Slight Increase In Travel Could Mean Uptick In Jobs

While prices at the gas pump are still higher than most drivers would like, more American workers are expected to use their vacation days this summer, thanks to the steadily improving economy, increased job security and reasonable airfares.  Increased summer travel, beginning with the Memorial Day holiday, is likely to boost hiring across several travel-related sectors, including leisure and hospitality, food service, retail, and entertainment, according to the employment experts at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“For young job seekers on break from high school or college, travel and leisure-related industries offer a wealth of employment opportunities.  While many employers have already hired the bulk of their seasonal workers by this point, it is still not too late to find openings, particularly for those who live near or are willing to temporarily relocate to popular travel destinations,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that employment and job openings in travel-related industries are already on the rise.  Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry has seen a net increase of 729,000 workers since February 1.  In April alone, food services and drinking establishments added nearly 202,000 new workers.

The relatively small scenic and sightseeing transportation industry, which employs an average of 27,000 to 28,000 workers each year, sees the bulk of its job gains in May and June.  Last year, these employers added 8,500 workers, which was down from a 2011 seasonal hiring gain of 12,200.

“Hopefully, more summer travelers this year will mean more opportunities among these tour operators.  Even if hiring does not pick up in this area, those seeking summer jobs should find ample openings.  If you consider a popular destination, like Orlando, there are not only the major theme parks, but there are water parks, beach-side hotels, t-shirt and souvenir shops, restaurants and bars, etc.  All over the country there are similar destinations with similar needs; just on a much smaller scale, such as Branson, Missouri or the Wisconsin Dells.

“One thing these places all have in common is that they typically experience high turnover.  So, if you have not found anything by mid-June, do not give up.  In fact, do not hesitate to return to employers where you already applied and were not hired.  Chances are good that one or more of the individuals they hired did not work out,” said Challenger.  “An increase in summer travel this year will mean that demand for workers will continue throughout the summer months.  So, if an employer loses a worker to two, they will need to replace them.”

Several recent reports indeed point toward increased travel this summer.  The trade group Airlines for America forecast that the number of passengers traveling on U.S.-based airlines will increase by one percent this summer.  That may not seem very impressive on the surface, but it means an extra 2.0 million passengers traveling by air between June and August, which will bring the total number of summer travelers to nearly 209 million.

While airline travel is expected to rise over the summer, it may get off to a slow start.  A just-release report from AAA, indicates that the number of Americans planning to travel at least 50 miles during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is down ever-so-slightly from a year ago.  According to its forecast, Memorial Day travelers are expected to number 34.8 million, compared to 35.1 million a year ago.  Eighty-nine percent of these vacationing Americans will travel by car, while the number of those flying is expected to decline by eight percent.

However, the slow start to the summer travel season does not necessarily foreshadow a drop in overall travel.  A recent survey by Destination Hotels & Resort, a leading hospitality management company, found that 76 percent of summer travelers expect to take as many short trips as possible, compared to only 22 percent planning to take a more traditional, week-or-longer summer vacation.

“With Americans planning shorter but more frequent summer trips, popular destinations may experience a steadier stream of business this summer compared to ebbs and flows that revolve around major holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day.  This will boost the economies in these areas by maintaining a more consistent level of demand throughout the peak travel season,” said Challenger.

“The strategy of taking more short trips is not only driven by a desire to do and see more of what the country has to offer, but it is influenced heavily by workplace considerations.  The economy and job market are indeed improving and many workers are feeling more secure in their jobs.  While more workers are increasingly comfortable taking vacation time without fear of negative career consequences, many are still inclined to limit the time away from the office,” Challenger noted.

As for vacationing workers, Challenger said that while job security is improving, it is still recommended that they keep the lines of communication open with their employers.

“You don’t have to spend a part of every vacation day working, but you want to take your cell phone and laptop and make an effort to occasionally check in with the office.  If you are a team manager, stay in touch with your team members.  Make sure supervisors know your e-mail and cell phone number just in case you are needed,” said Challenger.

“As employers continue the shift toward retention mode, many will be eager to let workers enjoy vacations without interruptions from work, but make no mistake, your efforts to remain connected, even if unnecessary, will be appreciated and remembered.

“Technology has become so portable and so affordable that there really is no excuse anymore for not staying in touch.  Smartphones and tablet computers make it easy to stay connected anywhere with internet access,” he concluded.

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