The U.S. Travel Association’s (USTA) recent report, "Made in America: Travel’s Contribution to Workforce Development," gives us a lot of hope for the industry, which ranks No. 1 for hiring.

The report shares interesting aspects of the industry, like how it is poised to fill the skills gap. The industry is one of the leaders in providing resources and opportunities to diverse demographics, ranging from high school and college students to minorities who lack formal education.

Wages are higher than many other industries and offer financial security in these uncertain times.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel leads all industries in open positions employing approximately 1 in 10 people in the global economy with Canada leading the way. In the U.S., it employs 38% of the workforce while manufacturing and healthcare employ 17% and 6%, respectively. Travel and tourism also employ a higher share of youth workers than the overall economy, per the ten countries studied.

Despite the rosy picture the USTA report painted, many travel businesses are finding it hard to fill open positions, let alone get qualified candidates.

A Deloitte report, drawing from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, states that there are 1.1 million openings across the hospitality and travel sectors. The American Hotel & Lodging Association and the USTA have made talent attraction a priority in 2019 and for the foreseeable future.

What is causing the dearth of talent? For an industry that has successfully come out of the recession better off and is poised for growth, this is a problem.

It seems that demographic changes, globalization, and the emergence of the gig economy have all contributed to the saturation. The new generation is increasingly seeking attractive careers in emerging fields, which has made attracting talent even harder.

In such a scenario, Cookson Adventures’ refreshing and eclectic approach to hiring and training people may be the answer. It’s a crowded marketplace, and companies must take calculated risks to overcome the recruitment challenge.

Cookson Adventures has adopted an unconventional approach to hiring people. The luxury experiential adventure travel company maker it a point not to hire anyone with a travel background. Instead of typical travel industry insiders, it prefers to hire workers like former military officers; ex-documentary makers; and professionals from fashion, healthcare, and other backgrounds.

Travel Edge is another company that is following the same route. Its recent addition to the leadership team is an experienced executive from the luxury retail sector. The company said that distinctive executive hires from outside the travel industry have led to unprecedented success and growth.

Like many other sectors, travel is witnessing a stagnation when it comes to imagination and new ideas. An eclectic mix of backgrounds is an excellent way to offer a differentiated customer offering.

Experimentation has served these companies well, and they have managed to stay away from cookie-cutter ideas that are rife within the industry. By prizing transferable skills above industry experience, they have experienced the transformational power of difference. Others can follow their example.