As record numbers of Americans hit the road for Labor Day, a new study shows that travel is one of the most potent job creators of any American industry.

Travel: America’s Unsung Hero of Job Creation” analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to showcase the significant economic power of the travel industry in America—particularly the quality of the industry’s jobs, and the large number that are created by small businesses.

Per the report:

  • Overall, Americans whose first job was in a travel-related industry obtain an average career salary of $81,900—significantly higher than those whose first jobs were in manufacturing, construction, healthcare and most other U.S. industries.
  • Nearly 40 percent of workers who began their career in travel reached an annual career salary in excess of $100,000.
  • The travel industry also offers a statistically better career starting point for Americans with less education: workers with a high school degree or less whose first jobs were in travel reached an average career salary of $69,500, five percent greater than the average salary attained by workers who started off in other industries.

“Amid sustained conversation in Washington about growing jobs and reviving communities hardest hit by the recession, lawmakers and the administration would do well to remember the awesome, but often underappreciated power of travel for our nation’s economy,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Small businesses are the backbone of American employment, and travel is a top small business employer.

“More importantly, though, travel jobs are good, non-exportable jobs, with a unique capacity for career advancement. I'm an example of this myself. I started my career in the travel industry as a lifeguard at what was then a 12-hotel chain called Marriott. Many years later I departed the company, which by then had expanded worldwide, as the senior vice president of global sales.”

Other key findings include:

  • The leisure and hospitality sector, which is heavily dependent on travel, is the No. 1 small business employer in the United States.
  • From 2010-2016, travel jobs increased by 17 percent, compared to 13 percent job growth in the rest of the private sector.
  • Travel employment grew in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2010-2015—and in 47 states, the travel industry created jobs faster than the rest of the economy during that period.
  • Even though it suffered a deeper decline in employment during the 2008-2009 recession, travel employment recovered to pre-recession levels a full two years faster than the rest of the economy.

International travel, in particular, plays an outsized role in American job growth, not to mention our country's trade balance:

  • Last year, international travel directly supported 1.2 million jobs.
  • Travel is America’s largest service export, valued at $246 billion in 2016, and second-largest industry export overall.
  • America enjoys an $87 billion travel trade surplus—and without international travelers’ visits to the U.S. last year, our $500 billion trade deficit would have been 17 percent larger.

“Today’s report highlights what our industry already knew: travel puts Americans to work. Travel to and within our country is growing, and we cannot afford to compromise the amazing benefits it brings to workers and their families across the country. Our government leaders can spur even further economic growth and job creation through continued support for Brand USA and smart, effective visa policies that make our nation more secure even as they facilitate travel for legitimate visitors.

Dow continued: “President Trump is right to be concerned about our nation’s trade balance—and we’re here to remind him that travel is one area in which we can win. International inbound travel is an export, and creates good, non-outsourceable jobs in every corner of the country. To keep that growth going, we need to do all we can to welcome more visitors to our country, and keep travel and tourism strong.”

View the full text of “Travel: America’s Unsung Hero of Job Creation” 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.



Greg Staley

Senior Vice President, Communications

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