Hotels, booking and review sites, and a lone airline made the list of top travel-sector employers in the 2014 Glassdoor Travel Industry Report Card. The career site compiled its list based on verified employee reviews submitted over the past 12 months, along with employee ratings of their companies' CEOs and their opinions on whether business will improve, decline, or hold steady for the next six months.
Top travel-workplace cultures
Orbitz Worldwide (UNKNOWN:OWW.DL) tops this year's list. The travel-planning and booking site earned high ratings from its employees for CEO performance and a supportive, perk-heavy work environment -- including, unsurprisingly, "a very liberal vacation policy."
Next on the list is Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), the only airline to place among the top 10. Along with Orbitz, Southwest also recently earned a spot on Glassdoor's 2014 Best Places to Work, a list that includes companies from all sectors. One employee praised the "freedom to grow and develop as an individual." And Southwest has a reputation for encouraging its employees to be creative.
The hottest hotel brands for workers
Four hotel brands made this year's top 10. Privately held Omni Hotels rated fourth and had the most positive business outlook ratings of the group -- 88% of employees said they expect business to get better in the coming half-year.
The other hotels on the list are Marriott International's (NASDAQ:MAR) Ritz-Carlton chain, and Canadian chains Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Four Seasons Hotels. Four Seasons has a long reputation for employee satisfaction, with a low turnover rate and 17 years on Fortune's list of Best Companies to Work For.
Vacation-rental company HomeAway (UNKNOWN:AWAY.DL) surpassed rival Airbnb, which didn't make the list, but it's facing brand-new competition in the luxury segment from Four Seasons. The hotel chain announced its new Four Seasons Vacation Rental site this week, with a portfolio of upscale properties from the Gulf Coast to the Indian Ocean.
The rest of the best
Rounding out this year's top travel companies to work for are timeshare operator Marriott Vacation Club, TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP), a travel review and research company, and SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS).
SeaWorld has faced questions about its animal handling policies and employee safety practices since the release of the documentary film "Blackfish" in 2013. Despite protests by animal-welfare groups, an attempt in the California legislature to ban orca shows, and proposed legislation in the U.S. House to update marine-mammal standards of care, CEO Jim Atchison received the highest employee rating on the list.
Top-rated employers in a thriving industry
These companies stand out not just for their reputation among their employees but for doing well despite a slow overall recovery. Travel and tourism is one of the brightest spots in the economy, with more than 19,200 jobs added in May alone.
"Since losing nearly half a million jobs during the Great Recession, the travel industry has added 749,000 jobs and has outpaced job creation in the rest of the economy by 49%," said David Huether, senior vice president for research and economics at the U.S. Travel Association, after the release of May job numbers. That's good news for investors in the travel sector, and good news for workers who are looking for stability -- especially if it comes with lots of vacation time.