The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the global travel and tourism sector. Over 100 million travel jobs have been lost globally. As restrictions are gradually being lifted and vaccination programmes are underway, demand is starting to surge. However, travel companies now face severe skill shortages due to the number of job losses caused by the pandemic in 2020. There is an urgent need for experienced, skilled travel professionals to cope with the ‘new normal’ and the ever-changing layers of complexity within the sector. There is an indispensable need for a collaborative effort between industry authorities and tourism companies to ensure workers are well trained and have the correct skills to cope with the sector’s new demands.

Urgent need for knowledge and competency

According to GlobalData’s Tourism Jobs Index, job advertisements within the sector over the last quarter increased by approximately 38%, showing that travel companies are now preparing to tackle pent-up demand. However, many sector workers with many years of experience have lost their jobs and moved on to other industries outside of tourism. The interest in working in travel will also be impacted through fear that the industry does not offer adequate job protection with redundancies and high profile job losses reported throughout the pandemic. Despite the tourism sector showing signs of recovery, more casualties are inevitable due to the pandemic’s long-lasting impact.

It poses a problem for travel sector recovery as expertise and knowledge are now needed more than ever in the current challenging climate. Understanding booking conditions, value-added services, visa regulations, and travel restrictions / rules (to name a few) are essential to effectively advise travellers as the sector moves out of the pandemic. Consumer trust in the sector is currently unstable, considering varying travel restrictions and the number of cancelled trips that have occurred over the last 12 months. According to a GlobalData coronavirus consumer survey (taken December 2020), 52% of global respondents were either extremely or slightly concerned over international travel, presenting low consumer confidence. Ultimately, knowledge and expertise are required to market, sell, and advise on the right products to restore traveller confidence.

Travel companies need support to develop a talent pool

Training takes time and costs money, and with an increasing surge in demand, this will get harder for some travel companies to manage. High demand for experienced travel sector workers and economic restraints could result in travel companies being forced to employ entry-level staff on lower-paid contracts. Global industry bodies such as IATA, national trade associations, and DMOs need to work with travel industry partners to ensure the next generation of travel professionals have solid foundations to learn their craft. These organisations are in the best position to educate on the current industry themes and circumstances as the world exits the pandemic.

Underestimating this need could be a costly mistake – companies simply responding to supply and demand is not enough. The long-term confidence of consumers is under threat. The travel and tourism sector must recognise that the only way it can grow confidence and offer the best possible service is to ensure highly qualified travel experts are developed or employed within the sector.

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