Business travel sector struggles to recruit and retain staff

The corporate travel sector is struggling to recruit and retain staff as business recovers after losing up to 60% of staff at the high point of the pandemic.

Pat McDonagh, chief executive of Clarity Travel, said: “The biggest commercial issue is resource – recruiting and retaining people is very difficult. A lot of people left who don’t want to come back.”

He told a Business Travel Association (BTA) conference in London last week: “There is also serious wage inflation.”

Varinder Atwal, CWT senior director for global supplier management, agreed saying: “How we make this industry attractive to young people is one of the biggest challenges.”

Lynne Griffith, chief executive of corporate travel recruitment specialist Sirius Talent Solutions, described the past two years as “devastating” and told the conference: “Many people managed to secure roles outside the industry, moving to sectors seen as more secure. The challenge now is to get them back.

“The industry has an ageing population. There was already a talent gap. The pandemic accelerated that. Now there is a skills gap. We have to get more talent into the industry.”

But she said: “We’ve struggled to market ourselves. Parents view work in the travel industry as booking holidays or becoming a waitress. We have to communicate beyond that.”

Griffith suggested companies consider the benefits they offer, arguing: “Salaries have been driven up, but people change jobs not just because of the salary. A lot of people leave because they don’t feel valued.

“You need to invest in people to make the industry stand out. Some companies are more generous with benefits. There is an opportunity for all companies to look at their benefits.”

She advised businesses: “Engage with your local community, engage with colleges, engage with your own staff.”

Lydia Noon, a travel and tourism management student at Bournemouth University, said: “Outside of our courses, people don’t really think about travel [as a career].

“If I tell anyone I’m in travel and tourism management, they say ‘Are you going to book my holiday?’”

She argued: “In school, post-16 there is a lot of careers advice – put yourself in there, let people know there are opportunities.”

BTA chief executive Clive Wratten told Travel Weekly in October 2020: “We think 60% of jobs will be lost by the end of this month and it could get worse.”

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