How do we replace the thousands of travel consultants who, thanks to the pandemic and the shifting political landscape, have departed the travel industry for pastures new? Expert travel recruiter Fi Morrison-Arnthal looks at the practical reasons to hire someone with no experience in the travel industry.
Over the last few years, the travel industry has lost thousands of experienced agents to other industries, mostly because of COVID-19-related job losses. Brexit also played its part - many of our multi-lingual destination specialists have now returned to their home nations. I know from discussions with other recruitment agency owners and travel companies that attracting talent back to the industry is proving to be very difficult.
At the November 2022 World Travel Market (WTM), an expert panel discussed how thousands of roles have remained unfilled because travel businesses couldn’t afford the salaries to attract those back that had left for better-paid positions in other industries. Suggestions to alleviate this problem included increasing salaries, providing employee benefits and offering flexible working.
But perhaps it's time to look at another option. Instead of waiting in the hope that experienced travel consultants find their way back to us, maybe we should consider hiring candidates with no prior travel industry experience. Alessandra Alonso, Women in Travel Founder, said, “Often travel does not look in the right places, with pools of eager talents in areas I work with.” I agree with Alessandra.
I believe that the solution is to return to traditional recruitment models of hiring fantastic communicators without travel industry experience. Travel industry training is readily available. Let’s invest in people. We often talk about transferable skills. We should walk the walk. I’m convinced that if tour operators and travel agents looked back at the old hiring and travel industry training models of Lunn Poly, Going Places and Thomas Cook, they would see a great return on their investment.
Lunn Poly was my first employer in travel. I couldn’t believe it when I got the job. I had zero experience, no ABTA training and had only been on a plane once, to Paris. I could, however, offer sales and customer service experience, bundles of energy and a real hunger to succeed in the industry. As part of my interview, I had to sell Paris to my future Regional Sales Manager, Michelle (now a Senior Sales Director at Cunard). I impressed her and was soon proudly wearing my red uniform, big floppy bow and American tan tights.
The training I received at Lunn Poly, both from my Shop Manager, Emma (now an award-winning Gold Travel Counsellor) and from Head Office, was constant and brilliant. Within a few months, I was a top seller and an assistant manager a year later. By year three, I was a shop manager, and by year five, I’d won shop of the year. Lunn Poly took a chance on me and thousands of others who had no experience but good transferable competencies and trained me to succeed.
I have emulated the same model several times as Head of Sales and Training at various tour operators and agencies. Many of my top sellers were created from these recruitment and training strategies.
With cash-flow issues still prevalent across the industry, it’s apparent that formal training and in-house trainers are a luxury many travel businesses and agents cannot afford. Online Travel Training does have a fabulous array of destination, product and GDS courses; however, until now, there has been a gap in affordable soft skills eLearning options. Ambitions Travel Training offers a range of courses that teach essential soft skills to industry newbies. Combined with the more practical skills available at Online Travel Training, these courses could easily be packaged together to create an academy for new starters.
For £150, you can get immediate access to two courses that will offer those new to the industry a solid foundation in travel sales. The ‘Introduction to Travel’ course will teach new employees who know very little about the industry all the basics, including industry jargon, dynamic packaging, bed banks, airport, and airline codes and much more. This course works well with the ‘How to Sell Travel and Achieve Sales Success’ programme, and both can be completed quickly online. Your learner will have access to the courses for a year, so they can revisit lessons as often as they like. Alongside your product and systems training and on-the-job support, your trainee will be off to the best possible start.
I know this works. I’ve done it. So instead of waiting and simply hoping for travel consultants to apply, why not invest in a very effective and affordable brand of travel industry training and recruitment strategy?
For more information, visit www.onlinetraveltraining.com or www.ambitionstraveltraining.com.
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