by Michael J. Shapiro | August 28, 2017
Workers whose first jobs are in travel and tourism go on to earn more than their peers in many other industries, according to a new report from the U.S. Travel Association. According to "Travel: America's Unsung Hero of Job Creation," American workers who start out in travel reach an average career salary level of $81,900 -- significantly higher than those who start out in manufacturing, construction, health care and most other U.S. industries. Nearly 40 percent of those who start in travel go on to earn an average salary of six figures or more. The report is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What's more, travel industry jobs are lucrative for employees of different educational backgrounds. Those with a high-school degree or less whose first jobs were in travel reached an average career salary of $69,500, 5 percent higher than the average salary attained by workers in other industries with the same amount of education.

"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 Roger Dow, left, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Small businesses are the backbone of American employment, and travel is a top small-business employer.

"More importantly, though, travel jobs are good, nonexportable jobs, with a unique capacity for career advancement," Dow added. "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."

According to the report, the leisure and hospitality sector is the number-one small-business employer in the country. And the travel industry has been surging post-recession. While it was hit harder than most other industries in 2008-'09, travel employment recovered to pre-recession levels two years faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. Between 2010 and 2015, travel employment grew in every state; in six years, from 2010 to 2016, travel jobs increased by 17 percent -- compared with 13 percent job growth for the rest of the private sector.

"Today's report highlights what our industry already knew," said Dow. "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."

International inbound travel is particularly important to the U.S. economy and job growth, the report found. International travel directly supported 1.2 million jobs last year; at $246 billion, travel was the country's largest service export and the second-largest export overall. The U.S. had an $87 billion travel-trade surplus last year; without international travel, the trade deficit would have been 17 percent larger.

"To keep that growth going," concluded Dow, "we need to do all we can to welcome more visitors to our country, and keep travel and tourism strong."

Read the full study here.