Christmas and Hanukkah are fast approaching. Alaskans are looking to get out and enjoy a winter adventure, but they might also be concerned about holiday spending.

If you're in the market for a side hustle or maybe a career shift, this Travel Tuesday is for you. Jack Bonney with Visit Anchorage stopped by Daybreak to discuss the benefits of working in the travel industry.

According to Visit Anchorage, one in nine Anchorage jobs is travel-related, and Bonney says some of the jobs available may surprise you.

"That's everything from things that you would typically think of like food and beverage and hotels, tour guides and drivers, but it’s also not all front line stuff," Bonney explained. "I mean, some of these businesses are large enough that they’re going to need IT people. They’re going to need electricians, they’re going to need accountants. So there’s a lot of variety in tourism as well.”

Coming off a record tourism year in 2019, Bonney says early indicators show that 2020 could bring moderate growth in the sector as well. He points to state projections showing tourism as one of the top sectors for adding jobs in the state.

“At the end of the day it’s a hospitality job," Bonney said when asked what he enjoys about the industry. "You’re meeting with people on one of the best days of their lives because they’re on a trip, they’re on vacation, they’re having a good time. So for me, it’s always about being able to interact with people.”

He says that establishing connections with people, while learning to be a team player, makes the industry attractive for people just getting ready to enter the workforce. He added that crunching numbers, budgeting and marketing skills learned in travel can be applied to different jobs later in life.

“Nationally, almost half of these jobs are middle-income and there’s some really interesting data aroung people who start in tourism and go onto other things," Bonney said. "Two in five Americans who have their first job in tourism go on to earn at least $100,000 a year. And that’s nothing to sneeze at given that a quarter of Americans report that their first job was in tourism.”

According to Visit Anchorage, a majority of people with jobs in the travel sector are local. Bonney says while that's true, many who come to Alaska for work end up staying.

“About two-thirds of the jobs in leisure and hospitality in Alaska are held by locals," he said. 

Bonney says another fascinating fact: some people who come to Alaska for jobs in tourism stay in the state.

"About 10% of them decide to become residents during their work here," Bonney said. "So it’s actually one of the industries that has the best track record for turning outsiders into Alaskans over time.”

If you are interested in working a job in the tourism industry, Bonney suggests starting early. If you're in high school, consider looking into career programs at King Tech High School in Anchorage. The University of Alaska Anchorage also has a hospitality administration program.

If you're currently in the workforce, Bonney says many positions will become available in the coming months, so keep an eye out for jobs posted online.

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