It may be possible to become a tour guide or travel agent without formal training, but a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in marketing will increase career options. While pursuing studies for a degree in marketing, it is possible to take courses specifically related to travel and tourism. Professionals who work in this field include travel agents, tour guides and tourism marketing managers.
Colleges and universities offer degree programs in marketing or business with concentrations or tracks in travel, hospitality or tourism operations. Whether students choose certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree programs, they will likely take courses in tourism operations, hospitality management, travel industry marketing, customer service, hospitality law, consumer behavior and economics. Professionals in the travel industry may choose to take continuing education courses and to learn about developments in tourism management. After completing a degree program in marketing for travel and tourism operations, graduates may work as travel agents, tour guides or tourism marketing managers.
|Career||Travel Agents||Tour Guides||Tourism Marketing Managers|
|Education Requirements*||High School diploma or GED||May vary by city||Bachelor's Degree|
|Other Requirements*||None||Certificate (in some cities)||Prior marketing experience|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)*||-26%||data not available||7% for all marketing managers|
|Median Annual Salary||$42,350 (2020)*||$32,115 (2021)**||$142,170 (2020)*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Careers in Marketing for Travel and Tourism Operations
Travel agents provide clients with information, advice and booking assistance for domestic and international travel destinations. They use computer systems to schedule transportation, investigate documentation, reserve hotel rooms, arrange recreational activities and provide information to travelers before departure. A travel agent with a degree in marketing may find employment with a tour company, cruise line or resort.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), travel agent positions were expected to decrease by 26% between 2019 and 2029; however, those who utilize marketing knowledge to appeal to a specific type of traveler, vacation style or destination may create comfortable niches for themselves (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported a median annual salary of $42,350 for travel agents in May 2020.
Tour guides lead groups of travelers and tourists through cities, historic sites, museums, galleries, public buildings and other places of cultural significance or interest. Using knowledge and research, tour guides answer questions and educate tourists on interesting or important aspects of the tour location. They may also recommend and provide information about other area attractions, lodging, travel arrangements and shopping.
Although formal education requirements for tour and travel guides vary, cities may require tour guides to obtain a license or certificate by demonstrating their knowledge and passing an exam. Some community colleges offer certificate programs in tourism operations, which instruct prospective tour guides in local and regional culture, history and geography, as well as provide training in tour guiding, customer service and communication. According to the BLS, tour guides and escorts earned a median annual salary of $32,115 in 2021. Job outlook data for these workers was not available.
Tourism Marketing Managers
Marketing managers create and implement overall marketing plans and strategies, with the goal of boosting sales and standing out from the competition. Some marketing managers may specialize in a specific industry or product category, which requires knowledge and skills relevant to that field. Marketing managers are able to utilize innovative advertising media and marketing techniques, identify trends and conduct market research to better understand the demands and needs of finicky consumers.
The BLS notes that aspiring marketing managers generally need to have prior sales, marketing or industry-related experience, in addition to an undergraduate degree. For example, sales representatives or advertising specialists who are familiar with industry trends and have a proven track record may be promoted to become tourism marketing managers. May 2020 BLS data shows that marketing managers earned a median salary of $142,170 at that time. The BLS noted that employment of marketing managers was expected to increase faster than average, by 7% between 2019 and 2029.
Travel agents make bookings and arrangements for people who are planning a trip, and tour guides may lead tourists on informative tours through museums, historic sites or places of interest. Tourism marketing managers are responsible for developing marketing plans that will increase tourism in the industry or location they're working for. Tourism marketing managers must have a bachelor's degree in marketing, and currently are experiencing a strong rate of job growth, while travel agents are seeing a sharp decline in job opportunities.