Travel firms forced to cast net wider to find new staff

Travel companies are being forced to cast the net wider and invest further in apprenticeships as they continue to battle to fill vacancies.

Despite a year-on-year improvement in the recruitment market, firms told this year’s Travel Weekly People Summit finding staff remained a challenge.

Sharon Njini, director of people and culture at dnata Travel Group, said companies had to be more ‘creative’ in the current environment.

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She said: “We are not back to pre-pandemic [situation]. We have all lost significant talent from the industry and we are focused on how to attract people from other industries, not just attract people back.”

Finding experienced staff for dnata’s shop network was proving particularly difficult, she said, adding the group was now recruiting from a wider geographical area.

“How do you attract people with the skills and experience in travel? There is still a challenge to find people to come into that [shop] environment,” she said, noting: “You cannot necessarily recruit from the town you are opening in. You have to go much further afield.”

Royal Caribbean Group international human resources director Danielle Dixon said firms had to look to non-travel sectors to attract staff as it was unlikely those who left the UK travel industry during Covid would now return.

She said: “In the UK people have left and do not want to come back and we have to think where else we can attract staff.”

Riviera Travel people director Laura Harvey said making the decision not to have all staff tied to an office location had helped with recruitment.

“Recruitment is certainly easier but we have still got some vacancies. We went early with a flexible working policy and we have now got an almost fully remote sales team which has allowed us to source a greater pool of talent,” she said.

Companies said they were investing in apprenticeships and looking to schools and colleges to encourage interest in the industry at an early stage.

Njini said dnata planned to take on more apprentices and had started a graduate programme last year for the first time. “We are going to ramp it [apprenticeships] up and that will help with some of these challenges,” she added.

Royal Caribbean has been visiting schools and colleges to increase awareness of the cruise sector as a career. “It’s just opening their eyes; a lot of students think of cabin crew but not jobs in cruise,” said Dixon.

She added universities and colleges were actively encouraging the cruise line to talk to students on non-travel courses, such as marketing.

Similarly, Harvey added: “We are having early conversations with schools. The earlier you can get to people the better. We have a real job to influence people that travel is a great job.”

C&M Travel Recruitment senior appointments sales manager Tim Robinson said the time was right to  spread the word about travel careers after the industry suffered a negative image during the pandemic. “Confidence is back now and the general consensus is we are back to growth,” he said.

Picture: Steve Dunlop

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