In recent weeks, severe air travel has been disrupted in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and other European countries due to post-cowardly shortages of airlines and airport staff. Behind the scenes, travel management companies are also being hit by critically low staffing that has continued since the fall of 2021.
Lynn Griffiths, CEO of Sirius Talent Solutions, a company that specializes in business travel, says: “Those who are about to return to the industry have returned, yet there is a huge shortage of travel consultants and other roles. If I had 400 travel consultants today, I could find roles for all of them. “
The two travel managers were interviewed about their TMC struggles BTN Europe Last October the difficulties remained after eight months. “We have more staff at TMC but they are very inexperienced,” said Mary (her real name is not to avoid her TMC alone).
“It’s almost back on the drawing board. We need to lead them even though it is inherent in experienced counselors. Since travel is being greatly increased, I don’t have time for the delays that are occurring as a result and it is becoming frustrating. I told my account manager they needed more training. ”
Mary says some new recruits are simply not capable enough for the job, where those who have the potential are being taken to phone manning before adequate training.
Paul (also a pseudonym) is seeing some improvement in the UK but is now facing recruitment struggles in wider regions such as the United States, India and the Middle East. Paul notes that the TMC of experienced professionals has added to the instability among senior travel consultants due to the epidemic.
“Instability” is a term used by Urbanberry co-founder Emma Gregory, another corporate travel recruitment expert, but in her case it resulted in exceptionally high-level TMC re-tenders by clients during lockdowns. Combined with this, Gregory said, “the industry did not expect demand to return so strongly,” making it very difficult for TMC leaders to plan how many workers they need.
The Business Travel Association, which says its TMC members handle more than 90 per cent of all managed travel bookings in the UK, estimates that the total number of TMC employees (in other words not just frontline consultants) is currently 20 per cent lower than pre-epidemic. “It’s pretty much what they thought they needed to be,” said CEO Clive Ratten, although he acknowledged that “there’s still a shortage of front-line staff.”
Wratten says additional factors are expanding the advisors in the post, not least because bookings continue to be revised more frequently than pre-epidemic ones. Ironically, one of the main reasons for consultants to make these changes is flight cancellations and delays due to lack of manpower elsewhere in the travel sector.
The consultants who have been working for the last six months are running out and are not giving the best perspective on the work of other people who are interested in joining. “
Despite this pressure, Gregory says clients are no longer accepting low-performing TMCs for their service level agreements. “They tried to understand more during the epidemic but now they hope the service will return as before,” he says.
Such criticism may prove counter-productive. “Counselors are under a lot of pressure and they can’t see the end,” said Gregory, who fears some may give up as a result. “Those who have worked for the last six months are burning and they are not giving the best view of other people’s work [who might be interested in joining]”
Another source of stress for consultants, according to Gregory, is the employer’s perceived rigor about when and where they need to work now that the epidemic has subsided. “It has become almost impossible to bring someone back to the office five days a week,” he says.
“Pre-covid, travel people never consider leaving the sector but now they see other industries working in other ways and don’t understand why the travel industry won’t do it. Culture needs to change. Money is a factor but flexibility is the problem above all. The cost of a good breakfast for the kids and keeping them in the after-school club.
Both Wratten and Griffiths say employers have learned to show more flexibility, but allowing consultants to work from home creates additional challenges for TMCs and consequently their clients. One is the increased cost for TMCs to provide not only IT hardware but also IT support for remote staff – a department where there is a shortage of more hiring.
Another problem is that homework further delays training so that there is a great need for new staff. “If everyone works from home, how will TMC blend existing with new travel consultants?” The travel manager asks Mary. “It’s very important that they stay together. If you sit next to a senior consultant, you will learn much faster. “
Griffiths agrees and adds: “Students and others who want to join the industry can’t go for work experience if no one is there, and that’s exactly what TMC wants to preserve in the company culture.”
Another response of TMCs to consultancy deficits could also have consequences for corporate clients: wage inflation. Griffiths says salaries are 10-20 percent higher, and in some cases 30 percent higher than pre-covid. New workers are demanding more liberal terms, such as free medical insurance starting at an earlier stage of employment.
Griffiths says it is very possible that Fee “TMC is going to have a conversation with their clients”. But the idea has received little change from Mary, a former TMC consultant herself. He believes the problem is that TMCs have failed to adequately share revenue with frontline staff. “My fees are very high, yet travel is one of the worst paying sectors,” he says. “Consultants have learned that their skills are transferable, so many have moved on to other sectors.”
Paul Fee is wary of the threat of inflation and thinks of remedies. One is transferring more bookings online; Another is shifting some of his TMC work to countries like offshore India, though he is wary of compromising with traveler services.
TMCs are also looking at technologies to improve efficiency, such as automated rebooking tools. Meanwhile, work is underway to increase contact with colleges and the local community and attract new talent, including transferable skills in other sectors.
Inevitably, such efforts will take time to bear fruit. For now, Wratten says, it is important for TMC and clients to communicate transparently and promptly in order to work through labor difficulties. “Talk to understand your TMC’s position. Don’t wait for a problem, ”he said.