Travel businesses need to listen to the wishes of their staff and consider flexible working practices if they are to attract and retain the best talent, delegates at Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Spring Forum were told.
But speakers warned increased flexibility around remote and hybrid working needed to be monitored to ensure productivity was not negatively impacted.
Phil Nuttall, chief executive of the Travel Village Group, said his company was seeing growth in its homeworking division, but said there was not a large shift for those in retail roles looking to change tack.
He added: “We’re actually bringing more people into retail which is encouraging.”
Nuttall said the company had brought in more flexibility across the business, but added: “You have to monitor that flexibility. We’re open to the idea of people working elsewhere in the UK, or even abroad, but there has to be a business case for it.”
He said it was inevitable that staff who are given more freedom could have the “temptation” to be less productive, meaning business owners needed to “have their eyes open”.
Despite seeing the benefits of growing numbers of homeworkers, he said his preference was still for people to work together in an office as much as possible.
“On the whole I think it [flexible working] is the right way forward, but personally I feel there’s a great deal of benefit to having your whole team together, and we encourage people to come into the office.”
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo-Bue Said added the industry needed to “get away from being seen as a low-paid industry” to improve its image and recruit and retain staff.
“We’re not naïve, we know the pay is low and we can’t turn a tap on overnight, but we have to attract new talent,” she said.
“We have to attract these people by growing the image and profile of the sector and show that you can have many different careers in travel.”
Lo Bue-Said said firms offering flexible working opportunities would also be best-placed to target a broader talent pool.
“We’ve got someone working for us in the Caribbean,” she said. “Why would I want to compromise the right talent?
“We now have the technology and systems to be able to do that.”