Travel agency consortia have vowed to help members find staff as small and medium-sized agencies report “critical” difficulties in recruiting.
The Travel Network Group said about 70 members were currently struggling to find the right staff, and plans to announce details of a new recruitment strategy at its upcoming conference in Budapest.
Group membership services director Lisa Henning said staffing issues were first reported by members last September.
She said: “We can’t afford to wait another 12 months – we need to do something about it.” She urged members to “be proactive” and look outside the industry.
Rival consortium The Advantage Travel Partnership described the recruitment situation as “critical”.
Group commercial and membership director Paula Lacey urged members to use Advantage’s external recruitment agency and, for less-experienced agents, its preferred apprenticeship scheme.
She said it was important for agencies to focus on retaining staff.
Office for National Statistics data shows agencies employing one to nine people are predicted to grow in number from 3,810 to 3,980 this year. However, employee numbers across the industry are expected to fall below 60,000 this year for the first time since 2013.
The number of travel vacancies has increased by 14% since 2016, according to specialist travel recruitment agency C&M Travel.
Four independent agencies contacted by Travel Weekly agreed that it was now taking longer to recruit suitable agents.
One, Go Travel in Locksbottom, Kent, has had to enlist a member of its events and marketing team to cover sales staff for more than a year. “We have had problems recruiting before but not as bad as this,” said director Mike Roberts.