Hays Travel is no longer using the furlough scheme in its retail shops and hopes to hire hundreds of new staff in the coming months.
The UK’s largest travel agency currently has 400 vacancies nationwide, and is recruiting for 450 apprentices.
Owner Dame Irene Hays praised the “absolutely outstanding” attitude to working under the furlough scheme from Hays Travel’s agents over the course of the pandemic.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, she said: “Our staff have been absolutely outstanding in their flexibility around flexi-furlough; working from home; coming in; doing Zoom calls.
“We are not using furlough at all in retail shops anymore, because we’re selling so many holidays. In fact, we’re still short of travel agents in the shops.
“We have about 400 vacancies across the country, which is really significant.
“In addition to that, we have 450 apprenticeship places and we’re still recruiting for that. To take on 450 in a pandemic is quite something, but we’re on the way.
“We have vacancies in head office too, so it’s been a challenge.
“We’re still using furlough in some areas where the business is not back, for example foreign exchange. So, selectively, we’re using furlough – but nowhere near where we were in June and July.
“We’re not looking at any redundancies at all.”
But she cautioned: “We need to see what happens. You can never say never but we’ve managed to hold on to the vast majority of our staff. We couldn’t provide customer care and have furlough” at the same time.
Hays explained how the agency “multi-skills” staff to work on different parts of the business, such as working on helplines for sporting and entertainment outlets as part of contracts it has picked up to help keep staff in work over the course of the pandemic which brought international travel to a standstill.
She said: “We’ll carry on doing other work. Clearly, nowhere near where we were in 2020, but we have diversified.”
Addressing the loss of talent from the travel industry, she added: “People have moved into other industries, become pregnant, decided travel’s not for them.
“Some have enjoyed working from home so there’s a whole range of reasons why we have so many vacancies.
“I’m hearing the same from colleagues, Independent Group members and other people in the industry. It’s a national problem.
“We’re recruiting steadily, but 400 vacancies is a lot which is why we’re so committed to apprenticeships.
“That’s the future of our industry. If we continue to have this problem, we might consider a second intake of apprentices. Young people are so quick to pick up the technology that there’s a good chance we could fill the gaps.”