Senior travel recruitment outlook – how can we attract passive candidates?

With a shortage of people looking for senior travel roles right now, how can companies find talent, how can we attract passive candidates and how can recruiters help?

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2022 was an extremely busy year for senior recruitment in the travel industry with a real jump in activity from the second quarter onwards. Business was growing, confidence was back and many companies were backfilling roles that they lost in the pandemic.

Although recruitment at the start of 2023 has not been quite as busy, it's still at a similar level to pre-pandemic times with slightly more relaxed deadlines than we saw in the previous 12 months.

Fewer active candidates

Last year was all about recruitment, with lots of new job openings and many people being vocal and proactive in terms of job searching. That isn't the case this year – those candidates have now settled into their roles and there are fewer people looking to move. This has resulted in a really limited number of quality active candidates in the senior travel market.

The candidate pool has become much more passive in 2023, with fewer people putting their CVs on job boards and applying for roles. But there is still quality out there. It may be harder to access these candidates, but if you can, then many are still very willing to consider moving…but it must be for the right opportunity.

Referrals and recommendations

One of the ways we're finding success at the moment is through referrals, where candidates that we have worked with are recommending friends to us who are not necessarily active on job boards. For instance, we recently approached one person about a role and, although they weren't right for the job, they recommended someone who put us in contact with someone else who successfully got the role.

This was an experienced travel professional who wasn't on any of the job boards, wasn't actively looking to change roles and would have been impossible to find without these recommendations from past candidates.

No hybrid working? No applicants

For candidates, flexibility around hybrid and remote working is now just as important as the salary package. This didn't used to be the case, but it is now absolutely commonplace. These days it is very rare to recruit for roles which are based full-time, 5 days a week in the office – and companies that want this are finding it a real struggle to fill these roles because flexibility is now seen as a must-have for almost all candidates.

Unlike the lower levels of the travel industry which have historically been poorly paid, salaries for senior and management roles in travel are very comparable to other industries. There are some small companies out there not offering top wages, but there are many travel tech companies, airlines or large OTAs paying really generous salaries. Of course, anything that travel companies can do to improve their salaries and overall packages will make it easier to attract top talent and stand out from their competitors.

Broaden your criteria – consider other sectors

This won't apply to all senior roles in travel, but depending on the position, we often suggest that companies consider widening their talent pool by looking at candidates from other sectors and industries. If it's a sales or marketing role, then companies will usually only consider candidates with travel experience. But if it's a finance or IT position, then there are a lot of great candidates out there from other industries who have the transferable skills to become a success in travel as well.

At the lower levels of the industry there is currently a huge shortage of talent, with the best candidates able to pick and choose from multiple offers. While this isn't quite the case for senior recruitment, those companies currently recruiting need to explore all options to find a successful hire in this challenging market.

By Tim Robinson, Sales Manager – Senior Appointments at C&M Travel Recruitment, and Ben Lidbury, Senior Account Manager – Senior Appointments at C&M Travel Recruitment