Graduate placements and pay were among topics discussed at Abta event. Juliet Dennis reports

Graduates complain about work experience job hurdle

One of the biggest challenges facing new graduates wanting to work in the travel industry is meeting employers’ demands for two years’ experience, according to Abta intern Charlene Pink.

Pink, who will be working for Abta during July, said the difficulty was finding travel companies willing to give students the placements they need to obtain a job once they have qualified and have left college or university.

Speaking during a panel discussion at Abta’s Future Skills in Travel and Tourism seminar, she said: “Employers are looking for higher levels of experience than I have been able to obtain.

“I have done a year in industry but I am finding one of the real challenges is the minimum requirement for a job is two years’ experience for entry-level positions for graduate roles.”

Claire Steiner, UK director of Global Travel and Tourism Partnership, urged businesses to take on more students on work placements.

She said: “Work experience and internships are so worthwhile; they are great for the business and great for the individual.

“Don’t say you can’t get young people to work for you and then say they don’t have enough experience: give these people the opportunity to get experience by working with local colleges and schools.”

Graduates told the seminar they expected training and progression opportunities as well as decent pay from employers.

Franko Basica, a tourism management graduate at the University of Hertfordshire, said that while a company’s sustainability credentials and branding were part of what he looked for in an employer, they were not “top of the list”.

He stressed the importance of a culture in which new employees had input into a business and were given training opportunities. “I would want companies to have training programmes to give you the chance to become top-notch,” he said.

Pink added: “We have done degrees in management and it’s knowing there is a clear path to get there.”

But Franki Johnson, generation Z specialist and director of Embrace Change, insisted: “Pay and salary still take the edge.”

‘Urge younger staff to champion your business to their peers’

Peer-to-peer networking by young staff is one of the best ways to recruit employees, according to the UK director of the Global Travel & Tourism Partnership.

Claire Steiner urged companies to use their newest staff to promote their business to potential recruits, who are more likely to listen to their contemporaries, and work with schools and universities to promote jobs to the next generation.

Steiner said: “If we want to attract the next generation, we need to get them while they are still thinking about what they want to do; they don’t necessarily know which industry they want to work in.”

Glassdoor, a website used by employees to write anonymous reviews about their companies and management, was an increasingly “important” way of getting the right message out about working for a business, she added.

Linked to this is the increasing importance to the next generation of a company’s ethics, of management “living the company values”, flexible working practices and listening to younger staff about their needs or views, she said.

Nicholls: A sector deal for tourism would boost image

Government endorsement of a tourism and hospitality sector deal is key to changing the industry’s image as a “lesser career”.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, which represents hotels, bars and restaurants nationwide, said jobs in hospitality, tourism and travel had a poor reputation despite offering clear opportunities to progress up the ladder.

Speaking at the Future Skills in Travel and Tourism seminar hosted by Abta, she said: “We fail the ‘mums and dads’ test. They think of our sector as low‑paid, low-skilled jobs that you do before moving to something better. As a sector, tourism, hospitality and travel is seen as a lesser career.”

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the eTourism Lab at Bournemouth University, agreed: “Our industry is not recognised as a career path. How many people earn more than £30,000 in tourism and hospitality?”

Nicholls was “hopeful” a sector deal for the tourism, hospitality and travel industry would be approved by government this summer. This would effectively mean the industry would be taken more seriously and encourage young people to work in the industry, as well as leading to funding to “up-skill” the workforce, she added.

She said: “The government has identified nine sector deals [so far] and we will hopefully be the 10th. This will be a significant boost and endorsement of this sector of the economy.

“The aim is to boost productivity. There is a proposal for an industry-led £10 million campaign to shift perceptions about jobs in hospitality and tourism, and talk to young people about careers.

“Our ambition is to encourage people to join the industry at all levels. Government endorsement is key.”

Talks were already under way on how the travel and hospitality industry could work with government to produce a national training programme to make the sector a “career of choice”, she added.

Pictured: Franki Johnson, Franko Basica and Charlene Pink

‘Counter poor pay by offering staff new opportunities’

Poor pay is an industry issue but not the key reason employees leave their jobs in travel, according to recruitment experts.

C&M Recruitment director Barbara Kolosinska said pay featured low on the list of reasons for leaving a job.

“Yes, salary is important,” she said. “ But the reason people leave a job is about work-life balance or other factors.”

Danielle Grant, UK human resources manager at Royal Caribbean Cruises, said companies had to offer other opportunities to keep their workforce engaged because salaries were typically lower than in other industries.

She admitted: “It’s about moving to an agile environment and offering new opportunities every six months so staff can move to a new product or go to work in Miami, for example. That’s how we have combated the pay issue.”

Chloe Sherriff, contact centre manager of people and quality at Virgin Holidays, said companies had to use their perks as a way of attracting staff over pay.

“With low salaries, you are not doing the job for the pay but for the love of it,” she said.

“We have phenomenal benefits, such as seven free flights a year and hotel concessions.”

Royal Caribbean plans shift in recruitment

Royal Caribbean Cruises is changing its approach to recruitment to attract more talent, according to HR manager Danielle Grant.

The company offers a six-week internship as part of a partnership with a university, has created mentoring opportunities, introduced flexible working and is looking at ways to change how it engages with its workforce, said Grant, who looks after recruitment for land‑based staff.

She cited ways internships could produce “tangible results” for a firm.

“Last year, we asked students to present ideas. Now we have a fish and chip stall on our ships because one of our interns suggested it,” she said.

Grant said the company would be going on a “huge journey” over the next five years as part of a new approach to recruitment. “Bringing in flexible working has been a huge shift but to get new talent and retain people we have to do it,” she said.