Travel businesses are failing to retain women long enough for them to take on senior roles, according to a senior tourism academic.

Brandon Crimes, head of  the University of Hertfordshire tourism group, said 70% of UK travel and tourism graduates are women, and about 60% of the sector’s workforce is female.

But he warned of a pattern of women leaving the industry after five to 10 years, particularly if companies fail to plan for the fact many take a career break to have children and often do not return or come back part-time in a lower-level role.

Crimes, speaking at a Travel Weekly round table, said: “Surely we are bright enough to plan for this? We know people leave to have families; we could start to institute procedures to avoid losing more talent.”

He said good talent would “shrink” if graduates were uninspired to stay in the sector and called on the industry to reinvent itself to attract female staff and ensure they reach high-ranking roles.

“There is a perception of an old-boy culture and students pick up on it. They have noticed it’s very male dominated [at a] senior level.”

His comments follow an ongoing survey by the university in association with Shine People and Places, professional development consultants for women. Of the 182 respondents to the survey – launched earlier this year – 30% believe there is a “glass ceiling” preventing women achieving senior management roles in the travel sector with many blaming childbirth career breaks.