Travel firms ‘need to be more diverse and inclusive’

Travel and tourism firms need to recruit from a more diverse and inclusive pool of candidates after the pandemic, say bosses in the sector.

And “soft skills” such as resilience and agility will also be increasingly in demand as the impact of Covid-19 has changed the way the sector works.

John Bevan, divisional senior vice-president of dnata – whose UK brands include Gold Medal, Travel Republic and Travelbag – told a debate during the online International Women In Travel and Tourism Forum 2021 that staff in the travel and tourism sector are all very similar.

“We need to be diverse and inclusive to attract more people into the industry,” he told the session host Lucy Huxley, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly.

“We are missing opportunities to bring skilled people into the industry who may not have thought about travel.”

The sector must move away from the ‘hire who you know’ mindset, and interview a broader range of people in order to see a better mix of genders, ethnicity and diversity in the workforce, he explained.

He outlined how dnata Travel in the UK had set up groups of staff to look at issues in five areas: age, LGBTQI, gender, mental health and physical disabilities

“It has driven a passion from within,” he said.

“We have got nearly 40-50 people involved who will spread the word.

“Each group is doing a fantastic job. It helps to change the dynamic with the company and makes us start to look outward as well as inward.

“It makes us a better place to work and makes us a more rounded group of teams and individuals.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive, said there is an opportunity to “rethink the type of people” being recruited because soft skills such as resilience and agility have become more important during the pandemic.

“One year ago, I would not have looked at those things high up the agenda,” she said.

Natalie Kidd, Intrepid Travel’s chief people and purpose officer, agreed that resilience and agility are “incredibly important”.

MoreSustainability slips down consumer agenda because of Covid requirements

Another key factor for Intrepid’s recruitment of staff is its B Corporation status – which means it balances purpose and profit.

Furthermore, bosses must be “authentic and honest” with staff about future prospects for travel, said Kidd.

“Staff look at you, wanting an answer, but there are no answers yet,” she said.

“We do not know when the volumes will come back, but we have plans for the future and can adjust course as things change.”

Lo Bue-Said echoed her sentiments about authenticity and recalled how she cried on a Zoom call when the emotions became “too intense”.

She said Advantage has supported its staff and members through the anxieties and mental health issues that arose amid the pandemic.

Bevan said there are now three times as many staff being trained to offer mental health support at dnata’s UK offices than before the crisis.

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