Over six decades, global tourism has experienced steady growth and has been seen as a powerful vehicle for economic benefit and job creation. In 2018, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that the tourism industry is one of the world’s largest economic sectors contributing 10.4 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) and creating more than 319 million jobs globally.
While in Malaysia, in the same year, the Department of Statistics revealed that employment in the tourism industry grew by 4.9 percent (3.5 million people), contributing to 23.5 percent of total employment. These statistics provide a clear indication that the tourism industry holds promising prospects for those who intend to venture into this career path.
What is the tourism industry?
Tourism generally refers to travelling to different locations for purposes related to leisure or business. Tourism usually refers to a round trip - from your home to your destination and back again, rather than travelling only in one direction.
As such, the tourism industry encompasses all aspects that cater to those who are travelling including transportation services, accommodation, recreational activities and entertainment, making it a huge industry with practically endless opportunities.
Jobs in travel and tourism industry
As long as there is interest to explore places, be it physically or virtually, the promise of securing a job in this sector will always be available. Traditional and current, tourism career options range from working in hotels or resorts, cruise ships, adventure sports centres or even as tour guides leading activities and historical trips.
However, with the advancement in new technologies, tourism-related businesses need to transform the way they operate in order to utilize and adapt to the new emerging opportunities in the current Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0). Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are among the emerging buzzwords in Tourism 4.0. These technologies help to unlock innovation and new potential in the tourism sector. With available data online, more personalized experiences will be created. This will create new markets for future tourism career growth. Online travel agents, tourism influencer marketers and niche tourism are among the disruptors that are expected to cater for the demand of future tourism job vacancies.
To put it simply, jobs and careers in the tourism industry include:
- Tour manager
- Tour guide
- Tourism officer
- Travel agency manager
- Holiday representative
- Tourist information centre manager
- Hotel manager / Resort manager
- Hotel sales & marketing
- Air cabin crew
- Spa manager
- Event coordinator
- Executive chef
- Conference centre manager
- Customer service manager
- Outdoor activities manager
Importance of tourism industry
The tourism industry provides benefits to the tourist and stakeholders, and plays an important role with regards to economic, social and environmental gains.
Importance of tourism to the tourist
Tourism is just as important for the tourist as well as for those who are working in the industry.
- It enhances quality of life - A good holiday can be of great benefit and help to reduce stress and increase well-being. Everyone needs a good rest once in a while.
- Broaden worldviews - Travel introduces new experiences and provides the chance to observe new cultures and ways of life.
- It’s educational - Tourists are able to learn many things during their travels, from local cuisine, exotic animals to the different languages.
- It gives you the chance to ‘escape’ - Escapism can be good in the sense that individuals will be able to relax and recharge and return to normal life with new energy.
Importance of tourism to the stakeholders
Stakeholders are people who work either directly or indirectly in the tourism industry. They include:
- Tourism organisations and operators
- Transportation providers
- Utilities and infrastructure
- Local communities
- Non-government organisations
The benefits of tourism to stakeholders can be economic, social, environmental and political gains.
Economic gains from the tourism industry
Tourism can bring in money in several different ways. Here are some positive impacts of tourism on the economy:
- Foreign exchange earnings - Money spent by tourists generates income to the host economy.
- Contributes to government revenues - Direct contributions via taxes and indirect contributions from the goods and services supplied to tourists help raise money to be invested by the government.
- Creates employment - From hotel managers to cleaners, the tourism industry creates many jobs for people around the world.
- Contributes to local economies - The local community benefits from tourists that visit.
Social gains from the tourism industry
Positive social impacts to be gained via the tourism industry include:
- Preservation of the local culture - Because tourists visit destinations to experience the local culture, effort is put into protecting the local culture. This includes preserving local heritage, indigenous cultures, arts and crafts as well as sustainable management of resources.
- Strengthens the local community - Jobs created by the tourism industry can be a great boost to the local community. Increased interest in local events and festivals means a rejuvenation in this area.
- Increased quality of life - The tourism industry requires facilities and infrastructures that will meet the needs of tourists. Local communities often gain new roads, bus services, sewerage systems etc., as a result of governments wanting to boost the tourism industry in the area.
- Revitalisation of art and culture - This can help to promote traditional art and culture that otherwise would have been lost.
Environmental gains from the tourism industry
Although the media tends to cover the negative environmental impact due to tourism, there are positives as well.
- Protecting nature - There are a lot of ways in which tourism can help the environment. For example, via conservation of nature and animals. In Malaysia, many tourists visit Taman Negara, our protected national park to explore the wilderness.
- Education - Educational tours help tourists to experience the wonders of nature and understand the need for preservation. This results in support for local efforts in conservation and preservation.
COVID-19 and tourism
On the other hand, without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected this industry. Many tourism services have had to close down, revenue from the tourism sector decreased and tourism operators were forced to find other alternatives to stay afloat. However, one should not be discouraged as it has been proven in the past, this industry has persevered and rebounded, and undoubtedly will be able to rebuild stronger than ever.
One could even perceive this as a blessing in disguise. With the current travel restrictions and social distancing directives, virtual tourism has provided a viable alternative to traditional tourism. Virtual tourism enables tourists to visit, view and experience tourism from the comfort of their homes. More niche tourism services and products emerged, tailored to meet the needs of new market segments. Services to support this method of tourism will definitely create more jobs to cater for companies within the tourism sector seeking online services, content creators, marketers, and tourism data analysts.
Obtain a tourism degree
A tourism degree can be a stepping stone into this industry. You will learn the ins and outs of this industry and gain experience via internship and placement opportunities. Designed to train graduates to take on senior management roles in the tourism industry, UOW Malaysia KDU’s Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in International Hotel & Tourism Management will prepare you for professional roles in this field.
Above all, the tourism industry offers a well-paying, invigorating job that is both interesting and challenging. As long as individuals who join the tourism industry have the passion and appreciation for travel and enjoy working with people, the tourism industry will always open its gates for challenging, lucrative and promising future career options.