Travel management companies and other suppliers are being urged to be “transparent” about the staff shortages affecting their operations as travel bounces back.
TMCs and much of the wider travel industry have been struggling to recruit enough staff to cope with increased travel demand this year after cutting back during the Covid-19 crisis. Read BTN Europe’s feature on the problems facing TMCs.
Buyer members of the UK-based Institute of Travel Management (ITM) urged TMCs and other travel suppliers to provide “greater transparency and communication” about their staffing shortfalls which were creating “ongoing servicing issues”.
While buyers said they “recognised” the difficulties faced by travel companies over the past two years and were “at pains to avoid undue criticism of poor service”, they were also concerned by a “lack of openness” from TMCs about operational issues, staffing limitations and the timeframes for scaling up their businesses.
Kerry Douglas, the ITM’s head of programme, said: “The overriding concern right now is how staff shortages across the TMC community and supply chain are impacting negatively on service levels.
“Whilst buyers are empathetic to the challenges that TMCs are facing, their internal stake holders are not so accepting of disappointing service. Buyers are facing a difficult task explaining to their bookers and travellers that staff shortages are an industry-wide issue and that the travel experience in 2022 is still very different from that of 2019.”
Douglas added that buyers were asking suppliers to be transparent about the challenges they were facing and provide information about which positions they needed to fill and their progress in recruiting these new staff members.
“Buyers also need support with communications within their business to manage expectations of travellers and bookers, hence we are developing a toolkit of resources to help our buyer members with this process,” she said.
The call for transparency from TMCs came after ITM hosted a Buyer Knowledge Exchange session attended by global, EMEA and UK travel managers.
Other findings from the exchange included a consensus view from buyers that there was “no quick fix” to the staffing shortage across the industry in the short-term, with switching TMCs “unlikely” to improve the situation.
Buyers also noted that those working with TMCs on a management fee basis have been less impacted by servicing issues as this model has allowed TMCs to retain staff more effectively during the pandemic.
Organisations whose TMC has been experiencing staffing issues have also seen some travellers booking directly with airlines, hotels and car rental firms after “becoming frustrated” with TMC wait times.