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Travel & tourism Career Pathways & Advice

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Many dream of working in the tourism industry – the opportunity to travel and meet people from across the world is one of the main things that draws people into this wanderlust-filled career.

The travel and tourism sector covers an extremely broad range of different businesses, with everything from hotel chains to online travel agents falling under its banner.

With tourism being a lively and fun sector to get involved in, jobs are in high demand. This is no surprise, with the opportunity to travel, experience different cultures and design and manage different projects every day all being significant pulls for those searching for a rewarding career.

The global tourism sector is unbelievably lucrative, with the global hotel industry alone generating almost $500 billion in revenue each year. According to Deloitte, spending on business travel hit a whopping $1.2 trillion in 2015.

Jobs in tourism that you might want to consider, although there are many more, include marketing for hotels or holiday resorts, working within the resorts themselves, advising individuals or groups on travel itineraries (either in person or online), or managing the product that a travel organisation offers.

Although the range of jobs across the sector is varied, many of them will involve similar roles, such as people management. It is also increasingly important to be aware of green issues, as sustainable tourism and eco-travel are now more popular than ever.

Travel & tourism Jobs

Graduate Luxury Travel Consultant£20,000 per annumLondon, London
Graduate Latin America Travel Consultant£22 to £26 per annumLondon, London
Graduate South East Asia Travel Consultant£20 to £25 per annumLondon, London
Graduate South East Asia Travel Consultant£20 to £25 per annumLondon, London


Working in the travel and tourism sector is often customer facing, which means that a variety of skills are essential. This can include: positivity and optimism, diplomacy, tact and consideration, as well as organisation.

It is also important to have a strong commercial awareness, as well as knowledge of business and of the market that you are working within - both with regards to the consumer and competitors within the industry. The value of sustainable tourism and green business is increasingly important, so the ability to make everything you do ethical and to have an awareness of wider environmental and social implications is also vital. Of course, a sense of adventure is incredibly helpful in this sector too!

- Commercial Awareness
- Communication
- Leadership
- Negotiation
- Presentation Skills
- Teamwork
- Time Management

Progression opportunities

With large travel organisations, whether they’re hotel chains, tour operators, travel agencies or something else entirely, there will be a set scheme for progression that can see you climb the ladder quickly, receiving increased opportunities along the way. You are likely to move up to manage a team and/or take responsibility for projects when you are a few years into your career. You might go on to manage branches, regions, products, resorts, brands, campaigns or any number of other things, depending on your particular area of responsibility.

Like in any sector, smaller companies are likely offer fewer opportunities for long-term progression – but may offer greater responsibility at the beginning of your career.

Career development

Graduate jobs in travel and tourism can offer good salaries, clear career progression and wide opportunities for learning. Large companies will provide structured training for their employees, ensuring that you continue to develop your skills, keep up to date with developments within the industry and are able to provide the best service possible for customers.

There are also numerous 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

The travel sector is making a concerted effort to increase the amount of women in leadership positions too: although 70% of employees are female, this drops to just 6% for board directors. Women 1st, a subsidised professional development programme, is seeking to redress the imbalance.

You can see opportunities for training and development and find out more information here.

Earning potential

In the majority of cases, working in head office for a travel company will command larger salaries than working on the ground in the resort or hotel.
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

Types of jobs in Travel & tourism

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

It is unlikely that you will need to have studied a particular subject to get a job in the travel and tourism industry, although it is likely that you will have to display strong aptitude for dealing with people and have a commitment to the industry.

Like every other industry the travel sector needs marketers, coders, graphic designers, accountants, writers and managers, so if your degree gave you any of these skills you can team them up with a passion for travel to pursue head office jobs in these specific areas.

For in-resort jobs such as childcare rep or hotel manager, you may need to take a course after uni to give yourself specific skills and knowledge to carry out your role. Online courses to qualify you for roles such as holiday rep would be a good place to start.

Other degrees or skills that could be beneficial for your career in travel and tourism include events management or business.

How to get there

Whilst set work experience placements are unlikely to be a strict requirement for a job in this sector, showing that you have organised some work experience in a hotel or with children (if you want to work in childcare in a resort) will help you stand out to employers. Working in a bar or a restaurant also shows that you are willing to work hard and have some awareness of the industry.

There are many graduate jobs available in the travel and tourism sector. Some of the biggest graduate employers include:

  • Hotels: Marriott, De Vere Group, InterContinental Hotels Group

  • Travel: Tui Travel, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Expedia UK

Within these companies there are various different graduate-level roles, the majority of which will be commercially focused. They may include:

  • Marketing

  • Sales

  • Finance

  • Management

  • Advertising

Graduate programmes will give you a structured pattern of work, set goals to reach, and often offer the chance of a permanent job after the completion of your scheme. Schemes are likely to last between 18 months and two years.

Some schemes combine traditionally separate areas: marketing, sales and finance within the same scheme, for example. For graduate schemes in travel and tourism, any good quality degree will suffice. Most employers will ask for an upper second-class (2:1).

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


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