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TMCs are Facing Labour Shortages. It’s Time to Tool for Success

Mountains of luggage. Temporary structures built simply to shelter the long, snaking queues of delayed passengers. Strike after strike, cancellation after cancellation.

No extra staff, and no new solutions in sight.

Safe to say, Air travel is in a pretty chaotic state right now.

Throw in the UK’s rail strikes and the major shortage of hospitality workers, and the result for travellers is depressing to say the least.

But it’s not only the consumer and tourist travel market that’s facing challenges; business travel is suffering, too.

In the middle of it all, Travel Management Companies are struggling to plug a recruitment gap, which is quickly widening into a chasm.

What’s happening, what challenges are arising – and what can TMCs do about it?

Is this all because of the Great Resignation?

The lack of staff in the wider travel industry can be pinned on the so-called “Great Resignation” – the pandemic-induced phenomenon of workers leaving in their droves, across all sectors, for pastures new.

The Great Resignation focuses on burnout, stagnating pay, and the collective lifequake we all felt when the pandemic struck.

But that might be simplifying things too much – because while labour markets in economically developed countries are indeed more volatile in the wake of covid, the travel sector was uniquely affected by the pandemic.

Because, in short, it was all but destroyed.

With entire countries on lockdown, and travel restricted to emergencies only, the sector nearly collapsed. And while governments tried to spare as many jobs as they could, through furlough schemes and other economic stimulation incentives, it ultimately wasn’t enough to keep people in place.

Those employed in the travel sector had to move on. And with them went the skill and knowledge of seasoned employees. The full effect is only now being felt, as borders open, as consumer confidence returns, and the European summer peak kicks in.

And it’s the same on the business travel side.

For TMCs, the loss of knowhow, client and supplier relationships, and human resources has been drastic. Simply hiring new people isn’t the answer – even if there was a significant candidate pool to hire from. That’s because new hires always need some amount of ramp up time to get into the flow of their new role, regardless of their experience level.

And there’s just nobody to train them.

A recent report from BTN Europe really highlights this, including the impact it’s having on remaining staff. Burnout could feed right back into the equation.

How are other TMCs responding to the challenges of increasing workloads, with fewer people to do it?

The challenges that TMCs face

The problem is twofold: the customers of TMCs need support through the widespread travel disruption taking place, and TMCs themselves need more human resources to cope with the rising demand for their services.

But experienced TMC staff are short in supply. Attrition in the industry is currently rampant, and the competition for skilled expertise is fierce. To overcome this, industry leaders are seeking to become more authoritative in their pay and compensation packages, while investing in people on the front line of customer service.

That’s all well and good for major TMCs with the funding to do so – but what about the rest?

Well – investing in people is important, and as many companies are learning right now, hiring talent is expensive. But a labour shortage can’t be resolved with better pay if there’s nobody out there to pay it to. Still, there might be something that TMCs can practically do to alleviate the pressure; and that is to embrace business travel technology.

Tooling for success – how tech could overcome TMC labour shortages

Earlier in the pandemic, one of our major corporate travel clients trialled predictive analytics – a system that diverted resources to where they were most needed. The algorithm was taught with their historical booking patterns, to predict future travel demand. This was a huge boost to planning and strategy, and allowed human resource allocation to be managed more effectively.

Predictive modelling for travel could be implemented at other TMCs who are struggling to keep up with labour shortages. And another area to consider is the automation of travel booking processes that do not require human interaction, or aren’t client/supplier facing.

One such area is by using hotel reshopping tools, like Rate Optimiser.

Rate Optimiser automatically tracks the prices of hotel bookings across multiple channels, to seek out better amenities for the same price, a more commissionable rate – or simply the cheapest price available. Our advanced AI and machine learning highlights the optimum hotel rate – eliminating manual price checks. It can then automatically cancel the existing booking and rebook at a better rate, or better amenities – without any manual intervention.

Rate Optimiser can also track for rates that are unavailable at time of booking. For example, imagine a group is attending a conference. Everyone wants to book into the same hotel – but one member of the group was unable to secure the same room type as the others, due to a lack of availability. In this case, the TMC agent could use Rate Optimiser to track that room and rate type – so that they’re notified if one becomes available.

Our flagship tool, HotelHub, provides a single platform for agents to book across multiple channels; GDS and non-GDS. It’s also richly featured with process automation, including a smart AI which can assist human operatives – and make TMC’s lives so much easier.

Our latest HotelHub Index data shows a growing shift from offline to online bookings, possibly as a result of TMC service issues related to staff shortages. HotelHub’s single-source API delivers consolidated and curated hotel content to OBTs, allowing both travel arrangers and travellers to seamlessly book accommodation online.

These bookings can also be serviced offline, if needed, allowing TMC agents to deliver consistent service regardless of how bookings are made.

Learn more – How Does HotelHub Work?

Within HotelHub, the hotel segment automatically gets added to the PNR, with back-office and itinerary notes. And single-click bookings can be enabled when payment details are available, further improving productivity.

In the short-term, implementing smart travel booking technology is a remedy to the labour shortage in the travel sector. But it’s not just a patch – implemented correctly, software like HotelHub can genuinely streamline and enhance the operating efficiency of TMCs.

With built-in analytics features, the effects are demonstrable.

Another idea that TMCs can try is documenting and storing shared company knowledge in a centralised digital database. This can be anything from the likes and dislikes of specific clients, to a process map for sourcing new tools. Giving all employees, old and new, access to knowledge can vastly increase productivity and employee independence. It can also reduce the time it takes for new hires to learn the specifics of the job.

So, how will it all play out? That remains to be seen. Investing in technology – and training your teams to use it – isn’t always straightforward. But HotelHub takes away the burden of infrastructure development, by giving you a versatile tool that can cut manual work and boost productivity.

And we’ll always be at your side when you need it most.

Enhance your travel booking automation

HotelHub is the world’s most advanced travel management software for hotel bookings. Our AI-assisted platform helps TMCs streamline their processes while enhancing the customer experience. And we’ll always be on hand to assist you with getting the most from your system – and can even develop a custom solution that works just for you.