Current Job Market is a ‘Dream’ for Agents, Sez Survey

by Daniel McCarthy

For agents who are out of work or who have left the industry, now is the time to get back into a “dream” job market.

According to a survey from the Travel Staffing Group, more and more travel agencies are hiring at a time when experienced agents are in short supply.

The survey of 72 human resource departments and hirers throughout the travel industry was conducted from January through March of this year. It found that a majority of respondents, 70%, are having trouble finding qualified applicants.

The respondents represented those hiring for different areas of the industry: 33.3% for leisure travel agencies, 33.3% for corporate travel agencies, 14.8% for travel management companies, 11.11% for tour operators [staff who book tours for these companies], and 7.5% for contractors [companies who recruit staff.

Reentering the industry
“I think it’s a job seekers dream right now,” said Douglas Walsh, CEO of the Travel Staffing Group. “People who put resumes on our site get view after view after view. If they have the experience and credentials they won’t be unemployed for too long.”

The survey shows that salaries are on the rise and that more employers are spending money to find talent. More respondents than not said they’ve hired staff in 2014.

And many of those hired were people who are re-entering the industry after leaving during difficult periods.
Most job seekers now are in the shrinking 55-year-old demographic, said Walsh.

The supply of travel agents shrunk after 9/11 and the recession, with agents leaving the industry to find work elsewhere, he added.

Changing ways of recruiting
Job boards remain the primary way respondents find new agents, according to the survey.

Walsh, however, believes there’s a problem with hiring through job boards primarily because human resources staff don’t post accurate job descriptions.

“Writing a job description remains a huge challenge in travel,” Walsh said. “In this market they’re trying to attack the talent without building a job description that is reasonable. They are looking at dream employees still, while most gainful employees won’t apply to ads that are dream jobs.”

Walsh said that less than 5% of job ads include salary, which creates a pool of applicants who are just trying to break into the industry—most of whom have little to no experience. Experienced applicants aren’t  attracted to jobs where the benefits of working for that company aren’t clear.

Because of a lack of success with job board, Walsh is now seeing more employers using headhunters to find new employees.  
“We think that the use of head hunters is really going to start picking up,’ he said.

“You can’t have a position that’s open for a long time and not fill it, so if you have to pay a few more dollars and get the right person, that’s what you’re going to do.”

Staying social
Despite the growing use of social media by employers and recruiters—35% of respondents said they would use social media to source future employees—Walsh thinks the social web is a secondary tool to hiring.

Social media is attractive for employers and recruiters because a job can be advertised for free, while traditional digital job boards—like Monster and CareerBuilder—all require a fee for postings, he said.

Placing a job on five or six boards isn’t cost effective, according to Walsh. So social media becomes a bigger tool, but so does something that’s a lot more familiar to an aging talent pool.

“What is intriguing to me is the benefit of [networking] seems to be coming back,” said Walsh. “With millennials today, business is conducted differently than it was years ago.

“The only way you could meet people then was through associations”  he added. “Now that’s starting to pick up again.”

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