Travel jobs and career options

If you like to learn about new places, and enjoy organising and planning trips, a career in travel could be for you! The travel industry provides products and services to customers travelling both around the world and within the UK, including hotels, airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, railways, sightseeing tours and package holidays.

For many people, a holiday is the highlight of their year. Working in the travel industry, you play a crucial part in 'selling the dream' and helping to build their ideal trip. If you enjoy helping people, it can be extremely rewarding.

The industry is made up of three main areas:

  • Retail travel services - this includes leisure travel, business travel, online travel services, call centres, high street travel agencies, home-based travel consultants and travel services such as foreign exchange and travel insurance
  • Tour operations - this includes including inbound tour operators, outbound, domestic, specialist, independent, integrated and mass-market operators
  • Travel ticketing agencies and bureau de change outlets

The travel industry is notorious for consolidation between its bigger companies. In 2007, there were four major travel companies: Thomas Cook, My Travel, First Choice and Thomson. Now, there are ‘the big two’: Thomas Cook and Thomson TUI. Both are German-owned, but their management structure is based in the UK.

There are also a large number of small, independent travel operators in the UK. Some of these specialise in niche markets, which cater specifically for customer looking for a certain type of holiday - e.g. safari holidays, or sports holidays – while others serve their local market.

Career opportunities and skills needed

Career opportunities

There is a wide variety of jobs in the travel industry – you could work as a travel advisor (agent), tour manager, or travel call centre manager amongst other options.

Many of the larger travel companies provide in-depth training for their staff, with detailed induction packages and extensive on-the-job training.  Many also offer ‘familiarisation trips,’ where staff get to stay at a resort or destination to enable them to sell it to their customers.

Most senior roles in larger travel agencies are occupied by existing staff who have progressed, so there is definitely scope to further your career in the travel industry!

Skills needed

Different companies have different entry requirements - most would expect applicants to be educated to degree level, but this is not always necessary. Perhaps more important is to show a keen interest in travel – demonstrated through a lot of overseas travel and the ability to talk knowledgably about different destinations.