Routes into travel
There are several ways to join the travel industry, from studying at college or university to earning while you learn as an apprentice
There’s no one way to get into the travel industry – there are many routes you can take to kickstart your career, starting with your education and training path.
College courses can provide an excellent pathway between school and the workplace.
Level 3 travel and tourism courses give students a good grounding in the industry. Theoretical classes are paired with practical work through industry links and internships.
However, the government is planning to scrap funding for Level 3 courses in England including travel and tourism BTecs, cutting off a pipeline into the industry. As a result, the Tourism Education and Skills Working Group has been set up, with education and industry partners coming together in the hope of creating a replacement qualification, so those who are most suited to this type of course will still be able to use this route into travel.
An alternative for those wishing to pursue higher education is a university degree.
International tourism management, tourism planning and management, sustainable tourism management and international tourism and hospitality management are some of the degree courses available at institutions across the country. But those who join these programmes don’t necessarily need prior experience in travel.
“We do have a number of mature students joining us from other careers to study international travel & tourism management as well as via the more traditional route from college and school,” says Jacqui Jones, programme manager of the tourism and events portfolio at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
“We provide our students with exciting placement opportunities in the UK and internationally, which helps them develop the employability skills to secure management careers in a variety of areas with resorts, cruise ships, tour operators, travel agencies, airlines, attractions and hotels.”
Following the academic route isn’t for everyone, however, and those who would like to continue training outside the walls of an academic institution full-time can consider apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are a viable, respected and efficient way of earning while you learn, gaining crucial workplace experience as you develop skills along the way.
Ranging from Level 2 (intermediate) to Level 7 (master’s degree equivalent), apprenticeships span a huge variety of topics too – including those that you might not think of as traditional jobs in travel.
“Apprenticeships are a really good way of getting into the industry,” says Sue Ledgard, corporate account manager, business consulting at Grant Thornton. “They also cover areas like HR, data, finance and a whole range of back-office roles too. There are just so many different avenues.”
Apprenticeships are not only for young students; they can also now be taken up by people throughout their career. So even if you decide this isn’t the path for you now, you could opt for an apprenticeship in the future as a way to further your development.
On the following pages, you can hear stories from those who have come into the travel industry via a variety of paths. You’ll also pick up some career advice and learn how you can make your applications stand out when you’re ready to take the first steps.
There are many different paths that lead to a job in the travel industry. hear from four people who have begun their journeys
graduated from university with a business and tourism degree, and has been accepted on to easyJet’s graduate scheme
“My interest in travel and tourism began when I was in my hometown in Afghanistan. Women can’t go out unless they are covered from head to toe, so many stay trapped in the house. I became fascinated and curious about other countries, cultures and religions.
“I recently graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a first-class degree in business and tourism. I worked as a student rep for Abta, which came with an opportunity to attend a three-day placement at easyJet.
“Although it has been a challenging path with knockbacks from job applications, it has built my resilience and kept me focused. My position as a receptionist at easyJet allowed me to network and build relationships while I navigated my next step. My hard work and dedication finally paid off when I was offered an opportunity to be a part of the business graduate scheme.”
“Take advantage of the possibilities you are given, whether they are at work, school, college or university. Don’t be afraid to take risks as they may result in unanticipated progress or even change the direction of your career.”
completed a college qualification and is now a personal travel advisor at Blue Bay Travel
“I wanted to work in travel for as long as I can remember. My route into the industry began with a Level 3 Travel & Tourism qualification. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew travel was for me.
“I secured a work experience placement at Blue Bay Travel that gave me an insight into the different departments. I instantly fell in love with the sales team atmosphere and was accepted on Blue Bay’s New to Travel training programme after I finished college.
“Now I’m a fully-fledged team member and I love every bit of it. Even in my short travel career, I’ve had so many experiences exploring the world.”
“Do as much research as possible. Gain work experience in different areas to get a better understanding of the sector.”
graduated from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in July 2023 and is about to embark on a year’s graduate internship in Vail, Colorado
“I’m a mature student and started studying in Swansea at the age of 35. I dreamt of a career abroad, but left school lacking the confidence or educational background to thrive at college and university. At 16, I trained as a hairstylist, eventually running my own mobile business.
“Through the university’s industry links, I secured placements, working on excursions on a cruise ship, and with the Travel Corporation, giving me invaluable experience.
“This gave me the confidence to put the skills I learnt at university in to action and in my final year we planned and managed the ITT Future You Conference and Careers Fair in Swansea. I even spoke on stage in front of more than 600 delegates. I was also an Abta Student Representative.
“A funded trip to Aspen, Colorado, became a life‑changing experience, leading to a year’s graduate internship with the reservations team at The Sonnenalp Resort in Vail, Colorado.”
“I would recommend studying International Travel and Tourism Management to anyone, no matter their age. Thanks to the university, I now have the confidence and skills to achieve my dream career in international travel.”
is currently doing a Level 3 data technician apprenticeship at Jet2.com
“I chose to do a Level 3 apprenticeship with Jet2.com having studied A-level physics and maths. Being able to apply data to support business improvement sounded like the ideal career for me.
“I’ve always had a huge passion for aviation having been in the RAF Air Cadets from a young age, so this job is a childhood dream come true.
“No two days are the same. There are so many different factors that go into supporting the running of an airline and it’s something that I could have never imagined before starting at Jet2. It also comes with tangible benefits – discounts on holidays is a huge one, but also getting to learn more about my passion every day. I’ve even been lucky enough to win an award.”
“Jump straight in and take every opportunity. I’ve attended business conferences abroad, visited our training centre and experienced a jump-seat to understand how the flight systems I support are used in practice. It’s an amazing career and I couldn’t encourage anyone enough to go for it. It’s by far the best industry to work in!”Credit: Ricky Darko Photography