The travel industry has successfully pulled together for the first time to submit a bid to government to create a National Skills Academy for Travel and Tourism worth £2 million. It comes at a time when the recession is forcing travel staff to seek jobs in other sectors.

Sector skills council People 1st worked with ABTA, the Institute of Travel and Tourism, Advantage Travel Centres, TUI UK, Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Travel Group and Hoseasons to submit the bid to the government on Monday.

Last year, the industry missed the bid submission deadline. People 1st strategic director Phil Raynsford said the long-term aim of the academy was to “improve the quality of skills of entrants and employees within the sector, and ultimately, create a more productive and profitable travel industry”.

The academy would address the skills gap in the industry by helping students gain apprenticeships within small businesses, promoting better communication between colleges and employers, and developing management training schemes for current staff.

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick said an academy was essential for the growth of the industry. “The sector needs to build its capability and become a cornerstone for growth and stability in the next 10 years,” he said. “The new academy will deliver talent for travel firms – showcasing the very best.”   

The committee will find out in three weeks whether it has beaten competition from at least 20 industries to have its bid shortlisted. The employers would then make a presentation to a panel of judges to seek final approval.

The Skills Academy bid comes at a time when many in the industry are facing another tough year of pay freezes or cuts. Travel Weekly’s exclusive research conducted by AA Appointments revealed that most industry staff will earn the same or less than last year.

Redundancies and a fiercely competitive jobs market have forced many travel staff to leave the industry, with many taking temporary jobs in other sectors.

Trainee and graduate entrants will also continue to struggle as employers recruit experienced staff for less money. AA Appointments chief executive Theresa Dempsey said: “Sadly some candidates had no option but to choose other areas. However,  a lot of people have great loyalty to the industry and will do their best to get back in.”