December 3, 2022

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Dubai’s travel agencies are starting to feel impact of staff shortages

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Dubai: Dubai’s travel agencies are facing staffing issues as travel demand heads back into full growth, according to a top official with an industry grouping.

“During the pandemic, some staff went into other industries and that’s affecting the number of people available,” said Sumit Acharya, Vice-President of Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG).

Instead of hiring fresh recruits and training them, agencies are on the lookout for more experienced candidates, who can “hit the ground running” .They are also being offered significant pay hikes, Acharya added.

This could lead to a sector-wide hike in salaries as employers look to lock down their best talent. An average travel agent in Dubai typically earns around Dh13,000 per month, with salaries ranging from Dh7,020-Dh19,600, according to Salaryexplorer.

“When an agency wins a contract, they need to ramp up hiring and they would rather get someone from another company who is ready and trained,” said Acharya.

During the pandemic, some staff went into other industries and that’s affecting the number of people available

– Sumit Acahrya of Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group

Big steps to travel rebound

Last week, Dubai issued a resolution cancelling fees levied on airline agents and offices operating in Dubai. Acharya said the decision is a positive step, but will only apply to General Sales Agencies (GSAs), who are airlines’ local sales representatives.

Acharya explained that unlike normal travel agencies that sell tickets for all airlines, GSAs act as an office for an airline in a particular location. “Each time the GSA opens a branch office they would have to pay additional fees– that’s what’s been referred to here.”

The travel industry official hopes that there is a review of the different fees paid by the broader sector related to licensing. “It’s a very positive development for GSAs and the industry has been talking about this to different parts of the government for some time – it’s very gratifying.”

Back to pre-Covid?

The long Eid weekend, followed by the summer break, could propel Dubai’s travel agents to pre-pandemic numbers. Acharya, citing numbers seen on IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) platform, said that Dubai’s travel agencies are 30 per cent below 2019 levels in terms of the number of transactions.

The ongoing disruptions in major North American and European hubs could cast a cloud over immediate recovery prospects. “There’s a fair bit of chaos and, in some cases, it can take two-and-a-half hours just to get done with the arrival processes, and that’s not a pleasant experience,” said Acharya.

Acharya believes the disruptions will have a big impact on passengers’ confidence in the aviation industry, especially since it has only been a few months since travel restrictions were relaxed in those markets.

Travel agencies still relevant

The massive flight delays and cancellations triggered by the pandemic had some industry sources thinking that customers would develop a stronger preference for direct airline bookings. But, that’s not been the case.

“During the pandemic, people figured out how easy it is to have a one-stop shop like a travel agency,” said Acharya. “Agencies can make whatever changes required by the consumers – getting through to airlines has been quite a challenge.”

High fuel

The pent-up travel demand, which has been driving international air traffic, may grind to a halt by the end of this year amid high fuel prices. But this is not a source of bother for Dubai’s travel agencies.

“The presence of a large expatriate population presents a certain compulsion for travel,” said Acharya. “There’s a lot of regional travel that’s going to grow compared to 2019.”

Travel group

The Dubai Travel & Tour Agents Group was established in 2004 under Dubai Chamber and managed by a nine-member Executive Committee consisting of senior professionals at prominent travel agencies.

The grouping aims to ensure that the interests of travel agencies are represented with airlines, IATA, hotels, other suppliers, and with government bodies.

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