Work as an agent

Agility Is Essential For Recruitment In A Recovering Travel Industry

As the travel industry experiences a post-Covid recovery and anticipates unprecedented growth, traditional recruitment methods are proving to be inadequate in meeting the escalating demand. With industry qualifications often requiring lengthy study periods, travel companies are facing a pressing need for skilled professionals.

The picture shows a person jumping from one rock to another.
Chris Hague
29 February 2024
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Travel is a welcoming industry. Just about anyone can become a travel agent if they have the right basic skills and experience, but there are several industry diplomas and qualifications that are usually required to progress in the industry.

This is an important point to remember as we watch the post-Covid recovery in the travel industry. Most of these qualifications take a significant amount of time to study for and therefore if a customer service operation wants to only hire people with the right diplomas then they may find it difficult to scale quickly.

This inflexibility is becoming a major issue for travel. The UN Tourism agency, UNWTO, has been tracking the recovery of tourism globally. They found:

• By the end of July 2023, international tourist arrivals reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels.

• 700 million tourists travelled internationally between January and July 2023, 43% more than in the same months of 2022.

• July was the busiest month with 145 million international travelers recorded, about 20% of the seven-month total.

This all indicates that 2024 will be a busier year for tourism and travel than anything we saw before the pandemic. The world of travel truly has recovered and is now growing once again.

But those diplomas still take a long time. The IATA Tour Production Diploma and Travel Operations Diploma both require a year each and the Sales Diploma, focused on helping travel agents interact with creative solutions for travel customers, requires another year.

Speakers at the ABTA travel convention in Bodrum last November were adamant that the most important problem facing the travel industry at present is recruitment - how can the industry keep on growing if travel companies cannot find qualified people?

Speaking at the ABTA conference, Retail Director of cruise specialists Fred Olsen Travel, Paul Hardwick, said: “How do we bring people in? And when we bring people in, it takes time to train them. We saw it as a barrier to our expansion, so we came up with a mini academy scheme with a training provider. It’s a three-month program that takes training duties away from existing staff while new people learn about the job.”

This is a good example of the general industry reaction to the challenge - this company has created their own training academy to onboard new employees because they just cannot find enough people that are already qualified.

Travel companies that are trying to design their future customer experience need to learn from this example. A new approach is required. You will not be able to find enough fully qualified travel agents to work on your customer service team at the speed that most travel companies require.

What can be done?

First you can introduce some more flexibility. If your frontline customer service team is trained to answer the most common questions and handle frequent problems - such as booking changes or cancellations - then you can divert the fully trained travel agents to more complex problems. Create a first and second line of support in just the same way that most tech support will be triaged through general support teams to specialists.

Second, look for skilled people in new places. There are still many experienced and qualified travel professionals out there that have not returned to the industry. They may not be working, they may have moved to a new location away from their previous industry contacts, or they may have changed industry completely.

Can you tap into this resource by offering something new?

What if your customer service operation allowed these travel specialists to work from home, selecting their own hours, and even choosing which travel brands they want to work with? This flexibility will allow you to find many qualified travel professionals that want to work remotely or with more flexibility than that demanded by a full-time job in travel.

yoummday facilitates this option by offering a platform-based approach to managing the customer experience. Travel companies that want to keep growing in the 2020s need to think carefully about how to find travel professionals in an agile and flexible way that allows the brand to keep on growing.

After all, the industry growth is out there, but only those companies that are prepared to think of new methods and ideas will be able to benefit from this wave of customers.

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