Many are fond of saying that travel dates back to Noah or Moses or the Pilgrims. The travel industry, however, is a phenomenon of the Industrial Revolution, with its social revolution of minimum wages and paid vacations, coupled with the technological revolution that made for buses, jet planes, elevators, and air conditioning. Mass travel and the annual vacation ritual only date from the end of World War II, with the jet plane and the packaged tour; in polls, travel ranks just after a home and an insurance policy as a necessary expense.
Travel has not only changed from a luxury to a necessity in the American lifestyle, but the trend toward greater affluence, the effect of more leisure time, and the maturing of the Baby Boomers into their peak earnings (and travel) years all prompt forecasters to predict fantastic growth for the industry in years to come. Indeed, many expect travel and tourism to become the single largest industry in the world by the year 2000 and not just in dollars, but in jobs.
All of this bodes extremely well for the jobs outlook in the travel and tourism industry. Indeed, despite all the technological developments, travel and tourism remains a business of serving people, so is people intensive. Six million Americans already make their living in the industry. Another two million are employed in related fields. The travel and tourism industry has shown an uncanny ability to generate new jobs even when the rest of the economy is in the doldrums, and the industry is expected to show some of the strongest growth rates in new jobs in the future.
It is not just the quantity of jobs that is appealing, but the quality and diversity. Travel and tourism is so diversified that it entails virtually every kind of activity and employs almost every kind of worker. It is common to think of the industry in terms of "travel agent," "flight attendant," "airline pilot," "tour escort," and "front desk clerk." People readily recognize airlines, hotels, car rentals, and tour companies as travel and tourism businesses. But the industry is also real estate, ecology, urban planning, architecture, interior design, engineering, computer science, politics, public relations, marketing, personnel, publishing, telecommunications, finance, law, and scores of other fields. Travel and tourism employs archaeologists, sociologists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, computer specialists, artists, writers, marine scientists, actors, musicians, and countless other professionals. Indeed, the industry offers an alternate path to fulfill any number of professional dreams.
Moreover, industry leaders express concern about a shortage of workers during this decade. "We will have to be more flexible in establishing split time and flex time for our employees," said a hotel industry executive, "and exert a recruiting effort beyond anything we have seen before, because if we can't service that market, we will lose it."
Overcoming the Catch 22
Ironically, the tremendous demand for workers will not make getting into the travel business any easier; if anything, getting in will be tougher. Already, there are about 100 applicants for every job. In the travel agency business, newcomers are having such a difficult time that they are offering to work for free in exchange for the training and experience. The demand for new employees is concentrated among the experienced, or middle management layers, while the increased reliance on sophisticated computer systems, the extraordinary pace, and the low profit margins have made it difficult for companies to retain their on the job training programs. Helping you get around the catch 22 of needing experience to get experience is the aim of this book.
In the end, it does not matter whether there are thousands of jobs or only a few; all you want is one. Succeeding in getting one requires a strategy. You need to be able to focus in and target your objectives and to convince a potential employer that even if you do not actually have industry experience, you understand the fundamentals and are motivated to learn.
There are no sure fire methods of landing a job. It comes down to personalities and the philosophy of the person doing the hiring. You will get an idea of how varied the career paths can be from the people interviewed in this book.
Each of the articles on an industry segment describes how the industry is structured, what key issues it faces, and what the future is likely to hold. The information is intended to give you the fundamentals so that you can demonstrate to a potential employer some understanding of the business. It will also give you a better handle on whether a field is right for you. It will show you that there is more than one way of accomplishing your primary goals. This article will also give you a better idea of what employers are looking for so that you can make a more convincing presentation during an interview.
Indeed, a career is more than any one job; it is a series of steps up a ladder, and a job is only one rung. In travel, especially, you may start off in the hotel business and wind up in airlines or car rentals or travel agencies. The travel industry is expanding so rapidly that in most instances the objective is just to get into a field or a company any way that you can as a reservationist, a receptionist, a secretary, a clerk, or an accountant. This is particularly true if you are coming from another field to a similar job in travel. You will then be able to move up or move over extremely rapidly.
If there is one theme that is common to every facet of this fantastically fragmented industry, it is its growing professionalism. The industry is recognizing the need to prepare for middle management by creating more entry level training and development programs. Indeed, it is likely that two distinct career paths to the top will emerge-one from within the ranks and one from vocational and academic programs.
After nearly 20 years as a journalist reporting on the travel industry and now as an executive recruiter for the travel industry, interacting with literally thousands of professionals and watching them rise in their careers, I can honestly say that I have never met so many people who love what they do. This article is written for those who aspire to management or a profession in travel and tourism, for those who seek more than a job, but a career in travel. Let this be your guide to success.