As travel agencies ride a wave of new business, the dearth of good talent is beginning to cause concern for agency owners, especially at the high end of the market, a new survey finds.
In the 2017 Pulse of the Industry Survey, global marketing firm Strategic Vision found that 70% of luxury agencies are hiring travel advisors this year, thanks to an increase in travel bookings. But while Strategic Vision didn’t specifically ask about staffing issues, the volume of anecdotal respondents was alarming, said president Peter Bates.
“It is going to be a good year for agents, if they can find the staff to handle it,” Bates said. “If yellow means agents are cautious about finding enough agents, and red means there is danger they won’t be able to meet their bookings demand, I would call the warning color amber.”
One mid-size West Coast travel agency, for example, said it was difficult to find an “adequate pool of qualified travel counselors,” while a mid-size East Coast travel agency complained it “can't get enough great agents.”
“Finding new talent,” and “attracting young people into the industry,” is bedeviling a small Northeast travel agency.
Owners have turned to recruiting from other industries, especially in the real estate and service industries. “We think that is the way to go for agencies needing to fill gaps,” Bates said.
While learning the technology is important for those who transfer in from another industry, Bates thinks it’s more important to focus on helping them build supplier relationships, including connections with hotel general managers and local venues.
“Technology is allowing owners to let new agents transact while they’re on the move—and the best agents are on the move all the time, visiting destinations and getting to know the product,” he said. “How else can you understand which product fits which client?”
Being a member of a consortium helps, too, because of the training programs, negotiated rates and special offers they provide.
The Pulse of the Industry Survey was sent in late February to CEOs, presidents, and other senior leaders of the leading luxury travel management firms and meetings & incentive buyers in the United States.