Travel agencies

U.S. Travel Agencies Cannot Keep Up With Demand Due To Advisor Shortage

Skift take

The US travel agency industry will not fully recover until it succeeds in replacing the advisers cut off during the pandemic. Lack of staff has often made it difficult to book travel for people who want to use the services of travel counselors.

Rashaad Jörden

Like many people have started traveling again in recent months, they have turned to travel counselors in large numbers for advice on any Covid-related challenges they might face. Indeed, many travel counselors have reported seeing a raise customers this year compared to before the pandemic.

But the renewed interest in travel counselors hasn’t sparked a hiring boom. Several industry executives have said many travel agencies have struggled to hire due to financial difficulties, and the shortage of advisers has created situations where agencies cannot meet pent-up demand for service from travelers. .

“I’m frantically trying to hire,” said Sarah Kline, president of the Maryland-based agency Travel time, which is part of Group Travel Together, a consortium of 600 travel agencies in North America. “We have started actively searching this spring and summer and have yet to fill the positions.”

There are plenty of openings to fill. In 2020, 62% of travel counselors in the United States were either dismissed or put on leave. Corn a survey nearly 300 advisers led by TravelAge West found that only 28% of travel agencies were hiring, although 35% said they had fewer payroll agents than before the pandemic. Additionally, 77 percent of respondents said they did not know of other agencies that were hiring.

Hiring difficulties, according to Kline, lead to situations where travel counselors are overworked and unable to meet service requests.

So what’s stopping many travel companies from hiring new advisors?

Kline thinks uncertainty is a big reason, a thought echoed by Joshua Bush, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based company Avenue Deux Voyage. “Agency owners are concerned that other closings or potential variations will decimate another round of bookings or further postponements,” Bush said.

Financial issues can also complicate hiring, especially as more than 90% of travel agencies saw their business revenues decline by at least 75% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Roughly 98% of US travel agencies adapt the Small business managementdefinition of a small business, and although many of them have received federal assistance through the CARES Act and the Paycheque Protection Program, the American Society of Travel Advisors warned earlier in 2021 that 85% of travel agencies would not survive without federal help.

“Owners have to bring in new advisors, which means additional costs but a better understanding of when that revenue will be realized,” said Lindsay Neal Pearlman, senior vice president of international recreation at the Travel leaders network, a large group made up of North American travel agencies. “Hiring too early can cost too much.

The limited number of on-board advisers at some travel agencies could hurt the industry in another way. “It’s a shame when the potential client ‘new to working with a travel counselor’ comes in and gets turned down,” said Bush, as the aforementioned TravelAge West investigation found that 68 percent of respondents believe that a lack of adequate staff had a negative effect on making a sale.

“It can leave a negative taste in your mouth or come back to (do it yourself), which can be extremely stressful right now. Many can give up and stay at home. It won’t help us because we see people coming back to travel, ”said Bush.

While he and Kline have seen many travel counselors leave their posts, Bush believes that the replacements will not be hired in sufficient numbers to effectively serve the large number of travelers set to return to the road. “It could be a year or more,” he said. “It takes real technical training and real development to be a great travel advisor. We need to know a lot about a lot of things to serve our customers well.

Getting new advisors up to speed quickly is essential for the travel industry because, as Bush said, the longer it takes to hire and rehire people, the more likely it is that clients will be frustrated with a loss. lack of service and bad experiences.

So how can the travel industry reverse the shortage? Kline has a simple step. “Inject young blood into this industry,” she said.

This is something that the travel industry has not done a good job of. Another investigation conducted by TravelAge West and published in September – one of 280 travel counselors – found that just eight percent of counselors report working with more than five people under the age of 30. Additionally, 70 percent of those polled said the travel industry had failed to attract new advisors.

Kline believes that presenting the travel highlights could point young people towards a career as a counselor. She cited the example of taking a group of teenagers to Mexico for graduation and linking them to her Instagram account to track her travels as well as taking them to inspection sites and for dinners. resort. These young people, Kline said, have become addicted to travel.

“They know what they want to experience and how to share it with the world,” she said.