Q&A with Steve Browne, Head of Hospitality & Leisure
What did you see in 2022 for the Hospitality & Leisure sector?
As COVID restrictions were eased and people began leaving their jobs in large numbers – a pattern widely known as ‘the Great Resignation’ – there was a lot of talk about power shifting to candidates, where previously employers held most of the cards. The pendulum is now starting to swing back to companies amid the cost of living crisis. Candidates seem more risk-averse, and, overall, are seeking stability rather than new ventures.
As for my clients, it’s been a good year. Business travel, as well as leisure travel, returned in earnest post-pandemic. Hotel groups have shown record profits, and they are generally back to where they need to be with their operational staff. We are now seeing a heavier focus on commercial hires instead.
Lastly, unlike the majority of the tech industry, travel tech firms are performing well, with no mass layoffs announced.
Did 2022 go as you’d expected, both for candidates and clients?
Yes and no. The war for operational staff that I predicted last year happened: many left the industry. Still, I’d say the biggest surprise of 2022 was that business travel returned strongly – not quite to 2019 levels, but it’s in a much healthier state than most predicted. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, though it’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2023.
What recruitment trends did you notice this year?
We sold a lot of market mapping assignments. Increasingly, clients want to plan their critical hires in detail – to know who’s out there, and who they can attract. We’ve seen more searches for demand and performance marketing positions, as companies are looking to optimise marketing spend and demonstrate return on investment. Separately, diversity took centre stage in 2022, as more and more firms recognise the importance of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) at corporate level. Increasingly, clients ask for diverse shortlists in their briefing calls – which we actively encourage.
The pandemic made companies in many different industries realise that their tech needed updating – we’ve certainly seen this in travel & hospitality, where it’s no secret that legacy systems remain an issue. As a result, more technical system integration roles have come up. Certain departments such as pricing and revenue management have fewer staff and more automation than before, and are targeting their hires carefully (e.g., more tech and data science recruits, and fewer revenue managers).
I’ve noticed that senior candidates are increasingly interested in knowing their worth. Salaries have gone up, though I suspect this will start to level out soon. The stock market is in trouble; where travel tech has done well, its share prices have generally followed those of other tech companies. So, staff who had part of their salary tied up in equity have suffered a big loss to their pay.
What is your advice to candidates for next year?
Don’t get too caught up in the hype of how well hospitality is doing right now. Post-pandemic ‘revenge travel’ may still be going on (and somewhat papering over the cracks), but as the recession bites and reality hits, there will be a big impact and we’re likely to see another dip across the sector. Candidates should bear that in mind and think carefully about any jumps they make. I’d also say that the more data-driven you can be in your job function, the better – particularly in sales and marketing roles, where this will be key in years to come.
And what advice would you give to clients?
There are tough times ahead, so prepare accordingly. Do in-depth searches for new staff – it sounds obvious, but you should go the extra mile to look for the very best people.
The war for talent continues. Candidates had a more power at the start of the year, but this is shifting; companies can be a lot more diligent now when it comes to recruitment.
What are your predictions for the next six months, and for 2023 generally?
We may see an uplift in talent from other sectors (namely tech) looking to find a home within the hospitality industry. Traditionally, the lower salaries in hospitality & leisure, in comparison to other markets, have made it difficult to attract top tech talent. However, candidates are now being tempted across by a shift in focus to work-life balance, as well as a number of interesting new projects and a booming – for now – industry.