Industry Profile: Leisure & Tourism


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An overview of the travel and leisure industry

The travel and leisure industry covers a wide spectrum but the easiest way to summarise the sector is that it focuses on: recreation; entertainmentsports, and tourism-related products and services.

So, for example, the sector includes your local swimming pool, gym, cinema and sporting activities, as well as your summer holiday, weekend break, “staycation” (whether by road, plane, sea or rail) – the possibilities are endless!

With the introduction of online booking the travel industry has sky rocketed and no longer just encapsulates the standard two-week beach break. The world really is your oyster!

Since 2010 tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. Britain is forecast to have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025 (these figures are from VisitBritian in November 2013. It is worth noting that there has been a reported increase in tourist spending in the UK post-Brexit, as this article explains).

In the period 2010-2013, the tourism industry provided a third of all new jobs created in the UK.

The leisure side is also nothing to be sniffed at, with the industry representing 9% of UK employment and providing over one-in-five of jobs for 16-25 year olds. Predictions also suggest there is the potential to create up to 440,000 new jobs by 2020. Again, it’s worth watching predictions like these as they may change dramatically over the coming years.


What type of organisation can normally be found in travel and leisure industry?

There are many household names within the travel and leisure industry, including:

  • Thomas Cook Plc
  • Thomson
  • Virgin Holidays
  • BA
  • Avis
  • Hilton Hotel Group
  • Merlin Entertainments
  • Vivacity, which is local to Peterborough
  • Expedia UK

Although the above are all ‘big names’, the majority of employers in this sector are in fact small and medium-sized businesses (also known as SMEs).

Employment opportunities are also available in local authorities, national governing bodies of sport, sports associations, travel and tourism.

More broadly speaking the types of organisation you can find in each sector are:


  • Leisure and entertainment, including businesses such as cinemas and theme parks
  • Cultural and heritage sites that are often popular visitor attractions
  • Betting and gambling, such as casinos and horse racing
  • Sport organisations, such as sports charities and governing bodies
  • Sport and leisure facilities such as gyms, spas and sports clubs
  • Coaching and performance analysis
  • Sports development, sports event management and disability sport
  • Outdoor activities and education


  • Travel agencies
  • Tour operators
  • Adventure tourism
  • Passenger services including air, sea (including cruise liners), rail and road

What sorts of career opportunities are there in leisure and tourism?

Both industries are great for career progression; there are many graduate schemes with the majority of the ‘big’ UK companies and with the continued growth within the UK market it is very much a “promote from within” atmosphere.

Along with the ever-expanding smaller companies, many people are also growing their own businesses within leisure and tourism.

The key areas of employment for these types of businesses do vary depending on the size of the company and the areas it covers. However, to give a broad outline the main areas of employment would be:

  • sales including call centre, face-to-face, corporate and business;
  • administration and after sales;
  • customer service;
  • IT and databasing;
  • product sales and marketing;
  • general marketing;
  • accounts and finance;
  • duty office;
  • overseas team;
  • airline agent;
  • management (of all levels);
  • HR;
  • directors;
  • legal,
  • and public relations and press office.


What skills are highly sought after in the travel and leisure industry?

This industry is extremely fast-paced, especially when consumer-facing. Technology is also impacting the leisure and tourism industry and the way it works, making the following skills particularly sought after:

  • fast accurate computer skills;
  • the ability to stay apace with changes and trends;
  • forward thinking;
  • great initiative;
  • problem solving skills and ideas generation;
  • customer service skills;
  • great mathematical skills to assess footfall etc.,
  • and methodical thought processes.


What industries are similar or demand similar skill sets?

Insurance and financial industries have close similarities in many respects. Within the industries similar roles often require a very similar skill set.

All three industries are tightly regulated.


Any advice for those applying to a job in the travel and leisure industry?

Make sure you do your research into not only the company, but the industry too. It’s really key to show a passion for the area you want to work in.

It is also key to remember that, when starting out within the industry, salary can be relatively low – particularly in travel and tourism. However, salaries in sport and leisure can vary depending on the size and location of companies and whether they are local authority-owned or privately-owned. There can be big differences between a small health club and a big leisure centre.

When it comes to working hours, the majority of the customer facing/speaking roles are not your typical 9am-5pm working hours. Employees will be hired on seasonal contracts for peak times and asked to work shift patterns, which can go in to unsociable times.