Careers in online travel - there's never been a better time to moveThe online travel industry is flourishing and opportunities to diversify are increasing.

Although the model for companies such as Lasminute.com, Expedia, Opodo and Travelocity is based on customers choosing their holiday online, there are still roles, such as reservations, customer support, management and product-related roles, that require skilled and knowledgeable people.

With dynamic packaging a growth area, travel agents’ use of web-based technology is also increasing. C&M Recruitment sales manager Barbra Kolosinska said retail agents are in a strong position to move into online.

“Retail agents, especially independents, have very good product knowledge, a broad understanding of travel operators and suppliers and of what to sell.”

Entry wages at dot coms are slightly higher (starting at £14,000 per annum). This reflects the high demand, according to Kolosinska.

One obstacle to roles in online travel is geography, said managing director of AA Appointments John Tolmie. “London is still a big hub for these companies. Expedia, Lastminute.com, Opodo and Travelocity all have main call centres in London.

“However, as all major operators, such as MyTravel, have an online operation, search out opportunities in your area.”

One of the easiest ways to enter the market is to move into customer service and online reservation roles.

“Try to use whatever skills you have. The easiest thing is to go in at entry level at reservations then look for the right role within the company,” he said.

From there it is up to the individual to make the most of the opportunities available.

Kolosinska said: “This depends on the individual and opportunities available. But there can be a lot of opportunity.”

And it is multiskilled employees who are most valuable. Web knowledge and sales skills are a valuable combination.

Lastminute.com group HR director Joe Kenny said: “We are seeing employees showing more converged skills, whether they are a mix of technology and marketing skills or skills from the travel and the hi-tech sector.”

Kenny said Lastminute.com is also keen to give employees the opportunity to move on internally, which can mean working abroad.

“An important consideration is how we maximise staff movement across our parent organisation Sabre, which offers opportunities at a global level.”

Top ten tips

By C&M Recruitment sales manager Barbara Kolosinska

1. Read relevant online industry publications to keep abreast of all the online industry news.
2. Ensure you know who the major online companies are and who owns who.
3. Understand the concept of dynamic packaging.
4. Know your way around the web and sign up to some travel community blogs.
5. Carry out regular searches on all of the online players and try to understand how search engines work.
6. Register with online recruitment consultancies to see what vacancies are available.
7. Be aware of the different cultures of some of the online companies.
8. Be aware that moving from a retail environment to online sales, you could have less face-to-face contact with colleagues.
9. Learn a language – remember the web is worldwide and not just UK-based.
10. Attend as many roadshows, exhibitions and conferences as possible to increase online knowledge.

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