Embrace technology to grow your travel business, says People 1st

The travel industry will need 13,000 more people by 2020 despite technological changes which are having a significant impact on businesses, according to a new study.

The report shows that the money travel agencies inject into the economy each year grew £1,110 million between 2008 and 2012, while tour operators grew even more – a massive £1,426 million in the same period.

The upbeat assessment, produced by People 1st, the skills and workforce development agency for the hospitality, tourism, leisure, travel, passenger transport and retail industries, shows that the industry has also increased in size.

The number of operators rose by 2% between 2011 and 2012 and is projected to continue to grow, with another 13,000 people needed between now and 2020.

People 1st executive director Martin-Christian Kent said there was even more positive news for the travel industry, with businesses vastly increasing their investment in training.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that travel agencies want their staff to have better product knowledge, customer service and to add value by putting together specific packages, which all helps them offer something more than booking directly through the internet,” he said.

“Tour operators are also doing this to compete more effectively, specifically around emphasising job-specific skills.

“In fact, between 2011 and 2013 the percentage of employers offering their staff either on or off-the-job training has increased by 54% in travel agencies and by a huge 234% among tour operators.”

There has been a complete turnaround compared to five years ago, with the travel sector once again expanding and businesses investing more than ever before in the training and development of their staff.

“Businesses see the importance of having a better skilled team with good product knowledge and high levels of customer service,” said Kent.

“Technology is critical, with successful businesses embracing it and ensuring that their staff’s knowledge and skills are integrated with technology. It’s a real fusing of e-tail and retail.

“The demand for skilled staff puts the spotlight on apprenticeships and in particular the changes currently being taken forward by the travel trailblazer group that we’re supporting.

“By 2017, we will have a very different apprenticeship offer and it is really important that the industry can get behind these changes to promote career opportunities through apprenticeships to attract future talent.”

People 1st says it is clear that the travel industry is recovering from the downward trend it suffered from in the previous five years when consolidation due to the financial crisis and a rising number of online bookings had a negative effect.

“This is really clear in the number of travel agencies reporting vacancies, which have increased from 13% to 25% between 2011 and 2013, while tour operators have reporting vacancies have doubled.” said Kent.

“These figures also suggest that more employers are finding it difficult to recruit and three times as many employers reported that vacancies were hard-to-fill in 2013 compared to 2011.”

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