity, just as any item you buy off a shelf if the price is right. Yet, unlike most other commodities, travel a seat on an airplane or a room in a hotel cannot be stored away. The high perish ability makes for high risk, challenging industry professionals to be brilliant forecasters and marketers, to excel at information management, and to be efficient operators.
On the other hand, the potential for the industry is unlimited, for unlike a VCR, which you might buy once and have for many years, travel is an experience that has to be renewed each time, and each time will be different.
Moreover, there are unlimited possibilities in the style of travel. The same customer might take one trip or a dozen trips in a year, traveling for business, vacations, and weekends, to visit family and friends or to take part in an event. And people travel differently during the course of a lifetime: as a college student backpacking through Europe; a single, young professional looking for sun or snow; a newlywed; a professional couple; a family with young children; a chief executive officer on an expense account; the couple whose children have left the "nest"; a retiree; a widow or widower.
The customers for travel are not confined to any particular stratum of society. A passenger on a $6,000 trek of the Himalayas might be a secretary or a mailman as easily as a stockbroker.
The travel industry is expanding and changing constantly, and new job titles and specialties are being created all the time. Few industries provide as much opportunity for someone with limited formal education to rise as quickly through the ranks to positions of enormous responsibility and prestige; to be an entrepreneur; to work for some of the largest or smallest companies; and to see almost instant results from an innovation. Few industries provide as much mobility moving up in an organization or to other companies or other fields and even to live and work virtually anywhere in the world.
A Vital and Necessary Service
The term tourism may conjure up stereotypical images of paunchy, balding men in Bermuda shorts and blue haired grannies in tennis shoes, disembarking from a tour bus with instant cameras in hand. In this context, travel and tourism seems frivolous and nonessential. Nothing could be further from the truth. Travel and tourism forms a complex network of vital and necessary services that touches virtually every individual and every business in the world. Leisure travel vacations for rest and relaxation, cultural pursuits, adventure, or visits with friends and relatives is only half of what the travel and tourism industry does, but even these seeming luxuries have become necessities of modern life. Nonetheless, the same airplanes, hotels, car rentals, and trains that are in place to serve the tourist also transport and house the businessperson negotiating deals, the diplomat, the politician, and the artist. The travel and tourism industry makes commerce, diplomacy, and exchanges of ideas and cultures possible. Face to face contacts between people at any distance whatsoever could not take place without the diverse services provided by travel and tourism.
"The world is becoming a global village," Pope John Paul II told a private audience of 7,000 travel professionals in 1985, "in which people of different continents are made to feel like neighbors. Modern transportation has removed the obstacles of distance, enabling people to appreciate each other, engage in the exchange of ideas and commerce. Tourism can help overcome real prejudices and foster bonds. Tourism can be a real force of world peace."
Closer to home, there are countless examples of communities where tourism is the base for the economy, including Orlando, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas.