Clear Signs of Better Times Ahead

If you look carefully, you might actually find a few reasons for optimism.

By: Marc Mancini

What’s the job climate in travel right now? What can we expect? How should we feel about our own careers? West Los Angeles College undertook a survey to better attune its travel curriculum to current industry needs. About 50 questionnaires were sent out in early June to executives across the travel industry. The responses we received from 70 percent of those questioned have yielded some interesting insights.

One clear finding: Across the board, respondents expressed guarded optimism about the industry and hope for the near future.

Twenty-five percent said employment opportunities in their industry sector were excellent or good, with 56 percent rating the situation as so-so. However, 79 percent believe the job situation will be better in two years. None thought it would be worse. The results may signal that we’ve turned the corner: Layoffs are winding down, stability is taking hold and modest growth barring some unforeseen event will again become the norm.

Which sectors will have the rosiest future? Cruising, lodging and convention/meeting planning were most cited, with a clear, strong belief that travel agencies will bounce back in the next few years, especially if they do some or all of their selling online. Conversely, almost all those surveyed saw a bleak future for airline employees, except at growth companies like JetBlue, ATA and Southwest. There was concern for tour operators, too.

What training should travel professionals pursue? The clear winner, by a substantial margin: sales and service, with geographic knowledge a distant second. Air ticketing skills were ranked very low not surprising in light of the airline situation.

Also, we may be underestimating one phenomenon. Many travel professionals will soon be retiring. Let’s face it: Our business is “graying” and substantial influx of fresh talent will be needed.

Marc Mancini, author of Geo Intelligence, teaches at West Los Angeles College.