Guest post: Are the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industries being overlooked by careers-seekers?

Thanks to Emily McDonald the Project Manager for the new UKSP website for sending me this guest post. UKSP aims to provide resources for people to explore the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industry. In this post she asks whether our assumptions about “good” careers are limiting the career explorations of young people.

Take a quick look around any careers fair in the UK in 2012 and you’re guaranteed to find a strong presence from sectors like accounting, law or the public services – especially in universities considered to be in the top 20 or so in the country. No-one doubts that these sectors are popular and offer great career opportunities, but how far is this simply a case of self-perpetuation? Are careers fairs and events a true reflection of the interests and aspirations of young career-seekers, or are many of our students being funnelled away from their passions into more conventional job sectors without having visibility of all routes available to them?

The hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism (HLTT) industry is one that may have been somewhat underestimated in recent years. Career paths in HLTT are perhaps less defined than those of an accounting or legal course, where most entrants can pinpoint with some accuracy where they’re likely to be in five years’ time – yet the opportunity for rapid career progression is one of the key selling points for the HLTT industry.
Take Mark Fisher, of Merlin Entertainments, for example. Having begun his working life dressed in a bear costume at Alton Towers, he completed his recreation management BA at Sheffield and progressed quickly up through the ranks at Merlin to managing director. Or Edward Viita, who worked his way up from a part-time bar job, which supported him financially during his studies, to an award-winning role as bar manager for the Langham Hotel in London. These are both great examples of how talented individuals can turn a part-time or casual job in HLTT into a permanent and rewarding career.

A poll conducted by leading HLTT careers website,, amongst graduates from the last five years suggested that 36% of those surveyed are disappointed with the levels of responsibility they were given in their first job. A further one in five feel they’ve never been given enough responsibility to prove themselves. This has led to almost half of those surveyed questioning their current career paths. The beauty of the HLTT industry is that greater levels of responsibility are often up for grabs at a much earlier stage; research by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism has suggested that a quarter of managers in the HLTT industry are under 30, which compares favourably to the one in 10 found across the whole UK economy.

UKSP is currently trying to change people’s outdated perceptions of the HLTT industry and educate students and careers advisers about the wealth of great opportunities available to people from all backgrounds and levels of education in these fields. The site offers up to date and relevant advice on how to get started in HLTT, what skills and qualifications are needed, and a guide to career paths for different areas such as catering, entertainment and events. Innovative tools, such as an interactive career map and personality test, can help people to learn more about these industries that are perhaps less understood than others. Who’s to say that a summer job as a kitchen porter, tour guide or even an Olympic volunteer couldn’t develop into a lifelong career?


One comment

  1. According to the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) the sector is now responsible for 255m jobs and $6 trillion, which is 9% global of GDP ??? making it bigger than automotive, bigger than mining and bigger than manufacturing. From ‘fun and frivolous’ this industry has now become vital to the economies of many countries, cities and peoples and a huge source of global employment – and thus a wonderful future career choice for many young people where success can, as this blog suggests, come quite young and entrepreneurs abound!.The key is to see this industry as a professional choice too now and not just a short-term source of a gap-year job or somesuch. Many large travel companies are FTSE listed corporations e.g. TUI (Thomson Holidays), Thomas Cook, Carnival Cruises (P&O), British Airways etc. and the industry is represented by professional bodies such as the Institute of Travel & Tourism,, ABTA and Springboard. There are also now some excellent professional qualifications emerging, such as the new part-time postgraduate MA in Business Management in International Travel & Tourism at Regent’s Business School, London – see

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