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24/08/2022 By : Tayla-Jane Nelson

“Enhance digital literacy” to solve travel trade skill shortage - IATA

Making training digital will help fast track the training needed for the travel trade to overcome staffing skills.

IATA’s white paperSkilling up for a travel and tourism recovery - how to hit the ground running,’surveyed 750 industry stakeholders. The paper found that although the appetite for travel had returned, customer experience had deteriorated with staff shortages across the industry leading to fewer flights and different testing and documentation requirements between destinations. The paper noted that all the different inbound travel requirements, together with other aspects such as last minute flight changes, meant that customers now needed more advice and assistance than they did pre-pandemic.

Training 'on the job' will not solve shortage issues

To alleviate staff shortages, the white paper advocated moving away from the traditional, time consuming model of training on the job. Of the 755 global respondents surveyed in the white paper, 626 (83 per cent) said they acquired most of their skills at their company.

IATA’s paper warned that training and upskilling would have to change as the traditional model would not bring travel advisors up to speed and ready to serve customers quick enough. Within the US, there were 1.7 million vacancies within leisure and hospitality to fill. The US Travel Association recommended: “Companies may need to consider providing workers with the essential skills and experiences that lead to successful and rewarding careers.”

The survey found that the pandemic had highlighted the need for the industry to adapt its ways of working. Within the survey, IATA asked a number of major players in regions which had continued to experience fair levels of travel which aspects of their work had changed in terms of customer requirements and what this has meant for their travel advisor teams.

"Duty of care" is top priority for corporate customers

The survey found there had been a shift in focus in terms of priorities. “Duty of care is now the top priority for the majority of our corporate customers, where previously it was cost reduction strategies for their travel policies,” said Savio VazVice President, Government & Corporate Travel at dnata Travel Group

While Michelle Docherty Team Leader, Leisure Professional Development, at Flight Centre Travel Group, said a flexible approach was needed from staff as well as companies. “...advisors now need a growth mindset, aiming to constantly develop their skills and knowledge,” she said. “Not just of the products, but the booking systems, the terms and conditions, the website interface; everything is always changing now.”

IATA’s white paper identified building and scaling capacity as one of the biggest post-pandemic challenges. Whereas previous models of training relied on less experienced staff shadowing their more experienced colleagues to gain skills, the transfer of knowledge was more difficult with many experienced staff having left the industry and widespread remote working.

Online learning is key to keeping learning up-to-date

Continuous training can play a part in retaining staff and enabling them to keep their skills updated. The white paper recommended certifications based on achieving success through in-depth training. It suggested that online learning hubs could provide similar tools for smaller agencies, enabling them a similar benefit to the in-house set ups used within larger agencies.

As well as essential customer-handling and communication skills, new agents will also need geographical and travel product knowledge, plus familiarity with technology and systems. Travel professionals will also need to know how to get up-to-date information on travel documents and entry and exit protocols in order to make sales and plan customer trips.

IATA’s white paper concluded that the travel trade needed to plan for the continuous updating of skills to safeguard the sustainability of their businesses. “Offering [them] clear career development paths, with learning milestones that take them from beginner to experienced, and experienced to expert, will retain people in the face of labour shortages.”

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