The travel industry is losing out on talent to other industries because it is failing to engage properly with the next generation.

HR and training consultant Claire Steiner said there was a “disconnect” between travel businesses and students when it came to recruiting.

Speaking during a panel debate on the topic at the ITT conference on Wednesday, Steiner also said graduate schemes were not the only way to attract young talent.

“There are a lot of companies which don’t see the opportunities to employ tourism students,” she told delegates. “Give them work experience, give them projects while they’re doing their degrees.”

“I am finding because they just want to get into the industry, we don’t always need a (graduate) scheme, they just want to be engaged.”

She also said the industry needed to look beyond Millennials and focus on attracting “Generation Z” (demographic after Millennials) into the workforce.

“We need to do more to work out how to change our engagement,” she said.

“Travel is not getting there early enough and is losing talent to other industries.”

The panel also heard from tourism management student Jessica Krawiec who said she often felt “isolated” by the industry and was not getting help.

“We’re sending emails and getting no response,” she said.

She also said many application processes felt “outdated”.

A-Rosa’s head of UK and Ireland sales Lucia Rowe said overall there were more opportunities than challenges but warned that as the industry grows globally, prospective British talent could be at a disadvantage to their European counterparts who are often multilingual and have solid work experience.

“Programmes in other European countries are slightly different than the UK,” she said. “In most universities there is mandatory training in the first year of education. Companies are actively going into universities telling students the opportunities that are out there.”

The debate was moderated by managing director for Saga’s tour operating division, Jeannette Linfoot, who herself started out in the industry on a Youth Training Scheme in the 1990s.

She said there were multiple ways to enter the industry and urged companies to “grasp opportunities with graduates”.