Travel salaries are going up and up (…or are they?)

We've heard for some time now that salaries are increasing continually in the travel industry, but when you dive into the stats, is that actually true? Well, yes…but also no…

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The headline figure is that wages for new travel jobs are up by 11.4 per cent since last year and by 19.1 per cent since before the pandemic – which is great news! Everyone's benefitting and we're all now earning significantly more, right? Not quite.

For those in standard travel jobs (those paying less than £40,000), pay increased by a very healthy 16.1 per cent between 2019 and 2022. But in the past year, it’s risen by just 3.6 per cent – less than the rate of inflation.

And for those in junior travel jobs (those paying up to £22,000), pay has increased by just 1.9 per cent so far in 2023. Those in mid-level travel roles (those paying between £22,001 and £29,999) have seen an even smaller annual rise of just 1.1 per cent.

Since 2019, pay for those in junior travel roles has increased by 9.8 per cent to stand at an average of £20,942, while those in mid-level roles have seen wages rise by 4.7 per cent to reach an average of £26,553 – an increase of only £1,198 in four years. Just think about how much more expensive everything else has got in that time!

So what accounts for the big overall increase in wages? Rather inevitably, it's at the top. Pay for executive roles (£40,000 and above) has risen by an average of 7.23 per cent in the past year and the overall figures have been skewed by a big increase in placements of higher-paid executives.

With an average wage rise of just 3.9 per cent (or less than inflation) for all new entry or mid-level roles (those paying less than £30,000), how do we expect to entice candidates to work in the travel industry? And don't forget that from next April, minimum wage increases to £11.44 per hour, meaning it will be illegal to pay any full-time employer aged 21 or older less than £22,308.

In order to attract more talent into the industry, we need to see wages for junior and mid-level travel roles at least keeping pace with those of more senior positions – and preferably rising faster. That's how we create a talent pipeline for future years.

Travel's a fantastic industry, but we can't continue to be a low-paying one. We're already losing too much great talent to other sectors, and continuing to offer poor salaries to junior members of our teams will ultimately hurt us all. 

Many travel companies are currently experiencing difficulties in recruiting quality talent, and unfortunately this is a byproduct of our history of low pay – many talented travel professionals have left our industry in recent years and they're not looking back. And with far better salaries in other sectors, how can we blame them? 

Some companies simply don't get it. They want candidates with years of travel experience, but are only willing to offer salaries that already looked miserly five years ago. It should go without saying that it is proving more and more difficult - almost impossible - to find talent for these roles.

This is on us. As difficult as it is, for the health of the travel industry, we simply must offer better salaries to our junior and mid-level team members.

Otherwise, we're creating real problems for future years.

By Barbara Kolosinaka, Managing Director at C&M Travel Recruitment