Pandemic offers firms chance to ‘rethink diversity and inclusivity’

The pandemic provides the travel industry with an opportunity to become more diverse and inclusive as it looks to recruit young talent, say business leaders.

Travel agency, cruise line and tour operator bosses spoke at Abta’s Travel Convention amid reports the industry is suffering its worst staff shortage on record after losing staff to other sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

G Adventures managing director (EMEA) Brian Young said travel businesses had the chance to take a fresh look at how they operated and “build back better” post-pandemic to become more diverse.

Speaking about G Adventures, he said: “The pandemic is allowing us to properly reset our business. Unfortunately we had to make some tough decisions and reduced our workforce [during the pandemic].

“As we build it back up this is the opportunity to build it back better, certainly around diversity and inclusion.”

The tour operator is commissioning a survey on diversity to understand what it means to staff and how the business could improve, while other areas such as brochure content needed to be more reflective of today’s holidaymakers, he said.

Young added: “I don’t want us to be doing the same things as we did before, to fish in the same talent pools. We need to broaden it out so we can diversify the range of people applying, and beyond talent in the business, our brochures need to be reflective so people can see themselves in the brochure.”

Celebrity Cruises vice president and managing director (EMEA) Jo Rzymowska said the onus was on travel companies to become more diverse.

She said: “It’s up to us to show the younger industry that it’s a great sector. For 20 and 30 year olds it’s really important they have people to look up to. We need to make it [the industry] more diverse.

“Someone said to me, ‘never hire the best person for the job, hire the best person for the team’. The best person for the team is the most diverse person.”

Mark Colley, managing director of travel agency Sunways, admitted the industry faced a challenge attracting young emerging talent.

“Attracting the next generation into our industry is going to be a problem. For them money is not the only incentive, travel is huge [as an incentive],” he said.

He added that if discounting could be scaled back, commissions could increase and staff could be paid more, which would in turn make the sector more attractive to work in.

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