What career paths can graduates pursue in travel?

Jul 25, 2021

Everyone loves to travel, right? Wouldn’t it be great if, having spent upwards of three years studying for your degree, you could then use it to travel around the world and experience different countries and cultures? This isn’t a pipe dream, and graduates are ideally placed for a number of careers in the travel industry. 

Being able to work unsupervised, manage your time well, have good communication skills and be motivated are all attributes that graduates are likely to have honed during their time at university or college, and are valuable resources for employability, beyond the formal qualification gained.

The travel industry offers something that many career paths do not – the chance to earn money while doing something you are passionate about. “Working in travel will always be an attractive prospect for graduates,” says David Smith, Marketing Director at The Cruise Line. “Those with the necessary passion and dedication will find few industries offer so many ways in which to discover the world at a young age.”

Use your research skills as a travel agent 

The most obvious route to working in travel is to be a travel agent. But, this is a wide-ranging career that not only involves selling holidays but also uses negotiation skills to find the best deal for a customer, liaising with airlines, hotels, transfer providers and excursion companies to get a good rate and tailor the holiday to the needs of each individual.

There can be quite a lot of research involved, which is something many graduates excel at, having often had to use these skills as part of their degree. Transferable skills in any area of expertise are highly sought-after by employers.

Michigan State University describes research as: “The ability to define a problem, identify relevant resources, define parameters… prioritise and assign tasks, and effectively collaborate with others.”

Knowledge of your subject – in this instance areas of travel, potential sights of interest, and logistics – puts you ahead, and makes you a valuable and respected member of staff, trusted by the customer.

Share your knowledge by becoming a tour guide

Another way of putting your knowledge to the test is to become a tour guide. Oral communication skills and being particularly personable are obviously vital for this sort of role. It is an excellent opportunity to travel to exciting places and meet lots of people. You need to be able to impress your customers and tell a story to evoke history or culturally significant events and make it interesting. Having a good memory helps! 

Tour Radar says: ‘Tour operators will need you to know a lot about the region you want to work in: maybe you’ve lived there for an extended period, or speak the language, or you have a degree related to the culture or history of the region. You need to have a consistent passion for learning, relentlessly optimistic outlook and dedication to hard work.’

It may sound daunting, but these are all traits that most graduates will have achieved, so you are already perfectly suited to the role.

Or, a degree in classics or history may lead you into a job as a heritage officer. The National Careers Service describes what is required from the role: ‘Heritage officers support teams to take care of buildings, monuments and places valued for their cultural and historical importance.’

Express your creativity in travel marketing

If you like the idea of working in travel but are less enthused about talking to people all day long, marketing may be a tempting option. You don’t necessarily need a degree in marketing, with journalism, PR, photography, graphic or web design, event management and other courses all offering useful skills in the field.

Holidays are all about experiencing a dream lifestyle for a short period of time – whether that is sunning themselves on a sandy beach surrounded by blue waters, trekking the Himalayas, exploring the rainforests of Borneo, or discovering many different countries on a luxury cruise liner. It is the ability to sell this dream that many travel companies will be looking for.

Whether that is working on a website to provide instant online knowledge to consumers, taking sumptuous photographs to encourage travellers, or writing press releases and features to drum up interest in a particular vacation spot, the possibilities for travel marketing are endless.

Marketing jobs are increasingly valuable to the tourism industry. According to studies from Bizfluent: ‘Tourism agencies, hotels, B&Bs and other industry players leverage today’s technology to promote destinations that are new or untouched by tourists. This helps increase customer awareness and opens up a world of opportunities for tourists and hospitality professionals alike.’

Take charge with hospitality management

Careers in management are popular among graduates, many of whom can be fast-tracked into these positions thanks to the skills and experiences gained from doing their degree. In tourism, hospitality management is a realistic pathway, with hotels, bars/restaurants, events and weddings all needing effective management candidates.

Advice from prospects says: ‘It’s essential you get relevant industry experience if you want to work in the hospitality sector. Many hospitality degree courses offer an industrial placement for a year, enabling you to put your academic learning into practice. This experience provides employers with evidence of your skills and motivation and helps you develop contacts within the sector. You also get a feel for which area of the sector you’re particularly interested in.’

Again, though, the proficiencies achieved from doing any degree subject will often place you ahead of the rest.

Final thoughts

You wouldn’t be looking at a career in travel if you didn’t love it, and your ability and dedication to hard work have already been proven by gaining a degree – whatever the subject matter. The opportunities in travel are suited to all sorts of academic subjects, hobbies and interests, and the breadth of experience gained at university or college puts you in a prime position for success.

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