From airlines, cruise lines, and hotels to restaurants, tour companies, and theme parks, the travel and leisure industry employs millions of Americans each year and rates among the top 10 employers, according to the U.S. Travel Association. There are four basic necessities of travel: transportation, lodging, dining, and entertainment. Tourists may choose to combine one or more elements in a plan that a travel agent arranges, or they may choose to create a vacation and handle all the planning personally. Written travel guides are available for almost every major destination, and the Internet has become a remarkably powerful tool for gathering travel information, making plans, and booking accommodations.
Modern travel originated with the development of transportation. In the 19th century, steamships increased passenger travel between Europe and the United States. The rise of railroads led to an increased demand for hotels and inns and made it possible for the working class to afford train fare to the countryside or big cities. The invention of the airplane and the automobile further revolutionized travel by bringing greater numbers of travelers into the marketplace.
Commercial airlines are one of the travel industry’s major employers today. The typical organizational structure of an airline includes operations (pilots, flight attendants, ground crews); maintenance (mechanics, inspection, routine repairs); marketing (sales and advertisement); and finance divisions. Commercial airlines range from major carriers, earning more than $1 billion in annual revenue, to regional carriers with revenues of less than $100 million each year.
Hotels provide accommodations, meals, and personal services for the traveling public. The range of employment opportunities is vast: commercial hotels, motels, inns, residential hotels, resorts, and convention centers. Within hospitality establishments, employees range from front office, sales, and accounting staff to food and beverage service, housekeeping, and engineering and maintenance.
The restaurant industry is directly connected to travel and tourism, and is one of the largest employers in the private sector. Travelers increasingly look to dining and cuisine options as they make their vacation plans.
Travelers generally look to leisure activities as an important centerpiece of their trip. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are more than 13 million people employed in the accommodations and recreation industry in the United States. They work for businesses that range in size from huge theme parks, such as Disney World, to local YMCA centers, to casinos or cruise lines. Each business provides an outlet for leisure activity.
Popular leisure activities include amateur sports and outdoor activities, casinos and gaming, amusement parks, sporting events, and concerts and stage shows. Recreation is commonly considered an important part of one’s health and peace of mind. Just about any activity is available to people of all ages, interests, and incomes. Vacations are planned around the types of recreational facilities available. At times, travel is part of the activity, as is the case with cruises. City budget directors often plan for outdoor activities, stadiums, and theater buildings, knowing that such recreational facilities will attract tourist dollars. Recreational programs are used as physical and emotional therapy for the elderly and people with disabilities. Growing public interest and participation points to a bright future for the recreation service industry.