Travel industry jobs lead to higher wages and a permanent foothold for financial success, outpacing compensation in both manufacturing and health care, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Made in America: Travel’s Contribution to Workforce Development.

U.S. Travel released the study against the backdrop of the 36th annual National Travel and Tourism Week. The report—the second in U.S. Travel’s “Made in America” series spotlighting the importance of travel for the U.S. economy—finds travel industry jobs are providing a path to prosperity for millions of Americans.

Among the top findings:

  • Travel is the No. 1 industry for first jobs. Nearly four in 10 workers got their start in travel and tourism. Moreover, they are good first jobs that give workers skills, confidence and experience that are essential to successful careers in a broad spectrum of occupations.
  • Individuals who began their career in travel have gone on to earn a peak average salary of $82,400 by the time they were 50 years old—higher than those who started in manufacturing, health care and other industries.
  • Nearly a third of Americans (31%) re-entering the workforce do so through a job in the travel industry—compared to just 12% in manufacturing and 8% in health care. Travel jobs have the flexibility, availability, diversity and focus on practical skills to launch a rewarding career.

The report also includes case studies of individuals who have pursued careers in the travel industry and achieved their American dream as a result.

“Like many Americans, my first job was in the travel industry—as a lifeguard at a hotel pool—and it gave me the foundation of skills and opportunities that led to a long and rewarding career,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Travel industry jobs are uniquely accessible to all Americans, and provide a path to a solid, lifelong livelihood. Simply put, travel is the gateway to the American dream.”

Some of the other key takeaways from the report:

  • Travel industry jobs provide flexibility for pursuit of higher education and training. Of the 6.1 million Americans working part-time while pursuing higher education in 2018, more than half were employed in travel-related industries. Nearly one in five (18%) travel industry employees currently attend school, compared to the 8% of workers attending school in other sectors of the economy.
  • The travel industry is diverse and accessible compared to other industries. Nearly half (46%) of travel industry employees have a high school degree or less, compared to 30% of employees of the rest of the economy. Travel also has a greater share of Hispanics, African Americans and multi-ethnic individuals than the rest of the economy.
  • Experience in travel fosters entrepreneurs. Seventeen percent of Americans whose first job was in travel now own their own business, and 19% consider themselves entrepreneurs—again, a higher figure than manufacturing and health care. Of women who started their career in the travel industry, 14% now consider themselves entrepreneurs, compared to only 10% of those who started out in health care
  • The travel industry fills the skills gap. Through training, education, certification programs and firsthand experience, the industry is providing resources and opportunities for high school and college students, minorities, females and individuals with barriers to employment such as the lack of a formal education.

“The statistics are terrific, but it is when you read the profiles that the true impact of the travel industry on jobs becomes clear,” Dow said. “Each one of the stories provides a snapshot of the potential the travel industry holds for anyone wanting to pursue a strong livelihood.

“This report further reinforces the fact that travel matters to jobs and the economy in our country, and our government should prioritize pro-travel policies to ensure the industry continues to grow.”

The report primarily relies on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979 and 1997 to explore the career path of individuals whose first job was in the travel industry.

The executive summary of the report can be found here and the full report can be found here.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Cathy Reynolds

Manager, Media Relations and Lead Manager, IPW Press Operations

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Tim Alford

Manager, Media Relations

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