Remote Work Tech Startups Offer Quick Fix for Travel’s Labor Crisis

Platforms designed to help companies employ remote workers around the world at the flick of a switch are helping governments fast-track migrants into their countries to fill jobs.

Global payroll and onboarding startup Deel claims it pioneered the model, after partnering with the United Arab Emirates government last month.

Deel is helping speed up worker relocation, by assisting with visas, flights and accommodation. The UAE wants to step up the pace to attract more skilled workers and transform itself into a global tech hub as it weens itself off oil revenues.

Another startup, Remote.com, is also working with governments, including Portugal, looking to attract and fast-track workers.

“Our collaboration with the government has evolved over time, and we feel humbled and honored to have participated in several programs but especially, supporting the program for Ukrainians coming into the country,” said a spokesperson.

Different countries have different needs, but across Europe many EU members share a common goal: an urgent need to fill travel and tourism industry roles.

European Gaps

The travel industry was particularly impacted by the pandemic, as many employees were laid off when the work dried up.

“In Western and Northern European key cities, many travel and hospitality jobs were filled by foreigners, and many of them simply decided not to return,” said Daniel Tallos, founder of new recruitment and talent sourcing company Find Your Best. “The cost of living became too high for some of the people filling in for the lower grade, lower paid jobs, so even if these foreigners wanted to return, they couldn’t afford it.”

It’s no surprise that a report this week warned Europe’s travel and tourism sector recovery is at risk unless 1.2 million jobs are filled.

Published by the published by the World Travel & Tourism Council and European Travel Commission, the pair issued a call to “facilitate labor mobility within countries and across borders and strengthen collaboration at all levels, providing visas and work permits.”

Deel’s UAE partnership highlights a model for the future. “The longer-term goal is that this collaboration can serve as a blueprint for what Deel and other governments can do to facilitate the growth of new talent pools all over the world,” it said.

Migration Efforts Already Underway

The European report said travel agencies are predicted to be the worst hit, with a 30 percent shortfall of workers. Airlines and hotels are likely to suffer one in five unfilled vacancies.

To some extent, mass recruitment at a state level to ease the spreading travel chaos is already happening.

Germany has lifted regulations to allow in foreign workers to fill staff shortages across its airports – albeit as a temporary solution.

French hotel group Accor is also recruiting 12,000 temporary overseas employees to operate apartments and homes in Qatar as temporary fan housing ahead of the 2022 soccer World Cup. However, it’s set up a specific Qatari entity to manage this project, which looks to fill jobs including reception and laundry roles.

Some 3,400 employees have already been recruited, a spokesperson for Accor told Skift, and between 1,500 and 2,900 recruits will join the teams each month until October, ready for kick-off in November.

But will all these efforts be in time?

“Traditionally, governments don’t move fast enough on immigration needs,” said Nitzan Yudan, founder and CEO of human resources technology company Benivo, which has seen mobility at an all-time peak with a record number of moves this year. We’ve seen it in the UK with the shortage of drivers post-Brexit, agriculture, and healthcare. While there are now solutions in place, it could take time. “

This week, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker implied the UK’s departure from the European Union may be a contributing factor in the operational woes at its airports this summer. “… There are certain professions that cannot be done by non-British. These are the kind of works that were being done by people who were coming from the continent, ”he said at the UK’s Farnborough Air Show this week.

Finding the Right Solutions

While there are calls for more private-public sector initiatives to alleviate the labor crisis, there are associated risks and challenges.

One issue is so-called “social dumping,” where workers are given pay, or given working and living conditions, that are sub-standard compared to those specified by law of the country.

“We want to rule out any form of social dumping and exploitation,” said Germany’s labor minister Hubertus Heil, referring to the country’s bid to staff up its airport.

Accor, among many other hotel groups, is also under close scrutiny when it comes to treating migrant workers in Qatar.

“Implementing immigration policies and visa-pathways that focus on filling national labor-shortages is nothing new. What is unprecedented, however, are these immense ‘deals’ that are taking place at the highest levels of public governance, “said David Cantor co-founder startup Relocate, who believes that the explosion of remote work and digital nomad visas are now starting to align with emerging migration trends.

But it’s a potent mix.

“Both have an overall aim to streamline immigration processes with underlying economic motives,” he said. “However the difference between these new visa categories and government-driven deals is this: the former involves streamlined-mobility as a volitional decision, or corporate freedom, while the latter is an attempt to address shifting, dynamic national labor needs, or a corporate need.

“On a geopolitical scale, all governments are possessed by self-interest. While there are benefits in moving away from traditionally burdensome bureaucracy to keep national economies well-lubricated, there must be clear-mechanisms and oversight in place. Otherwise, we will all risk becoming some private ‘World Inc.’ “

And while quick-turnaround migration schemes may fix short-term issues, particularly ahead of the summer, they probably don’t address the travel industry’s other deep-rooted problems, namely pay and career prospects.

Salaries need to be raised to attract talent, added Find Your Best’s Tallos, a former travel manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Nike.

“If the travel and hospitality industry can come up with more ‘fast-track’ types of career promotion schemes, that can appeal to younger people,” he said. “The problem is that this needs to happen now, as the shortage is already visible.”

Benivo’s Yudan added he has noticed more willingness to boost lower paid salaries: “We’ve seen companies in the travel space pay a 100 percent higher hourly rate for entry-level jobs, which also require them to retrain 20 percent of their staff daily due to the high turnover. “

Sidenotes

As Skift reported in May last year, there’s a post-pandemic push for slower, greener business trips.

But company travel policies are now starting to reward vacations that include sustainable travel. We cited Climate Perks as one platform that helps businesses offer paid “journey days” for their low-carbon vacations.

Now the UK division of travel giant Hotelplan Group is taking the matter into its owns hands and offering staff extra days off if they travel responsibly.

It’s now offering paid travel time whenever a member of staff chooses to travel by train, public transport or under their own steam, such as walking or cycling, rather than by air or driving a petrol or diesel vehicle.

The company, which owns the Explore Worldwide, Inntravel, Inghams and Esprit brands, said it forms part of a new staff sustainable travel policy, which covers commuting, business travel and leisure travel for all employees. The decision also followed recent research that showed two-thirds of people (67 percent) would consider more sustainable travel options if they had additional days to do so.

“Traveling shorter distances for leisure, between 150-450 miles each way, staff are able to claim an additional half-day travel time when using rail or coach – even if on a weekend break which doesn’t coincide with their normal working hours, “It said.

For longer distances of over 450 miles, staff can claim an additional full day.

“We know our staff are committed to sustainability, but that sometimes time and financial demands can make the right decisions more different,” said Prue Stone, head of sustainability at Hotelplan UK, said.

It’s an easy win for those travel companies that are talking up sustainability.

Cat Jones, CEO and founder of slow travel specialist Byway, wants to tap into the trend and has now launched Byway for Business to help other companies follow Hotelplan’s lead.

“We love what Hotelplan is doing. Paying staff for travel time when they don’t fly is bold and brilliant, ”Jones said. Byway has also seen an increase in “there-and-back trips” for business meetings and conferences by train.

10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up

Who and what Skift has covered over the past week: AirBaltic, Airbus, Bookaway, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, event technology platforms, ITA Airways, Marriott, Mondee, Porter Airlines, Qatar Airways.

In Brief

Business Travel Association Criticizes Offsetting Programs

The UK’s Business Travel Association has called on the government to do more to prevent incorrect carbon emission calculations and unreliable offsetting activity. In its new report, called Carbon Offsetting: Beyond the Trees, it said there needed to be more education on, and regulation of, carbon outputs making it easier for businesses and individuals to calculate and understand their carbon emissions before employing effective offsetting activity. It also argued that with no standardization of carbon calculation, businesses still can’t accurately measure carbon outputs. “Too often carbon offsetting is relied upon as a method of environmental guilt mitigation,” said association CEO Clive Wratten.

CWT Names Its Latest Finance Boss

Still no let up in the reshuffling at corporate travel agency CWT, which has just named Judy Hendrick as its new chief financial officer. Hendrick had been in the role on an interim basis since the start of this month, and before was chief financial officer and chief growth officer at Aimbridge Hospitality, a position she left in December 2021. She’s also worked at Wyndham International, Chase Manhattan Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and First Republic Bank. She’ll be reporting to president and CEO Patrick Andersen, who only took the top spot in May this year.

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