Business travel recruitment in 2024 – the successes...and the challenges

With so much going on in business travel right now, here's our thoughts for the year ahead

Return to News & insights

From the return to the office and salary fluctuations to apprenticeship schemes, there's a lot’s going on in business travel right now. Here's the thoughts of C&M's Duncan Tingle (southern UK) and Rachel Elmore (northern UK).

Jobs market is heating up

The good news: the business travel jobs market has been getting busier and busier since early spring, but it was a very quiet start to the year.

It’s still not as busy as the last couple of years, but there seems to be a couple of reasons for that – firstly, some of the larger companies recruited very heavily to get back on track after Covid and don’t need new people urgently, and also a lot of companies still aren’t travelling for meetings. However, we’ve seen this before – and business travel always bounces back. People know the benefits of meeting face-to-face rather than through a laptop. I have no doubt that things will continue to recover.

The return to the office

The big issue so far this year is the pull from many BT companies to try and get people back into hybrid roles – and while some are paying very good salaries, there is just not the appetite from candidates to return to the office.

This is far and away, the biggest barrier to filling business travel jobs at the moment. If you take that hurdle away, the pool of available talent increases exponentially.

Many candidates working in the sector moved into homebased roles during the pandemic when there was a real shortage of talent, and they were paid relatively well to do so. So it is now really hard to tempt them to come back into a big city when they’re already earning a decent salary working at home. 

For example, if a company offered an attractive salary for a city-based Sabre role, their pool of available candidates would be very small, but if they were to offer £3,000 or £4,000 less for the same position at home, then they’d immediately have a really good selection of talent to choose from. People aren’t stupid – they’ve realised that once you factor in transport costs, that extra few thousand pounds a year doesn’t equal a great deal. 

Insisting on only one day per week in the office (rather than two or three) would help a bit, but realistically you’re still only going to attract candidates from about 30 miles away.

There is absolutely no doubt that companies will get a bigger talent pool if they offer complete homeworking. And while we do occasionally have a candidate who wants to be in the office full-time, they’re very, very much the exception!

Candidates have the power

Companies offering fully-remote roles with the right money will find there's some really good candidates out there at the moment.

It’s completely understandable that companies with big offices in cities would want all their seats to be full. But they can’t ignore the fact that the vast majority of candidates simply aren’t currently looking for office-based roles. If companies insist on having candidates return to the office, then they need to increase salaries further, have an excellent reputation and offer other clear benefits such as great career progression opportunities. 

Many business travel companies had to increase their salaries following Covid to attract new candidates, but salaries haven’t kept rising. Wages have plateaued recently – and some BT companies need to look again at what they’re offering.

Northern v Southern salaries

We’ve also found variations in wages across the sector, where some are happy to pay good salaries for remote candidates regardless of where they're based in the UK, but most still have a north-south salary divide.

When everyone was working at home just after Covid, wages increased and there was much less of a gap, but we’re now seeing a return to regionalised salaries – even for remote roles. 

Lots of our Northern candidates see upper salary brackets on job adverts and then – understandably – have questions about why that wage isn't available to them. This is always a difficult conversation because it’s very hard to justify why someone in one part of the country should be paid considerably more than a similarly experienced candidate performing the exact same role in a different location.

With these lower salaries on offer, some quality candidates in the north have far less incentive to consider new roles – and this just means that companies are reducing their available talent pool even further.

Bright spots

One area of business travel that’s really growing at the moment is production and music touring jobs, which involve film sets and music tours. 

Demand for these roles is now higher than at any point in the last few years - and candidates with this kind of background are much sought after. We have companies offering very, very attractive salaries for remote candidates. These wages have certainly risen recently, but companies realised they had to offer more to tempt this niche pool of talent away from their previous roles.

We’ve also seen increased demand for other areas of business travel so far this year too, such as groups, corporate sports tours, and marine, oil and gas roles.

The next generation

In previous years, it was relatively commonplace for candidates to move across from leisure to corporate travel, but we’re seeing this less and less now. Travel Consultants used to routinely work weekends, so they would want to move across to business travel where they could work weekdays and earn considerably more.

But more leisure travel roles are now Monday to Friday and these wages have increased significantly – in some cases, the best leisure specialists are now earning more than a business travel company would pay. That’s a real change because there is now far less incentive to move sectors.

What’s much more positive for business travel is that some corporate companies have now started their own apprenticeship schemes, where they each bring in five or ten people and train them up. Offering these training schemes may not be a realistic option for smaller companies, but for those that have the resources, extra apprenticeship schemes are great news for the travel industry as a whole. This is an exciting start, but we need more of these schemes being introduced throughout the sector to help with the talent pipeline in future years.

By Duncan Tingle (Sales Director at C&M Travel Recruitment) and Rachel Elmore (Team Leader at C&M Travel Recruitment)