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Travel & tourism Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

The travel and tourism industry is highly sought after for school-leavers - and for good reason. It’s a wonderfully fun and lively sector to be in, with national and international travel opportunities available as part of your job!

The industry is incredibly broad, covering everything from walking tours, to travel agents, to online travel and boutique hotel chains.
Those that work in the travel and tourism industry have a range of opportunities to develop their career. There are new tourism trends developing all the time, opening up doors for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Although the industry may initially call to mind sandy beaches and tropical rainforests, there are plenty of roles available within the UK tourism industry. There were a record number of overseas visitors to the UK in 2017, a whopping 72.8 million people, spending 24.5 billion between them - that’s big business.

Some roles in this industry that you could consider include:

  • Travel agent

  • Tour manager

  • Airline customer service agent

  • Holiday Rep

Skills

A large number of roles in the travel and tourism industry are customer-facing, so you’ll need strong communication skills and a positive attitude for these. After all, you’re facilitating peoples’ holidays and leisure activities!

As with any industry, it’s important that you’re aware of the market you’re operating in and keeping up with business trends - particularly if you are aiming to be in a management position.

Other skills that will benefit you throughout your career in travel and tourism include:

- Communication
- Leadership
- Negotiation
- Presentation Skills
- Problem Solving
- Strategic Planning
- Teamwork

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles in travel and tourism after you complete your apprenticeship if this is the route you decide to go down.

In large organisations you will find that there is typically a very clear hierarchical structure so that you can see what the next step in your career would be. With each step up, you will take on more responsibilities such as managing a team of people or a project. Eventually, you could find yourself managing whole regions, product portfolios, national campaigns alongside a number of other things!

Career development

Large travel or tourism organisations will usually provide training for their staff so that their skills are up-to-date and they can remain competitive in the market.

There are also lots of opportunities to take on training independently, any of which are provided by the Institute of Travel & Tourism. Some of these courses include:

  • Writing and design

  • Social media

  • Customer service

  • Sales

  • Coaching

  • Management and leadership

  • Finance for non-financial managers

  • Project management

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could also consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest, but due to the responsibilities placed upon you and the level of organisation and skill required you could see your salary increase quickly.

In most cases, roles in the head office of a travel company pay more than in a hotel or resort.

Here are sample salaries for certain jobs within the travel and tourism industry, according to Payscale:

  • Assistant hotel manager - £18,873 - £27,349

  • General hotel manager - £17,234 - £58,378

  • Head chef – £25,444

  • Concierge – £19,636

  • Hotel receptionist - £18,596

  • Travel agent - £15,538 - £25,215

  • Travel agency operations manager - £28,161

  • Travel campaign manager - £36,389

  • Travel social media manager - £33,255

  • Strategic partnerships manager - £35,049

  • Marketing manager - £27,839

  • Customer service manager - £18,576

  • Assistant product manager - £24,254

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

There are not any particular academic qualifications that you need to get a job in this indsutry, although some companies may require at least a pass in maths and English. What’s more important,particularly for the customer-facing roles in this industry, is being able to demonstrate your communication skills and that you’re able to get on with people from all walks of life.

However, the industry also requires salespeople, graphic designers, managers, and writers and any skills that you developed in school that relate to these roles might help you to land the job. If you have completed a travel and tourism GCSE or A-level this will stand you in good stead. Other subjects that may benefit you include business and events management.

To get any job in this sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector.

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in the travel industry. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know that they want to work in this sector, and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

Industry Bodies

Institute of Travel and Tourism
Take Off in Travel
Association of Leading Visitor Attractions
The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions
British Destinations
British Educational Travel Association (BETA)
Tourism Management Institute
The Tourism Society
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
Tourism Alliance
UKInbound

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