Dubai: Dubai’s travel agencies are facing staffing problems as travel demand resumes full growth, according to a senior industry group official.
“During the pandemic, some staff have gone to other industries and this is affecting the number of people available,” said Sumit Acharya, Vice President of Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG).
Instead of hiring new recruits and training them, agencies are looking for more experienced candidates who can “take over”. They are also being offered big pay rises, Acharya added.
This could lead to higher wages across the sector as employers seek to retain their top talent. The average travel agent in Dubai typically earns around Dh13,000 per month, with salaries ranging from Dh7,020 to Dh19,600, according to Salaryexplorer.
“When an agency wins a contract, they have to hire more and they prefer to hire someone from another company who is ready and trained,” Acharya said.
During the pandemic some staff have gone to other industries and this affects the number of people available
– Sumit Acahrya of Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group
Big steps towards travel rebound
Last week, Dubai issued a resolution waiving fees levied on airline agents and offices operating in Dubai. Acharya said the decision is a positive step, but will only apply to general sales agencies (GSAs), which are the airlines’ local sales representatives.
Acharya explained that unlike normal travel agencies which sell tickets for all airlines, GSAs act as an office for an airline in a particular location. “Every time the GSA opens a branch they would have to pay an additional fee – that’s what we’re talking about here.”
The travel industry official hopes there will be a review of the various fees paid by the wider industry related to licensing. “This is a very positive development for GSAs and the industry has been talking to different parts of government about this for some time – it’s very gratifying.”
Back to pre-Covid?
The long Eid weekend, followed by the summer break, could propel Dubai travel agents towards pre-pandemic numbers. Acharya, citing figures seen on IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) platform, said Dubai’s travel agencies are 30% below 2019 levels in terms of number of transactions.
Ongoing disruptions in major North American and European hubs could cloud prospects for an immediate recovery. “There’s quite a bit of chaos and in some cases it can take two and a half hours just to complete the arrival processes, and that’s not a pleasant experience,” Acharya said.
Acharya believes the disruption will have a big impact on passenger confidence in the aviation industry, especially as it has only been a few months since travel restrictions were eased in these markets.
Travel agencies still relevant
The massive flight delays and cancellations caused by the pandemic have led some industry sources to believe that customers will develop a stronger preference for booking direct with airlines. But that was not the case.
“During the pandemic, people realized how easy it was to have a one-stop-shop like a travel agency,” Acharya said. “Agencies can make all the changes required by consumers – moving to airlines has been quite a challenge.”
Pent-up travel demand, which has been driving international air traffic, could come to a halt by the end of this year due to high fuel prices. But this is not a hassle for Dubai travel agencies.
“The presence of a large expatriate population presents some constraint for travel,” Acharya said. “There are a lot of regional trips that will increase compared to 2019.”
The Dubai Travel & Tour Agents Group was established in 2004 under the umbrella of the Dubai Chamber and managed by a nine-member Executive Committee comprised of experienced professionals from leading travel agencies.
The grouping aims to ensure that the interests of travel agencies are represented with airlines, IATA, hotels, other suppliers and government agencies.