Some travel agencies cut hours as others struggle to recruit

Some travel agencies are asking staff to work reduced hours to avoid redundancies despite other firms turning to industry ‘match-making’ services to fill vacancies and meet improving demand.

The end of furlough at the same time as the relaxation of travel restrictions has created a mixed picture for staff across the trade.

As the government announced it was providing £500 million to get people back to work, agency consortia reported low levels of redundancies, with members instead negotiating reduced hours for agents until cashflow improves.

The Travel Network Group said staff with “experience, knowledge and skills” could not be easily replaced.

A spokeswoman said: “The majority of our members are consulting with their staff about reducing their working hours temporarily rather than going down the redundancy route.”

Similarly, Advantage Travel Partnership said “lots” of members now had staff on “mutually-agreed reduced hours”, yet at the same time “a large number of members have vacancies they are struggling to fill”.

“The long-term view largely depends on booking volumes that members can put through over the next few months,” said leisure director Kelly Cookes.

Polka Dot Travel is among those recruiting and said it was getting applications from “experienced” industry staff thanks to a match-making scheme launched by Advantage, its consortium, as well as social media channels.

Gold Medal parent dnata Travel is also recruiting, after downsizing from 1,200 staff to 800 during the pandemic. Lobby group Target (Travel Agent Reform Group Engaged Together) has been helping agents find work or fill vacancies via a jobs board on its Facebook page launched before furlough ended. It has already put up more than 150 job posts.

Co-founder Graeme Brett, owner of Westoe Travel, said: “We’re surprised how many vacancies are coming up. We just want to keep as many people in travel as we can.”

The Leger Shearings Group, meanwhile, has subcontracted Peakes Travel Elite staff remotely to make up reduced salaries and hours – and Holidaysplease has offered agencies the chance to ‘lend’ staff to work as homeworkers for six months.

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