The travel industry is ever evolving. Traditional travel agents/agencies have diminished in popularity during the digital age—Booking.com recently reported that 80% of travelers prefer to self-serve when booking travel. This doesn’t equate to an overall decline in the tourism industry; it merely means it’s adapting to meet the growing needs of the traveler/consumer.
Recent statistics bode well for those searching for a career in the tourism sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of July 2018, there are 16 million US jobs in the Leisure and Hospitality sector. While in Australia, a much smaller country, but a popular tourist destination, the tourism industry contributed $49.7 billion to the GDP in 2017 with more than 900,000 jobs.
If you’re looking to break into the exciting field of travel and tourism, consider the following strategies.
1. Experience Personal Travel
Past travel experiences alone won’t land you a job in the travel industry, but it will serve as a solid foundation for your tourism career. Whatever career stage you’re in, if travel is within your means, take advantage of the opportunity, especially if you’re in college and can study abroad.
Traveling will give you invaluable insight into new cultures, not to mention experience in navigating the tourism/hospitality industry in different locations.
However, traveling is just the first step to acquiring a job in the industry. You’ll need to research your direction and build marketable skills to get hired.
Recruiter.com advises, “the skill in travel is not explaining what the Taj Mahal looks like. We all know what the Taj Mahal looks like, and we all know why we want to go to India. Crucially, we are not selling India; we are selling the best way of doing India.”
2. Start as a Host or Guide in Your Current City (Hint: Airbnb makes it easy!)
Are you thinking about dipping your toe into the travel industry, but not ready to fully commit? Or are you already in your career path and would like to pivot towards hospitality and leisure? Becoming a host or tour guide can be an excellent way to test out working in tourism.
If you have an outgoing personality, are comfortable leading others, and have a knack for remembering cultural/historical facts, a tour guide can be a fun part-time job! For those that live in a destination-city, you can research and apply to tour companies.
Better yet, try the simple process of Airbnb experiences. With this program, Airbnb allows locals to host unique events or outings in their cities. Folks are traveling to your place of residence look for immersive experiences that are taught and led with local flavor. Experiences can include any unique activity that a traveler might enjoy; cooking class, gardening, kimono ceremonies, horseback tours, the possibilities are endless.
This opportunity is a low-pressure way to gain experience in the tourism industry. You’ll work with travelers, understanding their perspective and needs while developing communication and leadership skills.
You can also work hosting around your schedule so that you can have a full-time job or go to school as well. However, it’s not all fun and games. You will need a little ingenuity to develop experience and hard work to make it a success!
3. Learn How to be Customer-Service Oriented
The travel industry has many different career paths — marketing, accounting, finance, HR, to name a few. Since the hospitality and leisure industry relies on the travelers, who support it when starting there’s a strong possibility you’ll be in a customer-facing role.
Therefore, your customer service skills need to be on point. Tourism professionals must possess A+ people skills, empathy, understanding, and patience.
Real customer service is seeing a resurgence within travel industries. While customers have no problem booking their travel, when they do need customer service, digital phone trees have caused increased frustration.
Consumer advocate, Christopher Elliott, told Forbes that when it comes to customer service, airlines and hotels are ‘bottom-feeders’ with relatively low customer service index levels. However, we’re poised for a change, as consumers crave better customer service and an actual human voice on the other line.
A fact that Travel Market Report corroborated, saying social media will fill the communication gap, 43 percent of airlines say their 2018 social media strategies will focus on improving customer service. Also, 44 percent of airlines say they are shifting financial resources from traditional call center operations to social media.
All this data points to an increase in customer-service based roles in the travel industry, so if you have a reliable service foundation, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
4. Pursue a Hospitality Degree
A degree is the most traditional route to break into a specific industry. If you’re choosing your educational path with a career in tourism as the goal, many universities offer both bachelor and masters programs in hospitality, leisure, or tourism.
A degree can also put you on a fast track to management-level positions, as opposed to starting in entry-level roles to build experience and work your way up in the industry. University programs will often help set up internship or apprenticeships, not to mention put you in contact with a network of organizations for the post-graduation job hunt.
5. Specialize in a Career Path (Tech Positions are Hot!)
Technological advances are evolving the tourism industry daily.
According to Google’s VP of Engineering for Travel and Shopping, Oliver Heckmann, nearly 60% of consumers believe that their travel experience should deploy the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to tailor search results to past behaviors or personal preferences.
Another tact to land a career in tourism is to specialize in a role, instead of approaching the industry as a generalist.
Specifically, if you have an interest, background, or skills in IT, development, or programming. With automation, AI, and digital services changing all industries, if you build yourself as a professional (or expert) in a specific role, you can then apply for those positions at travel-related organizations.
Ready to work in travel?
If you love the idea of working in the travel industry, there are many ways to land a job: travel yourself, start small as a host, build your customer service skills, get a degree, or specialize in an up-and-coming field.
Most importantly, you’ll need to put in the proper amount of time to research your career path. Don’t be afraid to start in an entry-level role and work your way up.