BY TODD DAVIDSON
Jobs — the topic on everyone’s mind. At a time when business leaders and elected officials are seeking ways to stimulate economic recovery and job creation, one industry has been creating jobs at a faster pace than the rest of the economy, is creating solid career opportunities and has become America’s largest service export: the travel and tourism industry.
Travel jobs can mean a first foothold on the career ladder or a flexible job for those seeking degrees. One-third of the 5.6 million Americans who work part time to support themselves while they further their education work in leisure and hospitality. And travel jobs are helping unemployed Americans hit hardest by the recession — younger workers and those without or seeking higher education.
What’s more, the jobs created through international and domestic travel are promising jobs that can lead to successful careers. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which included more than 30 years of data analyzed by Oxford Economics and the U.S. Travel Association, found that workers in the travel and tourism industry “have greater access to educational opportunities and enjoy better career progression.” Other key findings from the report include:
Earning higher wages: The average maximum salary for employees who start their career in the travel industry reaches $81,900 — significantly more than other industries.
Building the middle class: The travel industry is one of the top 10 largest employers of middle-class wage earners in the U.S. More than half of all travel industry employees (53%) earn a middle-class salary or higher.
Leading to rewarding careers: Employees who work in travel jobs build valuable skills that can translate into rewarding careers, both in travel and other industries. Two out of five workers who start their careers in the travel industry go on to earn more than $100,000 per year.
Additionally, jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries cannot be outsourced. Jobs tied to our national parks, iconic cities, majestic mountains and awe-inspiring coastlines will always remain in the United States. An innkeeper near Crater Lake can no more be outsourced than Crater Lake itself.
One of the keys to generating and keeping more domestic jobs is creating more American exports. When international travelers visit the U.S. and purchase goods and services, every dollar they spend is an export, making travel the largest service export in the country. International travelers spend, on average, $4,300 per visit, which translates into a new job created for roughly every 35 international visitors. With long-haul travel expected to grow 40% between 2010 and 2020, according to Oxford Economics, Oregon and the entire country are poised to benefit.
Tourism is a real economic stimulus. Nationally, the travel and tourism industry injects $1.9 trillion into the U.S. economy and directly supports nearly 7.5 million jobs. One in eight American private-sector jobs are supported by travel.
In Oregon, the travel and tourism industry is a primary driver of the state’s economy, generating $8.8 billion while directly supporting more than 92,000 jobs. And those job numbers are expected to increase. According to a workforce and economic research report from the Oregon Employment Department, the leisure and hospitality sector is expected to add more than 31,000 jobs for Oregonians over the next seven years.
John Muir once said that when you tug on one thing in the world, you suddenly discover it is connected to everything else. This is certainly the case for the travel and tourism industry. The impacts of this industry are so complex and far-reaching that when we nurture it, we strengthen efforts in other areas. But similarly, if we weaken it — ignore it, redirect support for it, disparage it — we diminish the overall economic vitality and opportunity in our communities, our state and our country.
Unleashing the power of Oregon’s travel and tourism industry creates the environment for small businesses to thrive, our economy to expand and new jobs to be created for our fellow Oregonians in every corner of the state.
Todd Davidson is the CEO of the Oregon Tourism Commission and chair of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.