Activity levels in the travel recruitment sector fell last year despite industry pay rising at the fastest rate since 2012, according to new analysis.

The number of new candidates slumped by 16% in 2019 after dipping by 14% in the previous year. However, last year’s total was still up by 2% from 2016.

Vacancy levels dropped by 9% last year after also declining by 7% in 2018, although 2019’s total was still 4% ahead of 2016.

Salaries for the average new job in travel increased by 4.99% in the last 12 months to reach £28,196, according to the 2019 Travel Salary Index compiled by C&M Travel Recruitment and C&M Executive Recruitment.

This was the fifth consecutive year of growth, with travel wages now rising in eight of the past nine years.

Pay for standard travel jobs, paying up to £40,000 a year, grew marginally by 0.62% year-on-year to stand at £24,942 and have increased every year since 2015.

Salaries for senior travel jobs paying £40,000 or more went up for the fourth consecutive year with 5.37% annual growth to reach an average figure of £58,589.

But the north-south wage gap widened last year with the average travel job in the south paying £28,746 compared to £23,233 in the north. This meant the average travel employee in the south earned 21.21% more than a worker in the north in 2019.

The wage gap stood at 17.23% in 2018, 24.11% in 2017, 21.86% in 2016, 19.19% in 2015, 17.97% in 2014, 20.14% in 2013 and 22.99% in 2012.

December saw average salaries rise by 5.22% to wipe out a 5.44% fall in November to stand at £29,131 – just £155 below the record high set in July 2019.

Meanwhile, salaries for standard jobs in travel increased by 0.73% to reach £24,430.

December, traditionally the quietest month of the year for recruitment, saw a wide difference in activity levels. New vacancies rose by 28% year-on-year to reach the highest December total since 2015, while candidate registrations fell by 9% from the same month in 2018 to the lowest figure for the month since 2013.

C&M director Barbara Kolosinska said: “With their biggest annual growth since 2012, it was a very good year for new travel job salaries which have risen by an average of £1,342 over the 12 months.

“However, 2019 wasn’t an easy year for the travel industry – both politically and economically it was a year of uncertainty and this undoubtedly contributed to the more muted activity levels that we saw over the past 12 months.

“With many of these issues now seemingly resolved, we’re hopeful that 2020 will be a more positive year all round.

“Nevertheless, it is likely to remain a candidate driven market with the best applicants being high in demand, so we expect to see companies continuing to improve their recruitment packages in 2020 in an effort to entice the best talent to join their teams.”

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