U.S. Travel Association Study: Career Start In Travel Has Financial Rewards - Business Travel News

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U.S. Travel Association Study: Career Start In Travel Has Financial Rewards

December 06, 2012 - 09:15 AM ET

By Mary Ann McNulty

Workers in the past 30 years whose first job was in the travel and tourism industry progressed "further in their careers" than others and earned an average maximum salary of $81,900, according to a study released this week by the U.S. Travel Association. About two in five of those travel industry workers earned more than $100,000 a year, according to the study, for which U.S. Travel collaborated with Oxford Economics to analyze 30 years' worth of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

"Travel jobs provide important, transferable skills that are indispensable to career success, and careers in travel deliver financial security with the majority of travel industry workers earning a middle-class income or higher," said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow.

While the U.S. Travel Association often touts that the travel sector "supports 14.4 million jobs" and directly employs 7.5 million American workers, Dow said this study tried to measure "what those jobs mean for the employee long-term."

Oxford Economics and the association analyzed longitudinal data compiled through BLS' efforts since 1979 to track more than 5,000 American workers. BLS interviewed those workers every year from 1979 to 1994 and every two years thereafter; another round of interviews was scheduled this year.

The "average American worker between 1979 and 2010 held 11 jobs," according to U.S. Travel senior vice president for research and economics David Huether. "One in five actually had their first job in travel," holding positions in air transportation, hotels and lodging, car rental, travel agencies, entertainment and recreational services, museums, art galleries, zoos or other tourism-related fields.

Of the 5.6 million Americans who are employed part-time to put themselves through school, one-third work in travel-related positions, Huether said. According to the study, 33 percent of those who started their careers in travel earned at least a bachelor's degree. That was second only to the financial services industry, in which 35 percent of those who began in that sector earned a degree.  

Those who began their careers in financial services also earned the highest average maximum annual salary of $82,100, a few hundred dollars more than those who began in travel and tourism. The study also assessed data for those who began their careers in manufacturing, construction, health care and other industries.

"The vast majority of them are not ending up in travel, given that the average worker ends up with 11 jobs," during their career, Huether noted. 

Researchers also claimed that the travel sector provided higher average annual pay for women, African-Americans and Hispanics than those in such groups who started in other industry sectors. Women who had their first job in travel reported an average maximum wage of $78,000, almost 6 percent more than the $73,900 average for those who started in other industries, while African-Americans who began their careers in travel reported a $71,900 average maximum annual salary, nearly 6 percent more than the $68,100 average for other industries. Hispanics who started in travel reported a maximum annual wage of $80,100, 8 percent more than those who started in other industries.

Huether said the report's "three findings are that travel leads to higher education, higher pay and is really a launching pad to a rewarding, longer career."

Association officials plan to take the study to federal, state and local governments as well as to educators and career counselors, Dow said. The impetus for the study, Huether said, "was mainly to bring to light that the travel industry is a pathway to the middle class."

More than 53 percent—about 4 million workers—of those directly employed in travel earn a middle-class income of more than $25,000 a year, he added.

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