GHN Thought Leader

Roger Dow

President & CEO

US Travel Association

Travel Matters to America’s Jobs

Made in America: Travel’s Contribution to Workforce Development and Career Advancement highlights travel’s importance in building a skilled and prosperous U.S. workforce.


National Travel and Tourism Week is a celebration of why travel matters to America.


Travel is so much more than just getting from point “A” to point “B.” It keeps Americans connected to each other and to the world around us. It’s a source of pride for cities and towns in every pocket of the country. It helps strengthen bonds with family and loved ones and takes us away from the stress of daily life.


But perhaps most consequentially, travel is a powerful driver of a growing economy and workforce.


Lately, there’s been plenty of good news underscoring why this industry matters. On Friday, U.S. Travel economists estimated the travel industry workforce swelled by 8,600 jobs last month to record-setting levels. And we welcomed the news a few weeks ago that U.S. gross domestic product grew 3.2% in the first quarter—fueled, in major part, by the strength of exports (of which travel is one of our nation’s strongest).


The best part about this success? A strong travel economy doesn’t just benefit the folks at the top. When travel thrives, so does America: practically everyone benefits and can seize the opportunity to better their lives. While there are trillions of reasons why travel matters, the opportunities the industry provides its workers—to move up the ranks, support their families and pursue the American dream—cannot be overstated.


A foothold toward a strong livelihood

I’ve shared my story a lot over the years—how I started my career in travel decades ago as a lifeguard at a then-small hotel chain called Marriott. I worked my way up from lifeguarding at the pool to enjoy a successful career in travel—and my story isn’t unique.


In fact, the No. 1 industry for first jobs is travel. More than a third of individuals (38%) tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Survey of Youths (NLSY79) had their first jobs in travel and tourism—far more than those who reported their first jobs in manufacturing (17%), health care (6%) or finance (4%). Better yet, travel jobs are accessible to all demographics: 37% of males and 40% of females started their careers in travel, as did 32% of African Americans and 32% of Hispanics.


A ticket to prosperity

These first jobs are good, entry-level positions that give workers skills, confidence and experience in pursuit of greater economic success. Of the respondents tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics longitudinal survey, nearly three quarters (74%) of individuals who started in travel ultimately ended up in jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree and extensive skills, knowledge and experience—such as economists, executives, managers, lawyers and salesmen. Individuals who began their careers in travel went on to earn a peak average salary of $82,400 by the time they were 50 years old.


Travel jobs also empower Americans to strike out on their own. Seventeen percent of those starting out in travel now own their own businesses—including 14% of women.


A growing industry with limitless potential

The best part is this industry promises to get stronger if policies and programs are enacted that continue to support its growth. In 2018, the leisure and hospitality sector hired 1.1 million Americans, accounting for 20% of total jobs hires. As the goods sector becomes increasingly automated, the service sector is projected to carry employment growth in the next decade; nine out of 10 new jobs added between 2016 and 2026 will be in services. Just as I did in the summer of 1966, kids today will have more opportunities than ever to secure a first job in travel and work their way up the ranks to a better life.


U.S. Travel’s advocacy efforts aim to grow this important industry and, in turn, the American economy and workforce. Travel matters, and its continued growth is key to setting millions on the path toward achieving the American dream.