Why adventure travel needs to take training in-house to tackle talent shortage

Adventure travel is facing a true battle for talent at the moment. But by creating more entry-level training opportunities, we can deliver a pipeline of great travel talent to benefit the entire industry

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It’s no secret that adventure travel jobs is facing a true battle for talent at the moment. Many candidates left the industry during the pandemic and aren't looking to return, while others are showing increased loyalty to their current company.

But a major problem that's been underreported is how Covid effectively extinguished the traditional way for new talent to enter our industry. Travel was banned during the pandemic and, with it, went any opportunities for young people to gain first-hand destination knowledge from gap years.

So if we don't change how we recruit, where do we expect new travel employees to come from?

Increased training?

Firstly, and most importantly, we need to increase the opportunities for people to enter our industry.

Companies like STA Travel were really essential to the sector. They brought in well-travelled, energetic, young people who wanted to get into travel sales. These new employees would go through a full induction programme, get fully trained up, work there for a couple of years and then move on to work for other tour operators.

This was the gateway into the industry for many young people, but a lot of these companies are either no longer operating or are still struggling from the pandemic, so this avenue into travel doesn't currently exist. And when you couple this with the small pool of young people who have even had the opportunity to travel in the last couple of years, we have a real problem.

To counter this, we need all Jobs in adventure travel companies to be more flexible, bring in less experienced people and train candidates from a lower level. Rather than focusing on the number of years that a candidate has had in a previous role, they should look at which applicants have the right DNA for their company, those who love to travel or have the right educational background. If they’re more open to those candidates, it will definitely help them fill their job vacancies.

Things need to change. Many tour operators would never traditionally have done this sort of training in-house, but if they can’t afford to pay the top salaries to secure the few great candidates in the market, then they have no choice but to consider offering that initial training themselves.

We really have got to do this. I truly believe that if adventure tour operators refuse to offer chances to new people, then this problem will just continue to escalate and will result in a price war with everyone trying to grab those few remaining quality candidates.

Increased salaries?

Of course, the best talent in the market will have their choice of roles and will naturally gravitate towards the jobs that are paying more or that offer increased flexibility and homeworking.

Wages in the travel industry have been a problem for a number of years, and all travel companies will need to re-evaluate their salary banding going forward. The lack of candidates in the market has undoubtedly pushed salaries in the adventure travel sector up and they will continue to go up. In order to get experienced and talented candidates, companies will have no choice but to offer a relevant wage.

Increased flexibility?

Full-time homeworking has undeniably become more important to jobseekers, so this is another option that we all need to seriously consider. The pandemic has meant that about 90 per cent of adventure travel companies have now opened themselves up to hybrid working, but the large majority are not keen to go completely remote based. Adventure tour operators have quite close-knit teams, and the owners still believe very much in their teams all being together in the same room. Very, very few of the companies I recruit for will allow full-time remote working – the rest will want people in the office at least twice a week.

This is a big issue because some candidates now wish to be based remotely even though they never would have asked for it previously – it is an expectation that never used to exist. These roles weren't available before the pandemic, and they're still very rare now, but any company that can offer this will instantly have an advantage over their competitors.

With more travel companies now struggling to fill their jobs themselves than in previous years, the role of the recruiter has become more important than ever. But by creating more entry-level training opportunities with improved packages, we can deliver a pipeline of great travel talent that will benefit our entire industry.

By Mark Shapiro, Team Leader at C&M Travel Recruitment