Cracking the numbers

It is often said how working in travel gets under the skin. It is more a vocation than a job, a passion rather than a profession.

But let’s face it, however much we may enjoy working in the travel industry, we primarily do it to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. And we’re all too aware that it’s not the best paid industry in the world, particularly at the retail level.

That said, last year’s Travel Daily/travelBulletin salary survey revealed there was no correlation between higher wages and job satisfaction. Indeed, it was those at the front line — travel consultants — who appeared to be happier in their work, despite a less than bumper pay packet.

Would it be the same this year? The 2017 salary survey, conducted by research firm Stollznow, crunched data from almost 1,200 respondents. Here, travelBulletin dissects the numbers…

Retail remains the poor cousin, but happier for it

It will come as little surprise to learn that humble consultants, who made up almost half the respondents in the pay survey, are still bottom of the pile when it comes to basic salary. According to the data, retailers earn an average of $54,754, a fraction more than last year but a full $10,000 less than the next lowest paid — wholesale staff. It was also $12,000 below the overall industry average of $66,702.

Further analysis revealed entry level retailers earn just under $43,000 and even the few retail respondents who described themselves as middle and senior management were far from handsomely rewarded, earning base salary averages of $57,304 and $69,504 respectively.

Those figures compare remarkably unfavourably with other sectors, aviation and travel support services in particular, making it potentially hard for retailers to keep hold of hungry staff who, not unreasonably, want their career progression and additional responsibilities to be matched with a heavier wallet. Yet far from growing disillusioned, it appears that job satisfaction, measured by the Net Promoter Score (NPS), still shows a happy retail workforce. If anything, they are even more content than last year.

The NPS, widely acknowledged as the benchmark system for monitoring performance and reputation, was calculated by asking respondents, on a scale of 0-10, how likely they were to recommend their company as a place to work.

People answering 0-6 are classified as ‘detractors’, 7-8 as ‘passives’ and 9-10 as ‘promotors’. The NPS figure is broadly the difference between detractors and promotors.

Retail’s NPS was 28.9, up from 23.7, a healthy number only bettered by those working in the meetings, incentive and events sector, which scored 32.1.

Overall, travel brands across the industry will have been encouraged by the scores — with some exceptions. Interestingly, satisfaction in corporate and the world of Travel Management Companies almost halved, from more than 32 in the 2016 study to 17. While still largely positive, the dip could be explained by a sharp decline in the income of respondents who work in the sector, which fell from $77,000 to under $68,500.

Aviation, meanwhile, hauled itself clear of last year’s negative rating of -10.5, with employees now more likely to recommend their job after the sector posted an NPS of 10.6.

Cruising saw a similar uplift. Job satisfaction in 2016 was at odds with the soaring popularity of the product and the general feel-good factor of the sector, achieving a rating of only 3.5. This year, staff appear more content and ready to talk up their career, with the sector’s NPS rising to a healthy 19.

When it comes to remuneration, aviation and cruising sit above the industry average, just as they did the previous year.

According to the data, working for an airline will net an average income of more than $84,600, while plying your trade in the cruise industry will see you pocket a few dollars above $74,000.

Unlike retail, those figures climb sharply for middle management — defined as line mangers, team leaders, BDMs and senior consultants — and senior executives.

The gender pay divide — still as wide as ever

It’s a debate that just doesn’t go away. Once again, the salary survey revealed an alarming disparity between the salaries of men and women who responded to the survey,

While the average income totalled $66,603, women, who made up 73% of respondents, averaged $62,003 against almost $80,000 for men.

As with last year, the gulf was most pronounced in cruising where female staff earned an average of $68,880 — 13% less than the sector average — while their male colleagues pocketed 17% more, earning $94,212. The patterns were similar, if not quite so stark, in all but one of the industry sectors, with male retail and wholesale staff earning 15% and 16% above the average. Women meanwhile took home 4% less than the average in both sectors.

Satisfied staff – but don’t be complacent

Despite the general positivity of the workforce — a sentiment reflected in the NPS data — employers should not be complacent.

The survey revealed a change of job was a possibility for more than half those surveyed if the right offer was on the table. In short, even satisfied staff can be poached.

While 30% categorically stated they had no interest in moving, 54% said they would listen and accept a good offer even though they were not actively searching for a new challenge. A further 12% admitted they were definitely on the hunt for a new job, a quarter of whom wanted to leave the industry altogether. Of those looking for a change, a desire for better pay and benefits and dissatisfaction with management were cited as the key reasons for wanting to leave. A far from surprising revelation.

The most unsettled appear to be those in travel support services with one in five saying they were in the job market, a statistic perhaps driven by the 29% of the sector’s respondents who classified themselves as dissatisfied in their current role.

Wholesale and hotel staff were most likely to listen to offers at 62% and 65% respectively.

In keeping with the NPS data, consultants were among the most settled with 85% describing themselves as either satisfied or extremely satisfied.

Yet while fewer than one in 10 confirmed their intention to seek a new position — the lowest among the industry sectors — 50% also acknowledged they would listen to offers, underlining the harsh reality for companies that even contented staff can be lured away.

The survey also revealed a continuing image problem for recruitment agencies, with job seekers looking for work, and particularly companies using an agency to fill vacancies, not overly impressed with their services. All received heavily negative Net Promotor Scores.