Tourism sector: work areas, employers, skills and job search

Updated 19 March 2023

The tourism industry caters to individuals travelling to locations away from home, either internationally or domestically, for business, social or leisure purposes. There are multiple career opportunities in this industry that focus on keeping clients happy while travelling. Learning about the tourism industry may help you determine whether you want to pursue a career in this sector. In this article, we define the tourism sector, outline its work areas, list its main employers, describe its work environment, provide the skills that employers in this sector value and explain how to find jobs in this industry in four steps.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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What is the tourism sector?

The tourism sector comprises any activities relating to individuals who temporarily move to locations that aren't where they normally live. It's a large, global industry that significantly boosts the economies of various countries. It typically involves travel activities that last between 24 hours and one year, meaning it doesn't normally include international students on long courses and expatriates. Here are some reasons for which tourists may travel:

  • to meet new people or visit family and friends

  • to learn about different cultures and pursue self-improvement

  • to experience excitement, pleasure and entertainment

  • to refresh the mind and body

Related: 14 popular jobs in tourism (with duties and salaries)

Tourism industry work areas

The tourism industry includes transportation and accommodation. It also encompasses other services, such as tourist information, shopping and tours. Here's more information concerning its main work areas:

  • Transportation: This area involves helping tourists reach their destinations via different transportation methods, including air, road, rail and sea travel. It includes providing transportation modes and helping individuals get to other places after they arrive at their main destination.

  • Accommodation: This area involves providing tourists with places to temporarily live while on their travels. It includes hotels, hostels, shared accommodation, cruises, campsites and bed and breakfasts.

  • Shopping: This area features heavily in specific tourist destinations, such as certain areas of large cities. Sometimes, the quality of available shopping can attract tourists to visit a particular place.

  • Tours and guides: This area focuses on offering individuals tours of landmarks, educational buildings and attractions in a local area. Professionals working in this field often give visitors assistance, context and insight into the places they're visiting to ensure their experiences are interesting, convenient and enjoyable.

  • Tourist information: Offline tourist information services include printed literature and physical information centres. In contrast, online services refer to websites detailing local tourist sites, attractions or facilities.

Employers in the tourism industry

Here are examples of the main employers in the tourism industry:

British Airways (BA)

BA is an international airline with headquarters in London. It typically hires individuals to fill cabin crew, pilot, customer service, cargo and operations, engineering, corporate and business support positions. Work experience, internship, apprenticeship and graduate scheme opportunities are available at this company.

Related: What does a cabin crew do? (With responsibilities)


Carnival is an international cruise operator. The company offers positions both in its offices and onboard its vessels. Its onboard positions include hotel operations, technical operations and marine, entertainment, casino and medical roles. In contrast, its office roles include guest operations, information technology, finance, marketing, call centre and human resources (HR) jobs.

Related: 7 cruise ship and cruise ship performer jobs (with benefits)

Hilton Worldwide

Hilton Worldwide is an international hospitality business that runs a large portfolio of resorts and hotels. It offers various career opportunities, such as sales, housekeeping, operations, marketing, events, catering, food and beverage, hotel management, HR, engineering, finance, legal and administrative roles. The company often hires individuals to work in guest-facing roles remotely and looks for people who want to become its future leaders. It also has its own university programmes, where employees can earn degrees, learn languages, boost their digital skills and pursue certifications.

Related: 5 hotel receptionist interview questions (with answers)

Tourism industry work environment

Here's what you can expect when working in the tourism industry:

  • Frequent travel: Many roles in the tourism industry involve frequent travel domestically and abroad and offer relocation opportunities.

  • Quick progression: The tourism industry offers various career opportunities, and employers may provide employees with quick progression to more senior roles.

  • Discounts and offers: Employers in this industry often provide their employees with discounts and offers, such as discounted holidays for those working at a tour operator.

  • Job satisfaction: The roles in this industry are usually very rewarding since they involve helping others to have memorable trips.

  • Sociability: The work culture in this sector is typically sociable, with many opportunities to participate in company trips and social or work events.

Related: 9 tips to help you find your ideal work environment

Key skills for jobs in the tourism industry

Here are the skills that employers in the tourism industry typically value:

  • Customer service: This includes the ability to resolve customer issues and make consumers feel valued.

  • Communication: This trait is useful for giving directions, providing health and safety demonstrations, explaining the history of tourist attractions and various other duties you may fulfil while working in this sector.

  • Flexibility and adaptability: This includes remaining calm under pressure, handling challenging customers and responding to last-minute requests or changes.

  • Cultural sensitivity and languages: The ability to speak more than one language can be beneficial when interacting with visitors from around the world. Understanding and relating to different backgrounds and cultures is key for jobs in this industry.

  • Collaboration: This involves working as part of a team to ensure customers have good experiences or working independently and regularly collaborating with colleagues from other departments or other individuals in the tourism industry.

  • Dedication and enthusiasm: These skills include having a positive approach to work that allows individuals to overcome challenges and demonstrating a commitment to the industry, such as showcasing your knowledge of local tourist attractions.

Related: How to detail customer service skills in a CV (with example)

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How to find jobs in the tourism industry

Here are four steps you can follow to find jobs in the tourism industry:

1. Gain relevant qualifications and complete training

Start by gaining relevant qualifications and completing suitable training for your desired position in the tourism industry. Generally, degrees aren't a requirement for these roles, but they can be beneficial when applying for management or office positions. For example, if you want to work as a tour guide, consider earning a history, tourism and travel or language qualification.

It's also a good idea to complete the training your employer has offered to you to help you develop your skills. For instance, if you're working in an entry-level position in a hotel, you may benefit from any leadership training opportunities. These can make you more suitable for supervisor or manager roles.

Related: Where to look for jobs: finding your next opportunity

2. Seek work experience

Gaining work experience in more junior positions can be an effective way of finding your ideal role in the tourism industry. Doing this can enable you to progress to a position that interests you within the same organisation or meet the requirements for applying for such a role externally. For instance, if you want to find a management position in a tourism retail outlet, you may consider working in an assistant position. After gaining sufficient experience, you may apply for internal supervisor roles that become available or consider other outlets.

3. Network with tourism industry employees

Take the time to develop your online and offline network. Online networking may involve contacting colleagues you know who work in the tourism industry or connecting with other individuals in the sector on job-focused social media platforms. Consider asking for advice on entering the industry and finding out whether they know about any upcoming vacancies. Networking of this type often includes sending questions via private messages, sharing content that might interest your colleagues or commenting on their social media posts.

To develop your offline network, consider attending events relating to the tourism industry. For example, if a career in hotel management interests you, you may register for hospitality conferences. At these events, focus on making meaningful connections with a few individuals, aim to be as authentic as possible and demonstrate your interest in the sector by asking relevant questions.

4. Apply for jobs

In addition to networking, look for jobs online and make applications. You may do this by perusing general job websites, employment-focused social media websites and specialist job sites. For example, if you want to work in a catering position at a cruise operator, consider conducting searches on food and beverage job websites. You may also contact recruitment agencies who can help you find positions on your behalf. Aim to register your interest with agencies that specialise in the tourism industry.

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