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Travel and Tourism

The Job Market

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  • The UK tourism industry (including hospitality) is one of the largest in the world, made up of 180,000 businesses directly employing 1.4m people across all skill levels. More school leavers begin their careers in tourism and hospitality than in any other industry. (UK Labour Force Survey 2008).
  • Globilisation and company mergers are an important and growing part of the travel and tourism industries. For example TUI Travel PLC now own more than 200 different travel industry brands such as Thomson, First Choice and Air Tours in the UK plus many others across the world such as Atalia, TUI Deutschland, Australian Pinnacle Tours etc. The TUI group is based in the UK near Gatwick, employs about 50,000 people, and operates in 180 countries worldwide and a pan-European airline of 146 aircraft.
  • The 5 most common skills which travel and tourism job applicants need are: 

     Technical, practical or job-specific skills; Customer handling skills; Oral communication skills;      Problem solving skills and Team working skills.

     (Source: National Employer Skills Survey 2007).

Travel and tourism services

  • There are approximately 111,700 people working specifically in the travel & tourism services sector throughout the UK.
  • 74% work full-time, whilst 26 percent work part-time.
  • There are a greater number of women working in the sector (62%) than men (38%).
  • 16% of those employed are under the age of 25.
  • 60% of those working in travel and tourism services are qualified to Level 3 Advanced Level or above and only 2% have no qualifications at all.
  • There are currently 44,500 people working in travel agency work - 8,900 work as managers.
  • There are currently 16,200 people working as tourist guides and tour managers.
  • There are a growing number of travel agencies which operate on a call centre basis so previous experience in call centre work would be particularly useful.

Theme, amusement and leisure parks

  • There are about 140 theme, amusement and leisure parks in the UK, in total employing about 23,000 people.
  • Theme parks include the well known ones like West Midlands Safari Park, Alton Towers, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Legoland Windsor, as well as smaller, local attractions. Many parks are located in the countryside or near seaside resorts.
  • The Showmen's Guild estimates that over 200 travelling fairs are held each week in the UK. The Guild, which represents people earning a living by operating fairground equipment, has 4,000 members. Fairground businesses are often family run.

Resort representatives and tour managers

  • Tour operators range from small, specialist firms to large international companies and employ tour managers and holiday representatives.
  • Most representatives and tour managers work abroad, although some are employed in UK holiday resorts.
  • Most holiday representatives work on a seasonal contract only. However, if a representative has impressed employers, he or she may be offered another season at a different resort. It is possible to express a preference for a particular country. However, representatives must be prepared to go wherever vacancies arise as there is strong competition for vacancies.
  • Tour managers may also work for coach companies involved in domestic or overseas tourism. As they are self-employed, they may work for a number of companies. Entry is competitive.

Tourist guides

  • Many tourist guides are self-employed and only a small number of guides make a full-time living from their work. They tend to combine guiding with other jobs.
  • The number of tourist guides has remained stable during recent years, although opportunities are limited. The Institute of Tourist Guiding has around 2,000 'Green Badge' and 'Blue Badge' guide members in the UK. About 800 of them work in London. The Guild of Registered Tourist Guides represents around 1,900 guides across the UK. There are also some guides who do not belong to these organisations. Volunteer guides are numerous.
  • Some visitor attractions and historic properties, such as those run by The National Trust, employ guides, particularly during the summer.

Tourist Information Centre assistants

  • Most TIC assistants are employed by local authorities - often on a seasonal basis. Others work for Regional Tourist Boards and some private organisations that run tourist information centres.
  • Tourist information centres are mainly based in towns and cities and at major visitor attractions. There are around 500 TICs in England but the number has decreased recently due to cost cutting during the economic recession. A full list of the centres in England can be found on

Travel Agents

  • Retail travel agencies range from small independent organisations to large groups with many branches. There are also some specialist companies. Increasing numbers of staff are employed within call centres and as homeworkers.
  • It is usual for young people to begin their career in retail travel agencies or call centres. With experience, they may be able to move into business travel.
  • There are over 40,000 travel agents in the UK. The number has decreased in the past few years, largely because of the growth of internet bookings, mergers and the economic recession - which has particularly affected the number of business travel agents.

Passenger Transport

  • There are around 720,000 passenger transport employees in the UK - 620,000 in England. This is approximately 2.1% of the total number of people working in the UK.
  • In 2007/08 there were over 7,700 million journeys made by bus, coach, tram, light rail, metro, tube, rail and air.

The Aviation Industry

  • The aviation industry is a large employer in the UK with over 138,000 people working in a range of occupations.
  • Air travel has decreased slightly in recent years as the industry has been affected by rising fuel costs, fewer business customers and increasing noise and air pollution regulation.
  • The UK aviation industry is made up of many small companies - only 4% employ more than 100 people (according to GoSkills' Sector Skill Survey 2005). However this 4 percent is made up of very large employers who between them they employ 86% of the UK aviation workforce.
  • However the smaller airlines have suffered during the recent recession and some have collapsed for example the Scottish airline 'FlyGlobeSpan.'
  • Airlines tend to have few recruitment difficulties, and in many situations can receive hundreds of applications for just a few vacancies.
  • The average age of an employee is 40 and 11% of employees are under 25 years of age.
  • 63% of the total workforce is male.
  • Only 10% of the workforce is employed part-time.

Air Cabin Crew

  • Air cabin crew work for airlines; these can range from small budget airlines to large international companies.
  • Competition for jobs can be intense and opportunities for new recruits have become less common.
  • Job vacancies are advertised by individual airlines, mainly on their websites but also in local and national newspapers. Some companies may also use aviation magazines and websites.

Passenger check in

  • Passenger check in officers work at airports throughout the UK. Some are employed by airports or by airlines; however most check in officers are employed by ground handling companies that work on behalf of airlines and airports. These may be large international organisations as well as small regional companies.
  • Entry to the role of passenger check in officer can be competitive.

Coach Industry

  • Around 28,000 people work in the coach industry, in a wide range of jobs.
  • Intercity coach travel has increased as more low cost services have been introduced but the coach industry has been affected by the recession with a reduced number of coach holidays and trips being taken.
  • The UK coach industry is made up of several large employers and many smaller, more local operators. The industry struggles with recruitment and retention with larger companies reporting more difficulties than smaller employers. The main areas of vacancies at present are in driving and engineering.
  • The industry is driven by passenger demand and also there is also an increased use of technology in coaches, with advanced audiovisual equipment, CCTV and GPS tracking in regular use.
  • Within the bus and coach industries combined, the average age of an employee is 45, with 23 percent over the age of 55.
  • About 80% of employees are male.

Coach Drivers

  • There are around 220,000 people employed in the UK bus and coach industry combined and, as drivers are currently an 'ageing workforce', there is a continuous need to recruit new drivers.
  • 80% of employment in the bus industry is represented by six main companies - Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express, Stagecoach and Transdev. There are vacancies throughout the UK.
  • Companies employing drivers may run local bus services, long distance touring coaches, or both. Other companies specialise in short ferrying services for special groups.

Rail Industry

  • The rail industry is one of the biggest industries in the passenger transport sector - 163,000 people work in the industry with 47,000 working for train operating companies, 3,5000 working for Network Rail and another 8,0000 working in supplier/engineering type companies.
  • The rail industry is a very large employer in the UK and the use of rail is increasing.
  • The main occupations in the rail industry are engineers and drivers, with on-train crew and station staff also making up large numbers. Train driving is very competitive and companies can receive over 300 applications for one trainee driver job.
  • Women make up just 4% of the workforce employed in driving and maintenance, and 31% of customer service staff (GoSkills' Survey of Train Operating Companies 2006).
  • Across the rail industry the average age of an employee is 39, however the workforce is ageing and 40% of the total number of employees is over the age of 45.
  • Shift working is the norm, however part-time work is uncommon with only 2% working part-time.

Train Crew 

  • Railway train conductors are mainly employed by train operating companies (TOCs) which run rail passenger services throughout the UK.
  • There is currently an increase in the number of driver-only trains on short suburban routes, with job opportunities for train crew being mainly concentrated on the longer-distance routes.
  • Vacancies are advertised on the websites of individual train companies and also in local newspapers. Some TOCs recruit conductors from their existing train or station staff.

Projection figures from 'Working Futures 2007 -2017' Warwick Institute of Employment Research - November 2008.

Figures also from People First SSC LMI report - November 2009.