Travel agencies flooded with customers are short on staff

Incheon International Airport’s Terminal 1 is crowded with international travelers on July 20. [YONHAP]

Travel agencies are experiencing a serious labor shortage, which could dent expectations for the recovery of traveling ahead of the summer holidays.

Major layoffs during the pandemic have caused a sharp drop in the number of employees in travel.

Travel agencies are coming up with different ways to motivate their current workers and are actively recruiting new employees.

Yellow Balloon Tour announced it will raise salaries and provide more perks to boost motivation, according to a spokesperson from a travel agency. The new benefits will be applied from August, but specific details on how much their salary will be raised have not been disclosed.

Hana Tour is hiring new employees across major divisions, including sales, marketing and finance. It is the company’s first major recruitment session in three years.

“We are currently waiting to announce the final list of people who got the job,” said a spokesperson from Hana Tour.
“We will hire around 80 employees.”

Despite efforts to retain employees, it might be still difficult for these companies to overcome the current labor shortage.

In the case of the Yellow Balloon Tour, around half of its employees voluntarily left the company due to extended leave caused by the pandemic. The company had some 600 employees in 2019, but that number has now gone down to 300.

Around half of the employees at both Hana Tour and Mode Tour quit their jobs.

Meanwhile, the demand for international travel is rising sharply. International travelers who used Hana Tour reached 84,911 in the first half of the year and 40,826 for Mode Tour. Both companies are seeing high growth rates compared to last year, but it will still take time for these companies to recover to the pre-pandemic level .

Situations are getting better, but the world hasn’t completely recovered from the pandemic, and travel agencies are cautious about suddenly recruiting a huge number of employees.

“We need many workers for immediate duties right now, but we are receiving job applications every time we need to cover the spot,” said a spokesperson for a travel agency.

“Other competing companies are even taking experienced workers and offering higher salaries.”

The tourism sector is one of the worst affected by the pandemic. Due to these reasons, employees leaving travel agencies are deciding to leave the travel industry for good.

BY YOO JI-YOEN [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]

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