‘A whole generation is due to retire’ – the existential threat facing the travel industry

‘A whole generation is due to retire’ – the existential threat facing the travel industry

Arguably the biggest and most immediate threat facing the travel industry right now is not AI, sustainability, or the cost-of-living crisis, it is the far more human issue of recruitment.

A 2023 ATIA survey found that 84 per cent of travel businesses experienced difficulty in hiring travel consultants last year, and only 34 per cent of businesses were able to fill all of their advertised roles.

Whilst the staff shortage undeniably leads to day-to-day business problems – one survey respondent even said it will likely result in “the closure of our business” – it also stands in the way of the industry’s growth and business development. More time managing existing clients means less time building the pipeline.

One business said “[there will be] steady growth [in a need for staff] as a whole generation is due to retire”.

The number of young people taking up traineeships was down

The situation is set to get worse given the drop in junior people joining the industry. Enrollments in traineeships such as the Certificate III in Travel fell by more than 80 per cent during Covid due to the travel sector being one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

So, is the industry doing enough to attract staff?

Interest in travel is high 

The positive news is that there is strong interest in the sector from young people. In fact, a survey by Marriott Bonvoy found that travel is a top priority for Gen Zs and Millennials with 73 per cent stating their intentions to take at least two trips in the next 12 months and 91 per cent planning to spend the same, if not more, on their trips compared to the year before.

Travel is viewed as an essential lifestyle component, and most are willing to reduce everyday spending on dining out (60 per cent), shopping sprees (57 per cent) and their daily coffee (54 per cent) so as to spend more on a holiday.

Further research from travel insurance provider InsureandGo has revealed 71 per cent of under-30s and 65 per cent of 31- to 50-year-olds would rather travel than buy a house over the next 12 months.

On TikTok – where 38.5 per cent of users are aged 18 to 24 – videos talking about how to be a travel agent have gained hundreds and thousands of views.

@hiddengemstravel

If you’re thinking about becoming a travel agent, here are some things you should know! It will definitely be a learning curve, but taking these steps will make the process so much easier! #becomeatravelagent #travelagenttips #thingsiwishiknew

♬ original sound – Travel the Caribbean w/ Ciarra

How is the sector attracting young people?

One of the ways large travel companies have managed to lure people into the industry is through training opportunities. Both Flight Centre and Luxury Escapes have improved retention through their extensive training programs.

Flight Centre Travel Academy

Flight Centre Travel Academy has placed 450 students into tourism jobs over the past two years and has 687 more currently studying. The Academy, which has been running for 14 years, helps students launch their tourism career by offering a university-accredited diploma, followed by guaranteed job interviews.

Flight Centre Academy general manager Cameron Boyd said the program connects job-seeking graduates and worthy businesses with a need for entry-level staff.

“We’re helping tourism operators across the country to source great talent who are invested in a long-term career in the industry.

“Our graduates often start out in junior roles and backed by their education with us, work their way up to management positions.

Luxury Escapes Future Leaders Program (FLP)

Luxury Escapes also has its Future Leaders Program (FLP) which was created to improve its ability to identify, support, and develop high-potential leaders.

The program runs for 12 months and includes a component of off-job training with an external high-performance coach, a one-on-one mentoring relationship with an executive or senior leader within the business and the opportunity to come up with an idea to drive transformational change across the business and present this to the CEO and Leadership team, in Shark Tank-style, to gain endorsement to then implement the idea across the business.

Luxury Escapes Future Leader Graduates. Image: LinkedIn

The Luxury Escapes Future Leaders Program has been running for seven years, with over 75 team members participating over this time. Over 80 per cent of Luxury Escapes team members who have completed an FLP program, have been promoted within 12 months of completing. Over the past year, Luxury Escapes has also seen 100 per cent retention rate of all FLP participants.

Luxury Escapes chief of staff, Julia Davis: “Our business has seen huge benefits from the program, which includes the development of a very strong internal talent pipeline, retention of top talent, strong succession plans for key leadership roles and the ability to attract strong early entry career candidates in what has been a very competitive employment market.”

Young people seek purpose and growth 

According to Flight Centre Travel Group’s global head of talent and employee experience Sam van Gool, today’s workforce seeks purpose and growth.

“Millennials and Gen Z prioritise aligning their personal values with their employer’s missions. This often includes a strong focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives so many younger recruits love that we have our own foundation,” van Gool said.

“They seek companies that invest in their professional and personal development.

“The other thing the younger generation loves at FCTG is the chance to upskill for free. We can offer our people the opportunity to complete a Certificate III and IV in Travel at no additional cost.

“Our Travel Wise, Health Wise and Money Wise programs are also attractive benefits. Through these our people can access expert advice and incentives to help them with important elements of their life outside of work. It really is a unique value proposition of working with Flight Centre Travel Group that doesn’t exist elsewhere.”

If you’ve got thoughts on recruitment in the travel industry, contact sofia@travelweekly.com.au

Lead image: IMG2GO.com

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