How can travel businesses attract talent and grow out of the pandemic?

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Author: Claire Muge, Sales Director, Travel Trade Recruitment

2022 offers some light at the end of a nearly two-year tunnel for many travel companies that have survived the pandemic. Having potentially downsized to protect business, (and as demand increases and restrictions ease), just how can companies attract the right talent to grow their business again, in what is proving to be an extremely challenging candidate market?

As furlough ended in October 2021 we may have expected a flood of candidates with very little options for them to work in the Industry. The opposite seems to have happened. Job opportunities across the board have been rising since Sept 2021 as companies re-build. So where are the candidates? And how can we generate more, to start filling vacancies?

Unfortunately the industry we love has taken a bit of a ‘public relations’ battering as one of the worst affected industries by the pandemic. Staff that either left of their own accord, or were made redundant during the pandemic, have moved to other industries out of necessity. And this necessity has now become their norm, so we need to dig deep to attract the talent back.

It is also important to note that there is a reluctance to move jobs for those still in the industry. This is a catch 22 situation as of course you want to retain good staff. If your staff don’t want to leave, it speaks volumes about how they feel valued and loyal. But we need to generate some fluidity to keep talent progressing and developing in the industry, and to get your own vacancies filled.

So what can travel companies do to try and help turn the PR tide and remind people that travel is the best industry or that now is the right time to progress their travel career? At Travel Trade Recruitment, we are speaking to candidates across the UK daily, and from these conversations we can build a picture of what is important to the candidate market in general. There are a few things that crop up regularly in conversations with candidates, that can be addressed by companies and can turn the tide.

Company and Job Security 

‘I’m nervous to come back to the industry’ ‘Is it the right time’ ‘Will my job be secure’. If you are recruiting, job security is something that needs to hammered home. Whilst no company can 100% guarantee the future, I am pretty sure (as most clients tell me), they would not be recruiting if they were not in a stable position, looking for long term staff and looking to grow. Whether you recruit directly or via an agency, ensure you make a statement about how established the company is, and/or how well invested it is, what your growth plans are, that demand is there, this is the right time to return to travel. If you can consistently present this message when advertising for candidates, when screening and interviewing candidates, then you can steadily restore confidence and get some great candidates over the line and into your business. I think this is something that will also steadily improve as the next few months go on, but only if we can continue to promote the industry and provide reassurance.  

Salary, Perks, Flexible Working and Benefits

During the pandemic companies have no doubt made loses and are still reeling, whilst trying to rebuild their businesses. So it is quite understandable that many are not in a position to start raising salaries for current staff and to attract new candidates, let alone increase or add additional benefits. Then comes the now very popular flexible working, with hybrid and home working becoming something that candidates regularly ask for, in order to gain work/life balance and open up career opportunities that are not available locally to them. It isn’t possible for many travel companies to offer all these things and home-working isn’t really viable for face-to-face retail travel agencies. However, if there is an opportunity to adopt one or two of the above, which could fit your business model, it could potentially help you attract more staff. If hybrid or home working just doesn’t work for your business, could you potentially look at adding some benefits to your package that may entice people, or is there any wiggle room on the salary for a very strong candidate? Or if you just can’t move on salary and benefits, can you offer some form of flexible working? Anything that can be seen as adding value in one way or another may just help you get the people you are looking for.

Attracting new talent and those with transferable skills in related industries

The talent pool for the Travel Industry has certainly shrunk, and despite the suggestions above, there will still inevitably be great people lost to the industry for good.  Many companies I speak with are in the challenging position that whilst open to training in a normal market, if they are short-staffed, they just don’t have the capacity to use existing staff to train someone from scratch. But we do somehow need to be looking at growing the talent pool again to help the industry now and for the future. Back in 2000 a Tour Operator gave me the chance to train as a Reservations Consultant; my previous experience was a hotel receptionist but I loved travel! 2000 was a very different (and a long!) time ago. But if we can consider those in relatable service and sales industries, who have a passion and interest in travel, then it will definitely help the industry’s staffing crisis in the long term.

Finally, there is an element of time to this; I am sure things will turn as we learn to live with Covid and things continue to look brighter for the Travel Industry. At Travel Trade Recruitment all our staff are ex Travel Industry, so they bring their passion and knowledge to the job of recruiting. It is absolutely free to have a confidential chat with any of our teams and you are under no obligation to engage our services. But we would be more than happy to help any ABTA members, whether just for advice, or if you do want assistance with recruitment.

For more information about Travel Trade Recruitment, and to get in touch, click here.