The tour industry itself is both old and new. The well-to-do have always been able to travel to see and experience interesting buildings, works of art, cultures, languages, cuisines, and there have always been guides there when they arrived to show them the sights. Then, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the new middle class – factory owners, merchants, traders, attorneys, those who contributed to the new economy at a level different and above those who actually created the products – had both money and leisure time for travel. And the tourism industry was created.
It was not until the late 1940s, after World War II, that tourism, on the large scale seen today, began to grow. Mass tourism required the development of a transportation infrastructure, trains, ships, highways, and most recently, airplanes, capable of moving large numbers of people to places far away. With that support in place, travel has experienced year-over-year growth, providing expanded career opportunities in its related industries, contributing an estimated 5% to the worldwide gross domestic product (UN World Trade Organization).
Travel has created opportunities for employment in a variety of service-oriented industries with ties to tourism:
Knitting all these service providers together are tour operators, who act as go-betweens for travelers and vendors alike. The tour operator industry itself has been heavily impacted by the internet, which increases the ease with which travelers can sign up for tours, and also the ease with which travelers can create their own custom tours by contacting vendors directly. That poses a challenge to the tour industry, resulting in even higher standards of excellence. The drive for excellent experiences constantly raises the bar for those who work in the field, including tour guides and tour directors.
Adding to this the huge growth is the cruise industry, with around a dozen new cruise ships coming on line per year, and accompanying demands for workers to make dream vacations come true.