Workers who begin their careers in travel earn more money, have greater access to educational opportunities and enjoy better career progress.
Nearly 40% go on to earn more than $100,000 a year. Overall, individuals who begin their work lives in travel go on to achieve higher maximum salaries than those in other industries.
Those are among the striking conclusions of a new report compiled by the U.S. Travel Association based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report is titled “Fast Forward: Travel Creates Opportunities and Launches Careers.”
U.S. Travel executives said the report dispels widely held notions that travel industry jobs are low-paying, with little expectation of advancement. They noted that negative perceptions of travel careers are a result of associating travel jobs with front-line employees in hotels and restaurants.
The report draws on Bureau of Labor Statistics data tracking more than 5,000 workers across many industries. The bureau interviewed workers every year between 1979 and 1994 and every two years between 1994 and 2010.
Building the middle class
In a press conference this week, Roger Dow, CEO of U.S Travel, said the report "shows that travel jobs are valuable jobs. . . . Those who start in travel progress farther than in other industries, eventually achieving higher wages and education levels.”
Individuals who start their careers in travel achieve an average maximum salary of $81,900 annually, higher than in other industries, according to U.S. Travel. (See graph below.)
“This industry builds the middle class, as 53% of workers currently in the travel industry earn middle class salaries or better, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor,” Dow said. The government defines a middle class wage as between 75% and 200% of the median wage in the U.S.
Education levels among travel industry workers also are high. Among those who started in travel, 33% have bachelors or more-advanced degrees.
“Travel is a rewarding career because it teaches valuable skills – including interpersonal, discipline and time management skills. That translates into building long-term careers in and out of travel,” Dow said.
“The conclusion is compelling,” said Dow. “Travel provides transferable skills that are indispensable.”
20% start out in travel
One in five Americas get their first jobs in a travel-related industry, according to David Huether, senior vice president for research and economics at U.S. Travel.
“Core” travel jobs include those in: air, hotel, entertainment and recreation services, restaurants, museums and art galleries, car rental, zoos, and scenic and sightseeing transportation, Huether said.
Huether called the research “groundbreaking” because it tracked workers over a period of 30 years. “We asked the Labor Department if anybody had ever done an analysis of people who started in a particular industry and where they went. We were told that had not been done before this report.”
U.S. Travel plans to use the report to support the travel industry’s lobbying work, Dow said. “We will be transmitting this report to governmental officials to show again the importance of our industry as a creator of not just jobs but good jobs.”