Employment Outlook for Travel and Tourism

Fewer jobs but unique perks for those who get one

A large number of travel and tourism students attempt to enter the industry each year. Many are attracted to the glamour of the industry and the chance for travel-related benefits.

Travel agent, clerk and ticket agent job openings are highly competitive. In addition, prospects for employment can be negatively affected by downturns in the economy or domestic and international events that reduce non-essential travel.

Travel agents

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of professionals in this industry is expected to decline over the next decade. Openings that are available will be due to retirements and workers transferring to other careers, as well as an overall increase in travel and tourism spending.

Travelers who use the internet to plan and book their own trips make up one of the main reasons there are less travel agent jobs. Airlines have also stopped paying commissions to travel agents, which has put many out of business and led others to charge service fees.

The best opportunities will be for agents who know how to work with the internet. Agents who specialize in areas such as luxury travel, specific destinations or who cater to types of travelers, such as specific ethnic groups or special interest groups may also fare better.

Travel agent wages

Self-employed travel agents often have low earnings for the first several years of operation. Once they've built up a solid client base they can make about the same or more than most salaried agents.

One thing salaried travel agents have over those who are self-employed is often benefits, such as medical, paid for by their employers. Most agents will also have the unusual benefit of reduced transportation and accommodation costs for personal travel. They may also be offered free or low-priced trips in order to learn about vacation areas.

  • Median annual earnings - $27,640
  • Middle 50 percent - $21,600 to $35,070
  • Top 10 percent - $44,090
  • Bottom 10 percent - $17,180

Reservation and transportations ticket agents and travel clerks

More applicants than job openings will mean big competition in this job category. Since minimal skills are required it's often a starting point for workers aiming to enter airline or other travel-related businesses.

New employment will be slow, as internet reservations, ticket kiosks and other technological advancements are taking the place of some workers. Not all jobs will be taken over by machines though, a number of workers will still be necessary for security and safety reasons.

Economic downturns can negatively affect the amount of non-essential airline, train and bus travel, causing hiring freezes and possibly even layoffs at some businesses.

Reservation and transportation ticket agent and travel clerk wages
These workers often earn special benefits, such as travel discounts.

  • Median annual salary - $27,750
  • Middle 50 percent - $21,430 to $34,110
  • Top 10 percent - $45,100
  • Bottom 10 percent - $17,720

Earnings by industry

  • Scheduled air transportation - $31,750
  • Travel arrangement and reservation services - $22,370
  • Traveler accommodation - $22,050

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004