The travel industry is one of the largest service industries in the world, an increasingly important one in the modern age. It is centred on the movement of people from one location to another, as well as the services they require along the way, and is closely linked to the hospitality industry and the hotel industry, among others. In this article, you will learn more about what the travel industry is, and the various sectors contained within it.

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What is the Travel Industry?

In simple terms, the travel industry is concerned with providing services related to travel from one location to another. This includes services that are directly related to the travel itself, such as transportation, but also includes services related to catering for travellers’ needs and wants after they have arrived at their destination.

It is often associated with the tourism industry and, as you will learn later in this article, there is significant cross-over between the two, especially in terms of the businesses that fall under their respective umbrellas.

The Difference Between the Travel Industry and the Tourism Industry

While the travel industry and the tourism industry are inter-linked, it is important to understand that there are some notable differences between the two. Essentially, the tourism industry relates to the industry centred on tourism, which is the specific act of travelling to a different location, either for business or pleasure.

By contrast, the travel industry is simply related to a person’s travel from one place to another, and the various services they use in that process. In some ways, this means that the travel industry is slightly more broad than the tourism industry, because it covers a wider number of travel purposes and includes trips to non-tourist destinations.

What Sectors and Company Types Operate Within the Travel Industry?

1) Transportation

For many people, when they think of the travel industry, they immediately think about transportation and the companies that offer transport services. In reality, this is only one sector of the travel industry, but it is perhaps the single most important, as it centres around actually facilitating travel from one location to another. Included within this are road, rail, air and water transportation services, as outlined below:

Airline Industry

The airline industry provides various forms of air travel, including commercial and chartered flights. These flights can be overseas or domestic, and can cater for relatively short distances, right through to trips to the other side of the world. Different airlines tend to serve specific regions and airports.

Car Rental

Car rental plays a key role in the travel industry, dealing with the provision of temporary access to cars and other similar vehicles. For travellers, the main benefit of this is the freedom that is provided via access to a car, as it means the process of getting around is not reliant on scheduled public transport services.

Water Transport

Water transport refers to any transport that moves people across water, including rivers, lakes, canals and oceans. Examples of some of the forms of transport that are included within this category are ocean liners and ferries. Cruises are also included in this, as cruises have a set path and travel is a fundamental part of the experience.

Coach Services

In many cases, travellers opt to use coach services to travel to their chosen location and this is often more cost-effective than the main alternatives. Coaches also facilitate day trips, while local bus services provide a means for getting around once travellers have arrived at their destination.


Railways are one of the main ways that people travel domestically, while many rail services also facilitate long-distance international travel too. Moreover, underground or subway-style train services tend to provide a convenient way for travellers to get around large cities once they have arrived.


Finally, one of the emerging sub-sections of the transport category of the travel industry relates to spacecraft and commercial space flight. Virgin Galactic is the most well-known example here, with the company aiming to provide space tourism services in the near future, allowing customers to travel to outer space.

2) Accommodation

Another vital sector within the travel industry is the accommodation sector. After all, most long-distance travellers will require somewhere to stay overnight. With that being said, people’s accommodation requirements can vary quite significantly, depending on the length of their stay, the purpose of their journey, the budget they are operating on, the experience they wish to gain, and their own personal preferences.


The hotel industry and the travel industry are closely linked, with hotels being the most popular form of accommodation for those travelling to a different location and staying overnight. Hotels are establishments that provide access to beds within private rooms. These rooms usually have en suite bathrooms and additional facilities.

Shared Accommodation

Shared accommodation has emerged as an increasingly popular option for travellers, thanks to the success of services like Airbnb. Through these platforms, guests can find homestay offerings. This may mean having access to a private room in an occupied house, or may mean having access to a room that is shared with other guests.


A form of sociable accommodation, hostels provide dorm rooms with multiple beds, and guests effectively pay for a bed, rather than a private room. There are a wide range of hostel types, with either mixed or same-sex dormitories, and guests will typically share kitchen, bathroom and living spaces.


Considered a form of outdoor accommodation, camping involves staying overnight in basic shelter, such as a tent. Travellers may opt to spend their time in a commercial camp site, which will usually provide additional amenities, or they may instead camp in publicly accessible conservation areas, such as national parks.

Bed and Breakfast

A bed and breakfast is similar to a hotel, in the sense that guests are provided with a private room for overnight stays. However, B&Bs tend to be converted family homes, often with the owners still living there. As the name suggests, breakfast is provided, while a B&B will usually have a fairly small number of rooms.


Aside from being classed as a form of transportation, cruises are also a type of accommodation in of themselves. After all, guests on cruises will spend the majority of their time on the cruise ship and will usually be allocated a cabin aboard the ship, where they can relax and sleep.

Farmhouse Accommodation and Agri-Tourism

Agri-tourism is a niche industry, which is becoming increasingly popular, with people wishing to get away from their usual environment, spend time on a farm, see the day-to-day activities and perhaps even take part themselves. Farmhouse accommodation facilitates this and often resembles a bed and breakfast set up.

Time-Share Accommodation

Time-share accommodation refers to a property, such as a condo or a holiday home, which is shared between multiple different owners. Ownership rights are split evenly and usage rights are allocated to each of the owners for a specific period of time, meaning every owner gets their own time period in which to use the property.

3) Food and Beverage

The food and beverage sector primarily caters for the basic needs of travellers, through the provision of food and drinks services. However, it is essential to understand that businesses and services in this category go beyond this primary purpose. Indeed, a huge part of the food and beverage sector is also based on providing travellers with places to go to relax, enjoy themselves and/or socialise with other people.


For most people, restaurants are the most immediately obvious category within the food and beverages sector. Restaurants exist to allow people to enjoy meals that are prepared for them. There are a wide range of restaurant types, from fast food chains, through to luxury or family restaurants, all catering for different needs and tastes.


Catering tends to refer to the provision of food and drinks in locations that are more remote or self-contained, with examples of this including entertainment venues, tourist attractions and parks. In addition, catering services are provided on many forms of transport, including aeroplanes, trains and ferries.


A nightclub is an entertainment venue, which operates until late at night and places an emphasis on both music and alcohol consumption. Common features include a bar, a stage for live performances, and a dance floor. Nightclubs may put on a variety of different themed club nights, or may cater for specific music genres.

Bars & Cafés

For travellers, bars and cafés provide a means to enjoy food and drink on a more casual basis than with restaurants and nightclubs. Cafés tend to focus on hot drinks and light snacks, while bars will generally focus on alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. These premises also offer a way for travellers to meet new people.

4) Entertainment

The entertainment sector plays an interesting and complex role in the travel industry. After all, entertainment sites can sometimes be the single biggest factor attracting travellers to a particular part of the world. On the other hand, businesses in this category can also play a smaller, more supplementary role, helping to keep travellers entertained during their trip, even if entertainment was not the intended purpose of their trip.


Casinos are establishments which provide gambling activities, with examples including card games, dice games and a variety of other luck or skill-based games. In many cases, casinos also offer additional entertainment and they are sometimes connected to hotels or resorts, especially in locations like Las Vegas and Monte Carlo.

Tourist Information

Tourist information services provide travellers with information about tourist sites and activities they can engage in. There are both offline and online services, with examples of offline tourist information including tourist information offices and tourism literature, while online sources consist of informational websites.


Shopping is another crucial part of the travel industry, catering to both basic needs and travellers’ desires for luxury items or consumer products. Within this category are supermarkets, shopping centres and local markets, while duty free goods are sold at airports and in certain other locations.

Tourist Guides & Tours

Through the provision of organised tours, tourist guides are able to assist travellers with sightseeing and other tour-related activities. Aside from handling the logistical aspect of actually planning routes, tourist guides are also able to educate travellers by providing them with important information, insights and facts.

5) Connected Industries

Finally, there are a range of industries or sub-sectors which are broadly linked to the travel industry. These related industries may offer products or services to travellers before they actually depart on their travels, or may operate to try to promote or improve the travel industry itself. They include both online and offline services, with some of the most significant related industries outlined in more detail below:

Financial Services

There are a number of financial service providers that fall within the travel industry umbrella. Perhaps the most obvious examples that would come under this definition are travel insurance, trip protection insurance, and travel medical plans, along with services related to currency conversion.

Travel Agents

Put simply, travel agents are retailers that provide travel and tourism products, and serve as intermediaries for travellers and suppliers. They may, for example, offer flights, hotel stays, airport transfers, travel insurance and tourism activities, often as a package. Travel agents usually receive a commission and may also offer advice.

Tour Operators

A tour operator will typically provide travellers with package holiday products, which combine travel and tour components. This might mean providing: travel to a destination, overnight accommodation, hotel transfers and the services of a tour rep. It may also include a pre-planned itinerary, or a variety of organised activities.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Online travel agencies, or OTAs, provide similar services to traditional travel agents, albeit through a website or web app. One of the key differences between OTAs and classic travel agents, however, is the emphasis that OTAs place on self service, with the website or app connecting users with the travel products they are looking for.

Tourism Organisations

Tourism organisations are organisations that are actively involved in promoting the tourism industry and its interests. It includes organisations that either regulate or influence national and local tourism policies, with examples including tourist boards, tourism-related charities, and tourism inspection agencies.


Last but not least, the educational sub-section is one of the fastest-growing components of the travel industry. An increasing number of people travel to business conferences, exhibitions, training sessions or academic institutions, and businesses in this sub-section provide these services and cater to travellers’ needs along the way.

Travel Trends: Opportunities for the Travel Industry

Change and evolution is more fast-paced than ever, with shifting demographics, fast changing consumer behaviour and developing technology creating brand new travel trends. Businesses operating in the travel industry who identify key travel trends and take advantage of them will be uniquely positioned to thrive in this dynamic environment. We piled up the latest travel trends for you in the article “Travel Trends: Opportunities for the Travel Industry”.

The Latest Technology Trends Used in the Travel Industry

For businesses in the travel industry, as well as their customers, technology plays a vital role. It has the capacity to increase the efficiency of business operations and also improve the customer experience. It is critical that companies operating within the travel industry keep up-to-date with the emerging travel technology trends so they do not fall behind competitors. More information and examples about innovative technology trends are described in the article “Key Technology Trends Emerging in the Travel Industry”.

The Latest Travel Marketing Tips

Travel marketing is one of the most important ways for those in the travel industry to stand out from rivals, engage customers, generate brand awareness and offer incentives to customers. In the article “Travel Marketing: The Latest Marketing Tips to Boost Your Results!” you will find examples of some of the most up to date travel marketing strategies that companies operating within the travel industry should be aware of. By deploying these strategies effectively, you should be able to boost your overall business results.

Revenue Management and Its Importance For the Travel Industry

In the travel industry, revenue management is used to analyse consumer behaviour in order to optimise product availability and increase profits. The main objective of revenue management strategy is to sell the right product or service to the right clients for the right price. This can only be done through understanding the customers’ perception of your service or product before being able to accurately adjust the prices. Business owners and managers within the travel industry should read the article, ‘Revenue Management; clearly explained!’ to gain a better understanding of this topic.

What You Need to Know About Tourism Management

A degree in travel or tourism management is the perfect gateway to a world of limitless career options. Just think of all the valuable skills you can gain in the process. If you have a passion for travelling, good organisational skills, and you love working with people, then this is the job for you.
To work as a successful tourist manager, you must first learn about the relevant qualifications and the types of jobs offered in this industry as explained in this article, ‘Tourism Management: All You Need to Know About Tourism’.

Ultimately, the travel industry is focused on providing customers with the various services they need when travelling from one part of the world to another. It is similar to the tourism industry, but has a slightly broader definition, as it includes services related to travel that occurs for purposes other than tourism.

Want to Learn More About Related Industries?

The hospitality industry is part of the travel industry and the hotel industry is part of the hospitality industry. All of these industries have in common that they are large service industries in the world and increasingly important in the modern age. But what is the difference between the hotel Industry and the hospitality Industry? And what are all hospitality sectors within the hospitality industry? In the following articles you learn more about related industries.

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