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The 6 Best Jobs in the Travel Industry: Travel Advisors & More

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

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https://www.foratravel.com/the-journal/jobs-in-the-travel-industry

Looking for jobs in the travel industry? From entry-level positions at major airports around the world to travel advisors who plan awesome trips and vacations, we’re covering six of the coolest travel jobs. 

Since Fora is a modern travel agency, you probably already know which job is our favorite. Want to know what it’s all about? Sign up to become a Fora Advisor .

Who works in the travel industry? 

People who love travel, of course. Perhaps more than any other field, the travel industry pulls people of all types and backgrounds. By nature, jobs in the travel industry are filled with people from all corners of the globe.

(Sidenote: outside of the travel industry, what’s the best job for traveling? There are plenty of jobs where you travel that have little to do with the industry itself. Our guide breaks down some of the coolest choices.)

Virtually all jobs within travel are taking off

Now’s a great time to consider a career in travel and tourism . More people than ever are traveling around the world. Naturally, that means there are many opportunities to facilitate said travel.

Where are travel jobs booming?

Jobs within travel are outpacing just about every other profession across the United States. Travel destinations like New Orleans, Oahu and Las Vegas — just to name a few — have seen a dramatic increase in tourism since the pandemic ended (a.k.a. “ revenge travel ”). Likewise, travel jobs are springing up everywhere to take advantage of the excess opportunity. This is also coinciding with a renaissance of sorts for contemporary travel advisors ( ahem ).

What’s fueling this job growth?

It’s not exactly clear why travel is more prominent now than it was prior to the pandemic, but it’s not isolated to the United States. Many destinations across the world, including Portugal and Italy in Europe and Japan in Asia, have seen record numbers of travelers — and these trends are reciprocated on every continent.

Which sectors in the travel industry are experiencing the fastest job growth?

It varies by area, but broadly, hospitality (think hotels and other accommodations), tourism and travel advising are the three sectors that are seeing the most growth. 

(BTW: we’re probably biased, but of the three, only travel agent careers offer the best all-around perks, from unlimited flexibility to uncapped earnings potential.

6 great jobs in the travel industry

Read on for a quick breakdown of great jobs in the travel industry, with a special focus on becoming a travel advisor .

(P.S. Looking for the best remote jobs for moms ? There may be some overlap between our two guides.)

1. Airport staff & flight attendants

Of all the travel industry jobs, airport staff are among the most critical since they facilitate most long-distance trips. Entry-level positions rarely require more than a high-school diploma, with pilots, advanced mechanics and some administrative staffers being the only major exceptions. 

If you’re eager to explore yourself, flight attendants are often able to stay overnight in new cities before returning to their home airports. 

The downside is that airport staff’s schedules are largely determined by the airlines, so if you’re looking for flexibility in the travel industry, you may want to consider a different path.

2. Hospitality professionals

From hotel staff to property managers, hospitality professionals provide travelers with lodgings and amenities during trips. Front-facing roles like concierge and customer service staff rarely do much traveling themselves, but as in any corporate business, higher-tier roles are often required to visit new places for conferences, expos and so on. 

Most entry-level jobs in the travel industry’s hospitality sector offer comparable pay and requirements to any other entry-level job. However, the most reputable hospitality providers — such as the coolest hotels in Vegas or the best places to stay in Utah — tend to offer lucrative salaries in exchange for providing discerning travelers with white-glove service and elite comforts.

3. Cruise workers

Cruise-line jobs mirror roles in both the airline and hospitality fields since cruises are a mode of transportation, and most offer onboard accommodations. 

For the right person, it can be an awesome experience to be ocean- or river-bound for up to months at a time. However, it’s worth noting that some of the lower positions are among the most grueling jobs in the travel industry, as workers tend to stay in tiny shared cabins and navigate strenuous schedules. Moreover, compensation depends heavily on the home country of the cruise line. 

Esteemed positions — cruise directors, engineers, captains — often pay very well, but they also require considerable experience and education.

4. Travel writers & bloggers

Generally, travel writers get to blend their wordsmithing skills with their passion for exploration. It can be an extremely exciting job in the travel industry that regularly allows you to research and wax poetic about new destinations, modes of travel and more. 

Of course, not all travel writers are able to travel themselves, and compensation can be all over the place. The best positions tend to be quite lucrative, while others may be better suited as part-time roles.

On another note, travel writing (or blogging) is one of the few jobs you can do remotely while traveling with virtually no drawbacks.

5. Tour guides & operators

Helping travelers better understand a destination you’re passionate about can be an extremely exciting and rewarding job in the travel industry. Is there a better way to share your pride in a location than to teach travelers about what makes it special? 

Tour guides can highlight all sorts of things, too: beer tours in Brussels , haunted tours in New Orleans, luxury tours in Egypt …there’s really no limit to the topic or locale.

Oftentimes, minimal or no experience is required to become a tour guide. But the trade-off is that most tour operators are seasonal and / or tend to be part time.

6. Travel advisors (a.k.a. travel agents)

Okay, we’re completely biased, but we fully believe that travel planning is the best job in the travel industry. 

What other choice here grants you unlimited flexibility — you can work full time or enjoy planning as a travel side hustle — no cap to your pay and allows you to share your passion? All of the options above touch on one or two of those points, but not all three.

What does a travel agent do exactly? 

First and foremost, travel advisors book accommodations and travel experiences like tours, rental cars and more for their clients (check out the types of bookings you can make as a Fora Advisor ). Beyond accommodations, travel advisors act like any other type of advisor in their respective fields: they help their clients get the most out of their vacations or business trips with expert suggestions and custom itinerary building. It’s an enthralling position that allows people with an insatiable wanderlust to share their passion as a career or side gig. 

Already interested? Sign up to become a Fora Advisor today.

(P.S. Curious about the different types of travel agent jobs ? See our guide.)

How does the career path of a travel advisor differ from the others?

We can’t speak for all travel advisors, but at Fora, our advisors enjoy career paths that fit their lifestyles. Some Fora Advisors plan travel full time, others only book the occasional trip for their friends, peers or family and others operate somewhere in between. 

We’re big on flexibility and bigger on putting our advisors in control of how they conduct the scale of their business. Our guide to Fora travel advisor salaries offers a little more context, but depending on their commitment (which, again, they decide), Fora Advisors make anywhere from side-gig-worthy pay to six figures per year and beyond (read how much do travel agents make ).

While most jobs in the travel industry adhere to strict schedules and rules, remote travel agents at Fora work at their discretion. Even better, prior travel agent education or experience isn’t a requirement (we provide all the travel agent training you need).

Jobs in the travel industry: FAQs

Have more questions about jobs within travel? Here are some answers to the top FAQs.

How much can you expect to earn at a job within the travel industry? Which job within travel pays the best? 

There’s no easy answer to this question. It’s safe to say that those holding executive positions across sectors in the travel industry tend to be among the top earners. However, the incomes of top earners in travel consultant jobs are surprisingly comparable, and some Fora Advisors earn north of six figures annually — just from travel agent commissions and planning fees.

As for which job in the travel industry pays the very best, there’s no one answer: pay varies widely, and is often dependent on things like seasonality, trends, the economy and the like.

What career will allow me to travel the most?

Interested in traveling the world while you work? Ironically, many jobs within travel are in-office positions. However, contemporary travel advisors — including Fora Advisors — have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world so long as they have an internet connection.

Which job within travel has the least education and experience requirements? How about skills requirements?

Most entry-level positions in the travel industry have limited education and experience requirements. More involved positions, such as hotel managers or tour operators, may require respective degrees.

If you’re looking for a position with limited (or no) education requirements, becoming a Fora Advisor may be the right choice for you (we don’t require prior travel agent education).

Are there special perks to being a travel advisor with Fora?

You bet: unlimited flexibility, comprehensive (and ongoing) training opportunities, marketing resources and an in-house booking platform that conveniently boosts your efficiency are just a few of the coolest perks we offer Fora Advisors. Of all the jobs within travel, few offer such a robust toolset. 

(Want to know how to market yourself as a travel agent ? We can help.)

Want to learn more about the best job in the travel industry? Ask Fora

Want to learn more about our favorite job in the travel industry? We’re here to help. Apply to become a Fora Advisor today and we’ll put you on the path toward selling awesome trips and vacations.

If you need a little more convincing, check out these travel advisor resources , too:

Take it from Our Advisors: 8 Reasons to Become a Fora Advisor  

How to Become a Disney Travel Agent  

Book a Cruise With a Virgin Voyages Travel Agent  

How to Become an Independent Travel Agent in 2023  

How to Become a Luxury Travel Agent: the 2023 Guide  

Debunking 3 Myths about Becoming a Travel Advisor  

Why Group Bookings Are Great: Tips from an Expert

Are you the go-to person for travel tips?

Transform your passion for travel into your dream job. We'll set you up with everything you need to succeed as a travel advisor. From training to top-notch tech, marketing assets, community, commission tracking & payments (and more), we've got you.

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ASTA, the world's leading association of travel professionals, is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Our work encompasses every aspect of the travel experience.

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism.

ASTA represents approximately 7,500 travel agencies and supplier travel companies employing over 90,000 people. Our members are in every U.S. state and Congressional district and range from large business-focused travel management companies such as Carlson Wagonlit and BCD Travel to household-name online agencies like Expedia

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Press Kit 2023

OUR HISTORY

Since our founding in 1931 as the American Steamship & Tourist Agents Association, ASTA’s mission has been to promote professionalism and advocate for its members. As modes of transportation evolved, so did ASTA, widening our focus and renaming ourselves the American Society of Travel Agents in 1944. Then, reflecting the shift from booking agent to trusted advisor, in 2018, ASTA became the American Society of Travel Advisors. Here's a decade-by-decade look at some highlights from our storied past.

Cruise Ship

ASTA was formed in 1931 as The American Steamship & Tourist Agents Association. At a time when agents were booking about 85 percent of all steamship travel, ASTA was urging ship lines to adopt agent-friendly policies and working to persuade hotels and railroads to pay agent commissions.

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When World War II curtailed all but essential travel, ASTA members fought for the survival of their association, and in 1946, when airlines cut agent commissions, we were there to fight for its members. Reflecting shifts in the industry, we changed our name to the American Society of Travel Agents.

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In the 1950s, ASTA won a 27-year battle for rail commissions. Plus, as part of fulfilling our mission to encourage and enhance professionalism in the industry, ASTA introduced the travel agency industry's first basic training tool, a home-study course. 

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In the 1960s, ASTA made impressive progress in education. We held our first School at Sea and opened seven travel schools. In 1968, when President Johnson announced plans to restrict travel outside of the United States, ASTA waged the largest grassroots campaign in our three-decade history.

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The 1970s brought airline deregulation, leading to increased airline competition and the first rise in air commissions in 25 years. ASTA established ASTA Marketing Services, Inc. (AMSI), negotiating member discounts on quality products and services and the ASTA Political Action Committee (ASTAPAC) to help support our advocacy efforts. 

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In the ‘80s, we continued our emphasis on education, holding Trainingfest, School on Rails, School at Sea and School on the Road. The decade was a period of significant growth for travel agents and the industry.  

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In 1995, seven airlines capped agency commissions on domestic tickets. We responded by filing an anti-trust lawsuit and settled out of court for $86 million. Plus, advocating for agents and consumers, ASTA drafted and promoted an Air Travelers Bill of Rights which led to the Consumer Access to Travel Information Act.

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In 2007, we re-launched our brand with a new logo and membership structure and enhanced benefits, including a redesigned website, member tools for advocacy, advertising and public relations campaigns, increased opportunities for global networking and improved online and home-study courses.

ASTA advocacy efforts scored major victories at the federal and state levels, saving the travel agency community more than $300 million. Among other initiatives, ASTA led the fight to prevent airlines from passing along merchant fees to travel agents and ultimately, their clients. 

ASTA

Azamara 

Carnival Cruises 

Celebrity Cruises 

Cunard 

Explora Journeys 

Holland America Line 

MSC Cruises 

Norwegian Cruise Line 

Princess Cruises 

Royal Caribbean 

Scenic 

Seabourn 

Silversea 

Virgin Voyages 

Windstar Cruises 

LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE

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Recognizing that the traveling public depends on ASTA travel advisors and other ASTA providers to guide them honestly and competently in their travel decisions, all ASTA members pledge to conduct their business activities in a manner that promotes the ideal of integrity in travel and, as an express condition of membership in the association, to act in accord  with ASTA’s Code of Ethics . 

ASTA policies are established by an elected National Board of Directors .  The Board then elects the ASTA Executive Committee, including a president/chairman, vice president/secretary and treasurer, from among its members. ASTA’s CEO, as an ex-officio, is a non-voting member.

Click here for ASTA's Board of Directors

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From travel tips and trends to hands-on advice from ASTA members and media coverage of the industry, here are some of our favorite stories.

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Suppliers and members contributed $500,000 at the annual Advocacy Dinner, where Matthew Upchurch and Vanessa McGovern took home the top honors.

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ASTA Appreciates American Airlines Recognizing the Value of the Travel Agency Distribution Channel, Supports Robert Isom’s Rollback of NDC and AAdvantage

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INDUSTRY AWARDS

As part of our mission to promote excellence within the trade, every year, ASTA presents prestigious awards to recognize professionals who make lasting contributions to the travel industry and exhibit extraordinary support for the trade. Awards fall into four main categories:  

Supplier Awards , voted on by the ASTA membership, celebrate companies and individuals who go above and beyond to recognize and showcase the value of the agency community.

Membership Awards  showcase the superstar commitment of top ASTA member chapters, chapter leaders and travel agency consortia and franchise organizations that work to keep the travel industry strong and show the greatest support for ASTA. 

Advocacy Awards  recognize those who have exhibited a huge commitment to ASTA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the travel agency community at all levels of government, within the industry, and before the traveling public.  

Other Awards  include the Journalist of the Year Award, which goes to the member of the media who best recognizes and explains the benefits travel advisors and ASTA provide to the traveling public and the industry.

Proud Partners

We are grateful to our most supportive partners, ASTA Proud Partners. Recognizing how important travel advisors are to their success, these companies invest their time and resources to support ASTA’s mission and ensure a healthy and robust travel agency distribution channel.

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The latest travel data.

MONTHLY INSIGHTS March 04, 2024

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U.S. Travel has temporarily paused our monthly data newsletter, however, the latest travel data is still available via the U.S. Travel Insights Dashboard . This dashboard is updated each month (member login required).

The U.S. Travel Insights Dashboard , developed in collaboration with Tourism Economics, is supported by more than 20 data sources. The dashboard is the most comprehensive and centralized source for high-frequency intelligence on the U.S. travel industry, tracking industry performance, travel volumes and predictive indicators of recovery including air and lodging forecasts, DMO website traffic, convention and group trends, travel spending and losses, traveler sentiment, among others to measure the health of the industry.

Key Highlights January 2024:

  • Travel appetite started the year on a softer note, but overall growth continued. Air passenger growth remained positive, up 6% versus the prior year but lower than the double-digit growth seen through 2023. Foreign visits remained strong, up 24% YoY.
  • Hotel room demand continued a trend of slight contraction falling 1% versus the prior year, while short-term rental demand grew 1%, a lower rate than 2023.
  • A particular bright spot was that group room demand within the top 25 markets displayed solid growth of 9% relative to the prior year.
  • The outlook for the economy remains fairly optimistic due to the strength of the labor market, looser financial conditions and healthy household and nonfinancial corporate balance sheets. This has filtered through to slightly higher consumer sentiment in February.
  • Sentiment is also growing for upcoming leisure travel in 2024. The share of travelers reporting having travel plans within the next six months increased to 93% in January from 92% in December, according to Longwoods International’s monthly survey.
  • Travel price inflation (TPI) fell slightly in January as a result of falling transportation prices. Sticky services inflation should see relief from decelerating wage growth. However, upside risks stem from rising healthcare costs, supply chain disruptions and slowing labor supply. Source: U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics

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THIS IS A MODAL THAT COULD BE USED

The future of tourism: Bridging the labor gap, enhancing customer experience

As travel resumes and builds momentum, it’s becoming clear that tourism is resilient—there is an enduring desire to travel. Against all odds, international tourism rebounded in 2022: visitor numbers to Europe and the Middle East climbed to around 80 percent of 2019 levels, and the Americas recovered about 65 percent of prepandemic visitors 1 “Tourism set to return to pre-pandemic levels in some regions in 2023,” United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), January 17, 2023. —a number made more significant because it was reached without travelers from China, which had the world’s largest outbound travel market before the pandemic. 2 “ Outlook for China tourism 2023: Light at the end of the tunnel ,” McKinsey, May 9, 2023.

Recovery and growth are likely to continue. According to estimates from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for 2023, international tourist arrivals could reach 80 to 95 percent of prepandemic levels depending on the extent of the economic slowdown, travel recovery in Asia–Pacific, and geopolitical tensions, among other factors. 3 “Tourism set to return to pre-pandemic levels in some regions in 2023,” United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), January 17, 2023. Similarly, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) forecasts that by the end of 2023, nearly half of the 185 countries in which the organization conducts research will have either recovered to prepandemic levels or be within 95 percent of full recovery. 4 “Global travel and tourism catapults into 2023 says WTTC,” World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), April 26, 2023.

Longer-term forecasts also point to optimism for the decade ahead. Travel and tourism GDP is predicted to grow, on average, at 5.8 percent a year between 2022 and 2032, outpacing the growth of the overall economy at an expected 2.7 percent a year. 5 Travel & Tourism economic impact 2022 , WTTC, August 2022.

So, is it all systems go for travel and tourism? Not really. The industry continues to face a prolonged and widespread labor shortage. After losing 62 million travel and tourism jobs in 2020, labor supply and demand remain out of balance. 6 “WTTC research reveals Travel & Tourism’s slow recovery is hitting jobs and growth worldwide,” World Travel & Tourism Council, October 6, 2021. Today, in the European Union, 11 percent of tourism jobs are likely to go unfilled; in the United States, that figure is 7 percent. 7 Travel & Tourism economic impact 2022 : Staff shortages, WTTC, August 2022.

There has been an exodus of tourism staff, particularly from customer-facing roles, to other sectors, and there is no sign that the industry will be able to bring all these people back. 8 Travel & Tourism economic impact 2022 : Staff shortages, WTTC, August 2022. Hotels, restaurants, cruises, airports, and airlines face staff shortages that can translate into operational, reputational, and financial difficulties. If unaddressed, these shortages may constrain the industry’s growth trajectory.

The current labor shortage may have its roots in factors related to the nature of work in the industry. Chronic workplace challenges, coupled with the effects of COVID-19, have culminated in an industry struggling to rebuild its workforce. Generally, tourism-related jobs are largely informal, partly due to high seasonality and weak regulation. And conditions such as excessively long working hours, low wages, a high turnover rate, and a lack of social protection tend to be most pronounced in an informal economy. Additionally, shift work, night work, and temporary or part-time employment are common in tourism.

The industry may need to revisit some fundamentals to build a far more sustainable future: either make the industry more attractive to talent (and put conditions in place to retain staff for longer periods) or improve products, services, and processes so that they complement existing staffing needs or solve existing pain points.

One solution could be to build a workforce with the mix of digital and interpersonal skills needed to keep up with travelers’ fast-changing requirements. The industry could make the most of available technology to provide customers with a digitally enhanced experience, resolve staff shortages, and improve working conditions.

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Complementing concierges with chatbots.

The pace of technological change has redefined customer expectations. Technology-driven services are often at customers’ fingertips, with no queues or waiting times. By contrast, the airport and airline disruption widely reported in the press over the summer of 2022 points to customers not receiving this same level of digital innovation when traveling.

Imagine the following travel experience: it’s 2035 and you start your long-awaited honeymoon to a tropical island. A virtual tour operator and a destination travel specialist booked your trip for you; you connected via videoconference to make your plans. Your itinerary was chosen with the support of generative AI , which analyzed your preferences, recommended personalized travel packages, and made real-time adjustments based on your feedback.

Before leaving home, you check in online and QR code your luggage. You travel to the airport by self-driving cab. After dropping off your luggage at the self-service counter, you pass through security and the biometric check. You access the premier lounge with the QR code on the airline’s loyalty card and help yourself to a glass of wine and a sandwich. After your flight, a prebooked, self-driving cab takes you to the resort. No need to check in—that was completed online ahead of time (including picking your room and making sure that the hotel’s virtual concierge arranged for red roses and a bottle of champagne to be delivered).

While your luggage is brought to the room by a baggage robot, your personal digital concierge presents the honeymoon itinerary with all the requested bookings. For the romantic dinner on the first night, you order your food via the restaurant app on the table and settle the bill likewise. So far, you’ve had very little human interaction. But at dinner, the sommelier chats with you in person about the wine. The next day, your sightseeing is made easier by the hotel app and digital guide—and you don’t get lost! With the aid of holographic technology, the virtual tour guide brings historical figures to life and takes your sightseeing experience to a whole new level. Then, as arranged, a local citizen meets you and takes you to their home to enjoy a local family dinner. The trip is seamless, there are no holdups or snags.

This scenario features less human interaction than a traditional trip—but it flows smoothly due to the underlying technology. The human interactions that do take place are authentic, meaningful, and add a special touch to the experience. This may be a far-fetched example, but the essence of the scenario is clear: use technology to ease typical travel pain points such as queues, misunderstandings, or misinformation, and elevate the quality of human interaction.

Travel with less human interaction may be considered a disruptive idea, as many travelers rely on and enjoy the human connection, the “service with a smile.” This will always be the case, but perhaps the time is right to think about bringing a digital experience into the mix. The industry may not need to depend exclusively on human beings to serve its customers. Perhaps the future of travel is physical, but digitally enhanced (and with a smile!).

Digital solutions are on the rise and can help bridge the labor gap

Digital innovation is improving customer experience across multiple industries. Car-sharing apps have overcome service-counter waiting times and endless paperwork that travelers traditionally had to cope with when renting a car. The same applies to time-consuming hotel check-in, check-out, and payment processes that can annoy weary customers. These pain points can be removed. For instance, in China, the Huazhu Hotels Group installed self-check-in kiosks that enable guests to check in or out in under 30 seconds. 9 “Huazhu Group targets lifestyle market opportunities,” ChinaTravelNews, May 27, 2021.

Technology meets hospitality

In 2019, Alibaba opened its FlyZoo Hotel in Huangzhou, described as a “290-room ultra-modern boutique, where technology meets hospitality.” 1 “Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has a hotel run almost entirely by robots that can serve food and fetch toiletries—take a look inside,” Business Insider, October 21, 2019; “FlyZoo Hotel: The hotel of the future or just more technology hype?,” Hotel Technology News, March 2019. The hotel was the first of its kind that instead of relying on traditional check-in and key card processes, allowed guests to manage reservations and make payments entirely from a mobile app, to check-in using self-service kiosks, and enter their rooms using facial-recognition technology.

The hotel is run almost entirely by robots that serve food and fetch toiletries and other sundries as needed. Each guest room has a voice-activated smart assistant to help guests with a variety of tasks, from adjusting the temperature, lights, curtains, and the TV to playing music and answering simple questions about the hotel and surroundings.

The hotel was developed by the company’s online travel platform, Fliggy, in tandem with Alibaba’s AI Labs and Alibaba Cloud technology with the goal of “leveraging cutting-edge tech to help transform the hospitality industry, one that keeps the sector current with the digital era we’re living in,” according to the company.

Adoption of some digitally enhanced services was accelerated during the pandemic in the quest for safer, contactless solutions. During the Winter Olympics in Beijing, a restaurant designed to keep physical contact to a minimum used a track system on the ceiling to deliver meals directly from the kitchen to the table. 10 “This Beijing Winter Games restaurant uses ceiling-based tracks,” Trendhunter, January 26, 2022. Customers around the world have become familiar with restaurants using apps to display menus, take orders, and accept payment, as well as hotels using robots to deliver luggage and room service (see sidebar “Technology meets hospitality”). Similarly, theme parks, cinemas, stadiums, and concert halls are deploying digital solutions such as facial recognition to optimize entrance control. Shanghai Disneyland, for example, offers annual pass holders the option to choose facial recognition to facilitate park entry. 11 “Facial recognition park entry,” Shanghai Disney Resort website.

Automation and digitization can also free up staff from attending to repetitive functions that could be handled more efficiently via an app and instead reserve the human touch for roles where staff can add the most value. For instance, technology can help customer-facing staff to provide a more personalized service. By accessing data analytics, frontline staff can have guests’ details and preferences at their fingertips. A trainee can become an experienced concierge in a short time, with the help of technology.

Apps and in-room tech: Unused market potential

According to Skift Research calculations, total revenue generated by guest apps and in-room technology in 2019 was approximately $293 million, including proprietary apps by hotel brands as well as third-party vendors. 1 “Hotel tech benchmark: Guest-facing technology 2022,” Skift Research, November 2022. The relatively low market penetration rate of this kind of tech points to around $2.4 billion in untapped revenue potential (exhibit).

Even though guest-facing technology is available—the kind that can facilitate contactless interactions and offer travelers convenience and personalized service—the industry is only beginning to explore its potential. A report by Skift Research shows that the hotel industry, in particular, has not tapped into tech’s potential. Only 11 percent of hotels and 25 percent of hotel rooms worldwide are supported by a hotel app or use in-room technology, and only 3 percent of hotels offer keyless entry. 12 “Hotel tech benchmark: Guest-facing technology 2022,” Skift Research, November 2022. Of the five types of technology examined (guest apps and in-room tech; virtual concierge; guest messaging and chatbots; digital check-in and kiosks; and keyless entry), all have relatively low market-penetration rates (see sidebar “Apps and in-room tech: Unused market potential”).

While apps, digitization, and new technology may be the answer to offering better customer experience, there is also the possibility that tourism may face competition from technological advances, particularly virtual experiences. Museums, attractions, and historical sites can be made interactive and, in some cases, more lifelike, through AR/VR technology that can enhance the physical travel experience by reconstructing historical places or events.

Up until now, tourism, arguably, was one of a few sectors that could not easily be replaced by tech. It was not possible to replicate the physical experience of traveling to another place. With the emerging metaverse , this might change. Travelers could potentially enjoy an event or experience from their sofa without any logistical snags, and without the commitment to traveling to another country for any length of time. For example, Google offers virtual tours of the Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan via an immersive online experience available in a range of languages. 13 Mariam Khaled Dabboussi, “Step into the Meroë pyramids with Google,” Google, May 17, 2022. And a crypto banking group, The BCB Group, has created a metaverse city that includes representations of some of the most visited destinations in the world, such as the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty. According to BCB, the total cost of flights, transfers, and entry for all these landmarks would come to $7,600—while a virtual trip would cost just over $2. 14 “What impact can the Metaverse have on the travel industry?,” Middle East Economy, July 29, 2022.

The metaverse holds potential for business travel, too—the meeting, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) sector in particular. Participants could take part in activities in the same immersive space while connecting from anywhere, dramatically reducing travel, venue, catering, and other costs. 15 “ Tourism in the metaverse: Can travel go virtual? ,” McKinsey, May 4, 2023.

The allure and convenience of such digital experiences make offering seamless, customer-centric travel and tourism in the real world all the more pressing.

Hotel service bell on a table white glass and simulation hotel background. Concept hotel, travel, room - stock photo

Three innovations to solve hotel staffing shortages

Is the future contactless.

Given the advances in technology, and the many digital innovations and applications that already exist, there is potential for businesses across the travel and tourism spectrum to cope with labor shortages while improving customer experience. Process automation and digitization can also add to process efficiency. Taken together, a combination of outsourcing, remote work, and digital solutions can help to retain existing staff and reduce dependency on roles that employers are struggling to fill (exhibit).

Depending on the customer service approach and direct contact need, we estimate that the travel and tourism industry would be able to cope with a structural labor shortage of around 10 to 15 percent in the long run by operating more flexibly and increasing digital and automated efficiency—while offering the remaining staff an improved total work package.

Outsourcing and remote work could also help resolve the labor shortage

While COVID-19 pushed organizations in a wide variety of sectors to embrace remote work, there are many hospitality roles that rely on direct physical services that cannot be performed remotely, such as laundry, cleaning, maintenance, and facility management. If faced with staff shortages, these roles could be outsourced to third-party professional service providers, and existing staff could be reskilled to take up new positions.

In McKinsey’s experience, the total service cost of this type of work in a typical hotel can make up 10 percent of total operating costs. Most often, these roles are not guest facing. A professional and digital-based solution might become an integrated part of a third-party service for hotels looking to outsource this type of work.

One of the lessons learned in the aftermath of COVID-19 is that many tourism employees moved to similar positions in other sectors because they were disillusioned by working conditions in the industry . Specialist multisector companies have been able to shuffle their staff away from tourism to other sectors that offer steady employment or more regular working hours compared with the long hours and seasonal nature of work in tourism.

The remaining travel and tourism staff may be looking for more flexibility or the option to work from home. This can be an effective solution for retaining employees. For example, a travel agent with specific destination expertise could work from home or be consulted on an needs basis.

In instances where remote work or outsourcing is not viable, there are other solutions that the hospitality industry can explore to improve operational effectiveness as well as employee satisfaction. A more agile staffing model  can better match available labor with peaks and troughs in daily, or even hourly, demand. This could involve combining similar roles or cross-training staff so that they can switch roles. Redesigned roles could potentially improve employee satisfaction by empowering staff to explore new career paths within the hotel’s operations. Combined roles build skills across disciplines—for example, supporting a housekeeper to train and become proficient in other maintenance areas, or a front-desk associate to build managerial skills.

Where management or ownership is shared across properties, roles could be staffed to cover a network of sites, rather than individual hotels. By applying a combination of these approaches, hotels could reduce the number of staff hours needed to keep operations running at the same standard. 16 “ Three innovations to solve hotel staffing shortages ,” McKinsey, April 3, 2023.

Taken together, operational adjustments combined with greater use of technology could provide the tourism industry with a way of overcoming staffing challenges and giving customers the seamless digitally enhanced experiences they expect in other aspects of daily life.

In an industry facing a labor shortage, there are opportunities for tech innovations that can help travel and tourism businesses do more with less, while ensuring that remaining staff are engaged and motivated to stay in the industry. For travelers, this could mean fewer friendly faces, but more meaningful experiences and interactions.

Urs Binggeli is a senior expert in McKinsey’s Zurich office, Zi Chen is a capabilities and insights specialist in the Shanghai office, Steffen Köpke is a capabilities and insights expert in the Düsseldorf office, and Jackey Yu is a partner in the Hong Kong office.

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Travel Professional NEWS®

Are You a Professional in the Travel Industry?

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Written By: Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC, CLS, LCS, DS, Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center

Travel Professional. It is a phrase that is often heard in our circles. But have you ever given it much thought? What exactly does it mean to be a travel professional?

A formal definition of the term professional is a person “competent in a particular activity engaged as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” I have actually heard many travel agents imply something very different when they use the term travel professional (but that is an entirely different topic!). You could say that we are all professionals working in the travel industry. By the definition, pilots, hotel housekeepers, cruise entertainers, and travel agency accountants are also travel professionals. What makes us unique or different?

Travel Agent Templates - 500 x 75 - July 2024

In my day job, I am a business development coach at UNIGLOBE Travel Center. I am also an Associate Professor of Hospitality and Tourism-Travel at West Los Angeles College. I absolutely love what I do, so am going to draw on my roots as a teacher and ask you to take a quiz. It is the quiz of professionalism – specifically Travel Professionalism. Thankfully, there is no credit being given out here, so please be honest with yourself.

Many people these days are calling themselves travel professionals. From my experience, being a professional goes beyond just getting paid for the work you do. I believe there are actually four criteria necessary to call someone a professional. Here is a quiz I developed to evaluate whether you are really a professional in the travel industry, so let’s get started.

You are a professional if you are engaged in ongoing continuing education. Question one is: Do you regularly enhance and develop your skills and knowledge with continuing education?

There is no shortage of training and education opportunities in the travel industry. Suppliers, associations, and industry groups all have very good programs to help you develop your skills and knowledge. Some are even quite robust. But this information is only good when you use or act on it. Taking courses for the sake of a certification logo is a wasted opportunity. How are you using the knowledge you take away from these programs?

The very fact that you are investing your time to read this article and this publication demonstrates that you value continuing education, so I feel very safe in saying you deserve credit for this first question. Way to go – you’re 25% of the way there!

You are a professional if you abide by your industry’s code of ethics or code of conduct. Now I would be shocked if anyone would ever admit publicly to conducting their business in an unethical manner. Nevertheless, question number two is: Do you subscribe to and support our industry’s code of ethics?

The travel agent’s code of ethics includes broad topics like accuracy, disclosure, confidentiality, conflict of interest, and compliance. I encourage everyone here to look it up and see if you agree and can comply with the principles it outlines.

Beyond just agreeing and complying with this code, have you considered using it with your clients or in your marketing? What about including it in your next newsletter or sending it out as a special notice to remind your clients about your values? This code of ethics is one point of differentiation between you and some competitors, so talk about it with a sense of pride.

Involvement

You are a professional if you are a member of your profession’s trade association. I should be clear up front. ARC, IATA, CLIA, your consortia, and your host agency are not trade associations. They are all important groups to be a part of, but they are not trade associations. Generically, trade associations are organized and governed by members of that profession to represent, promote, and lobby on behalf of the industry. Most associations do a lot more than that, but those are the big essentials. So, the question is — are you a member of your trade association?

If you are not, why not? How can you call yourself a professional and yet not support the industry that supports you? Membership is a mark of your professionalism, and it is essential for an industry to survive and thrive. If you are a member of your trade association, give yourself credit for number three. And if not, it is something you need to take care if you consider yourself a travel professional.

Ok, last question. I won’t ask how you’re doing so far, but I hope there are a lot of 3 out of 4’s so far!

Contribution

You are a professional if you give back to your industry or profession on a regular basis. Question four is this: Do you give back to the travel industry?

I really must elaborate on what I think each and every one of us should be doing to give back.

I am very passionate about recruiting and mentoring new travel agents. It is not only my job, it is a mission of mine. When I was “young” enough to qualify, I was very active in ASTA’s Young Professionals Society, even serving as its president for several years. Now, I do this every day by coaching new agents at UNIGLOBE and teaching students at West Los Angeles College. In both of those roles, I share what I have learned in my business and mentor new agents who want to work in travel. What are you doing to recruit and bring new travel agents into our industry?

When I ask you if you are regularly contributing and giving back to your industry, this is one area where you can make a significant impact. Mentor a young new agent. Hire someone who has a passion for travel you think might make a great travel agent. Talk positively about our industry and encourage others to research and explore making it their career. I hope you will join me and make it your mission to give back by recruiting and mentoring new travel professionals to our industry.

At the end of all that, I hope you can call yourself a travel professional with confidence! Travel professionals are those who scored 4 out of 4 on my no-credit quiz – those who regularly engage in continuing education, who abide by and support the industry’s code of conduct, who are members of their trade association, and who regularly give back to the profession.

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