June 15, 2024

Mind the gap

Pay transparency could be the answer to the travel industry’s talent shortage, says Radha Vyas, co-founder of boutique travel company Flash Pack

If the travel industry were a ship, it would be a mistake to think that the 130% uptick in global tourism this year (World Tourism Organisation) signals calm after the storm. The crashing waves of Covid may have subsided, but this particular tempest has washed up a trail of debris – not least with recruitment. 

Statista reports that the global travel sector lost 62 million jobs in 2020, and according to analysis from auditing firm RSM, it is now “acutely” impacted by hiring problems. This includes the impact of new market shifts such as the Great Resignation, whereby record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs in a collective moment of post-Covid reckoning. 

In the current labour crunch, travel leaders face a Rubik’s Cube dilemma. Reviving capacity is vital to reviving the sector; but RSM says 61% of travel companies are struggling to fill the talent gap. This shortage is particularly evident within digital roles, where travel brands must compete with tech start-ups against a major talent shortage.

Amid these uncertainties, pay transparency offers a powerful route forward. Figures from job search engine Adzuna indicate that change is already afoot: the proportion of travel job ads posting a job salary grew by over 15% year-on-year in 2021. But there’s still work to do and its impact is twofold. 

Firstly, travel has form in underpaying its employees. The 2019 Low Pay Commission Report found a high prevalence of minimum wage workers in leisure. Secondly, salary secrecy generally is still a huge problem in the UK and worldwide – just 12% of global companies stated pay ranges within job ads last year, says data company Payscale – in a theme that aggravates existing gender and ethnicity pay gaps. 

If travel companies are serious about making a difference, they must start with concrete action – inspired by UK leaders in the field. According to recruitment site OnRec, these include workspace platform Desana, which operates from a salaries and shares calculator, dating app Feeld’s offer of open salaries and equity options, and software company MadeTech, with its handbook detailing transparent salary bands.

Flash Pack recently followed suit, creating a compensation calculator that benchmarks our roles against salary data from 3,000 similar start-ups. All our job adverts now have public salary bands and options grants based on this calculator. 

While the travel industry needs to atone for past mistakes by raising pay, it can’t easily compete against the monster salaries of Silicon Valley giants. Yet, if we’ve learnt anything from the miasma of issues surfacing in a post-Covid era of work, it’s that employees want more than a decent pay packet. Research from consultancy giant Deloitte suggests that gen Z, in particular, are looking for evidence of ethical behaviour from would-be employers. 

In a worker’s economy, enshrining values of fairness and trust could be key to tempting new talent aboard travel’s besieged ship. Pay transparency is the cornerstone of the kind of “actions not words” commitment that speaks to wider societal shifts, drawing new crew along for the ride. 

Radha Vyas is the co-founder of boutique travel company Flash Pack