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How Travel Industry Jobs are Growing in the United States

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airportAmericans have gotten used to more bad news than good when it comes to job growth. We constantly hear that local jobs are being outsourced abroad, that computers are reducing the need for certain positions, or that the economy just isn’t improving at an encouraging rate.

But that may not be true in some job categories—as in, the travel industry. According to the US Travel Association, the travel sector has added a total of 800,000 jobs since the Great Recession (even more than manufacturing).

What exactly are these jobs? The World Travel and Tourism Council says that travel industry jobs include—get ready for a long list—all hotel workers, travel agents, airline workers, other passenger transportation service workers (excluding commuter services), workers of restaurant and leisure activities directed toward visitors, as well as those who indirectly support the travel industry including those involved with investment spending (i.e .purchasing new aircrafts and constructing new hotels), tourism marketing and promotion, aviation, administration, security services, resort area security, resort area sanitation, food and cleaning services employed by hotels, fuel and catering services purchased from airlines, and IT services used by travel agents.

The numbers are indeed impressive. The U.S. travel industry now employs over eight million workers and has grown at a rate 40 percent faster than the economy itself. Even more impressive, the number crunchers tell us that as of 2013, the travel industry has recovered 138 percent of jobs lost during the recession.

How? For starters, the travel industry has been the fortunate recipient of a dramatic increase in inbound international travel: 9.1 percent in 2013 to be exact.

One entity that has directly contributed to this growth is Brand USA. Oxford Economics found that Brand USA and its Discover America marketing campaign, which focuses on spreading the news about American ideals and hidden gems, raised inbound international travel by 2.3 percent, or by an extra 1.1 million vacations to the U.S.

The best part of Brand USA? It’s surprisingly not funded by your tax dollars. Half of its operating costs come from private funding, and the other half from the $10 processing fee international tourists pay once every two years to travel visa-free or with a visa waiver, which makes it much easier to visit the U.S.

Then there’s the indirect boost of new developments in the Visa Waiver and Visa Free programs. A piece of legislation called the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act, or JOLT, will expand the current Visa Waiver and Visa Free programs to more countries, incentivizing travel to the U.S.

The Visa Waiver Program allows eligible travelers to visit the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days without obtaining a visa. The Visa Free program lets eligible citizens travel to the U.S. visa free, regardless of the purpose of the visit and without as rigid of a time limit.

Currently, Australians, many Europeans, Chileans, Japanese, and a few others are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, while Canada and Bermuda are the only countries given the opportunity to travel Visa Free.

The JOLT Act would add Brazil, Croatia, Israel, and Poland among others to the Visa Waiver list, and if recent history is any indication, the impact could be huge. For example, when South Korea joined the Visa Waiver list, inbound travel to the U.S. increased 46 percent, while only increasing 4 percent throughout the rest of the world.

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By Brittany Malooly for