The travel industry is making a great comeback after the pandemic restrictions and their financial consequences. In 2022, global tourism reached 63% of the 2019 level and is expected to go up to 80-95% in 2023. Traveling has become accessible again, while travelers’ expectations regarding the convenience of hospitality & travel services have increased. And digitalization is a considerable component of this convenience.
Today’s travelers want more digital experiences during their trips. With the increased demand, travel technology organizations need more quality, industry-savvy talent that will allow them to be competitive in the market and grow.
In this article, we will share the main challenges of attracting top talent to travel startups and established companies. We’ll also discuss the recruitment strategies that will help overcome those challenges.
The state of the job market in the digital travel sector
Recent years have not been kind to the travel tech sector. First, the Covid-19 pandemic hit hard, leading to a loss of about $4.5 trillion for the travel industry. And when tourism started reviving, the expectation of a global economic downturn caused a crisis in big tech, which forced many tech businesses to lay off thousands of employees.
So, what’s happening today with talent acquisition for Airbnb, Flixbus, Booking.com, and other digital travel brands? The good news is it’s still on the agenda. Like many other tech businesses, some digital travel companies had to cut their headcounts. For example, Expedia Group reduced its workforce as a part of its strategic actions. Airbnb is also letting go of some of its staff. However, in both cases, these cuts comprise a minor percentage of the companies’ general workforce, and no complete hiring freezes are expected.
For example, right now, Airbnb is looking for 76 new employees, while another big travel tech name, TripAdvisor, is advertising 38 jobs in engineering and technology. Tech travel newcomers are also making quite an appearance. For example, travel management company TravelPerk had 58 open positions in its startup talent pool at the time of writing.
Overall, it’s clear that while pre-pandemic travel tech hiring rates are still out of reach, the digital tourism job market stands strong amidst the economic downturn and still has plenty of open positions.
The 5 main recruitment challenges for hospitality and travel tech companies
Naturally, all companies want to snag the best candidates. But it’s not always an easy task. Let’s look at the main challenges hospitality and travel tech companies have to tackle in today’s ever-changing and fast-paced business world.
The industry’s instability
The Covid-19 pandemic practically stopped many travel tech companies from operating for months, which affected their employees. For example, Expedia cut about 3,000 jobs because of the health crisis back in 2020. For Booking.com, this number exceeded 4,000 employees, and Skyscanner let go of 300 members of its team, which constituted 20% of the company’s workforce.
Although these companies are avoiding considerable decreases in headcounts today, many skilled talents still do not see travel tech as a “safe” industry. This presents an obstacle that hinders travel tech hiring.
Finding candidates with relevant industry experience
In the US, 65% of job losses during the pandemic's first year were in the travel industry, including travel tech. As a result, many travel tech experts had to shift to other domains and obtain a set of skills for working in completely different industries. After settling in, not many of them are willing to return to, let’s say, travel or hotel management tech careers, or simply do not possess the needed travel and hospitality tech skills anymore.
Plus, because of constant hiring shortages and essentially a pause in travel tech work during the pandemic, the number of specialists with industry-specific knowledge has shrunk. Meanwhile, upskilling in travel tech and learning the aspects of this domain is a task that candidates need to dedicate extra effort to. This means the general talent pool with domain knowledge is scarce, and finding a candidate with relevant experience may be a difficult and lengthy process.
Going back to offering in-office or hybrid positions
The future forum by Slack reports that, in mid-2022, 80% of all knowledge workers wanted flexibility in where they work. At the same time, 34% of companies globally have already turned back to fully in-office work, and 49% offer hybrid work.
That’s where a problem arises: while most of the candidates are seeking job opportunities with the option of fully remote work in the travel tech industry, numerous companies want to see their teams on-site at least from time to time. For example, Expedia has recently announced a search for 120 tech experts, all of them for in-office/hybrid roles in London.
A mismatch between the trend of going back to office work and potential employees being used to a high level of flexibility in their location can be a serious challenge when looking for appropriate candidates and competing for their attention.
Top talents are scared of jumping into new roles
Because of the tough situation in the tech job market, many currently employed specialists are simply scared to switch companies or feel insecure about jumping into new roles.
During the pandemic, there was a trend called The Great Resignation: tech employees were voluntarily quitting their jobs to find better conditions. Currently, tech workers have changed their priorities and are more concerned about the risk of losing their jobs than ideal working conditions. This means they’re not actively searching for new career opportunities. So, finding a candidate who is ready to switch jobs may not be easy.
Inflated compensation rates of top tech talents
The technology industry is an incredibly competitive field where companies are constantly in a fight for quality talent. The current crisis hasn’t changed this situation: the demand for skilled tech workers remains high. Middle- and senior-level specialists in the European and US travel tech job market are getting dozens of job propositions and can choose the ones with the best pay rate.
That’s why top companies are offering somewhat inflated paychecks to attract and retain talent. This presents a challenge to travel tech startups and small-scale companies since they are not always able to compete with industry leaders in terms of remuneration levels and other employee benefits.
Effective recruitment strategies for tech travel and hospitality
The situation in the hiring market for travel tech companies might seem difficult, if not hopeless. But there’s no need for desperation — with a set of effective recruitment strategies for innovative hiring in the hospitality technology sector, you have a high chance of finding the right candidates.
Open up to hiring globally
Going to a global market and opening up opportunities for remote work in the travel tech industry introduces advantages for companies and eliminates some of the challenges mentioned above.
Hiring globally, in the regions outside of the company’s location, allows you to discover industry-savvy and experienced developers and gives you access to the worldwide travel startup talent pool.
What’s more, some regions, like Eastern Europe or South America, have a diverse pool of experts with more reasonable salary expectations than those on the European and US travel tech job market. It’s a win-win situation for effective travel tech workforce management: you can hire experienced, skilled professionals who, at the same time, have compensation levels more in line with the company’s budget.
Work on your employer branding
Demonstrating that the company is on solid ground and prepared to weather future crises is a top priority for recruiters and one of the main HR trends in the technology travel sector. That’s why it’s crucial to work on a positive online presence and emphasize your travel tech employer branding.
Here are some talent attraction and retention strategies for hospitality startups and established companies that will help improve your employer brand:
- When posting a job ad, go beyond the compensation level — talk about a fascinating and dynamic domain, the company’s culture, and employee benefits (for example, mental health days off, remote work options, etc.)
- Share your success online and show how your team is completing day-to-day tasks, for example, on Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s important to demonstrate how the company is growing and retaining employees so the candidates feel more confident about long-term collaboration possibilities (for example, highlighting staff with long service records).
- Showcase your domain expertise by sharing useful information with appropriate news outlets and platforms.
- Make sure your hiring team follows the best practices of tech-driven hospitality recruitment when approaching candidates, as this is a key factor in their perception of you as an employer.
Let’s talk about the last step in more detail.
Create a top-notch candidate journey experience
Actions speak louder than words. For companies, this means conducting a quality recruitment process. Ensure a smooth and positive candidate journey, be it with your in-house recruitment team or through outsourcing the job to a reliable agency.
Encourage your recruiters to undertake training for innovative hiring in hospitality technology, including AI-driven recruitment for hospitality. This results in effective support for candidates at every stage of their interaction with a company, from sending a CV to onboarding. Even if rejected, the candidate should view your company in a good light. Candidates often share their recruitment journey reviews online and this contributes to your travel tech employer branding too.
Hire diversely and be realistic about the hiring market
Having realistic expectations and adjusting to the market is vital in talent acquisition for Airbnb, Flixbus, Booking.com, and similar companies. For example, Airbnb’s recruitment team shared that the company’s hiring managers often have an unrealistic image of a “perfect” candidate and recruiters help them create a more down-to-earth profile.
You need to realize that it might be challenging to find an expert in, let’s say, frontend programming who also possesses hospitality tech skills. One way around this is to focus on the candidates’ readiness to learn while offering them training programs on upskilling their travel tech expertise.
What’s more, it can be beneficial for travel tech workforce management to be more open to all kinds of workers, including those who have gaps in their careers. You can hire a technically strong candidate with a great desire to learn and advance, for example, in hotel management tech careers, who can get familiar with your niche in just a few months. Expedia is a great example of diversity in travel tech companies. It launched a Return Ticket program aimed at caregivers with a 2+ year gap on their resume. The program brings them up to speed with current standards, with the intent of them becoming full-time employees.
Get assistance from an industry-savvy recruitment partner
We get that it can be difficult to wrap your head around hiring on the digital tourism job market in the post-Covid, recession-fueled, crises-strewn world. Sometimes it’s best to trust an agency that knows all the ins and outs of recruitment, including executive recruitment, for travel tech.
We, at Indigo Tech Recruiters, have assisted companies from 26 countries on the quest of finding candidates matching hard and soft skill sets, the company’s culture, budget, and regional restrictions. With cutting-edge approaches, like AI-driven recruitment for hospitality, and an individual approach to each client, we take into account your location and work mode preference (in-office, remote, hybrid) to find suitable candidates in our database that can hop on board ASAP.
The bottom line
The travel tech industry has survived some hard times and is slowly recovering as more people are engaging in traveling and enjoying the benefits of digital transformation in hospitality & travel. While travel tech companies are still hiring, despite the recent layoffs in big tech, this can be challenging. Industry instability, a lack of domain-savvy candidates, employees’ preference for remote work, specialists being reluctant to switch jobs, and inflated compensation rates are among the top obstacles.
Fortunately, attracting top talent to travel startups and established businesses is not a problem with appropriate recruitment strategies. These should include building your employer branding, hiring globally, embracing diversity in travel tech companies, fostering an excellent candidate journey experience, and collaborating with a reliable recruitment partner.
Indigo Tech Recruiters can help you apply the best recruitment and retention strategies for hospitality startups and mature companies — let’s make sure you don’t overlook a perfectly matched candidate!