High street agents have been urged to increase salaries beyond the new National Living Wage (NLW) to ensure the sector can compete for the best talent.
The plea came after fashion and homeware retailer Oliver Bonas revealed it would pay more than the NLW, which is due to be introduced in April.
The NLW will be £7.20 for staff aged over 25 and rise to £9 an hour by 2020, replacing the current £6.50 minimum wage. Oliver Bonas will pay £7.85 per hour to attract new recruits.
Barbara Kolosinska, director of C&M Travel Recruitment, said most of her high street travel agency clients paid closer to the minimum wage at entry-level – £13,000 a year. The NLW will boost this figure to £14,000-£14,500.
“I would be pleasantly surprised if travel firms followed Oliver Bonas’s model, but I’d encourage them to,” she said. “While there is some fantastic talent in the industry, we struggle to attract it because of the pay, and often lose it to better-paid industries.”
Under the changes, the minimum wage will remain in place for employees under 25, meaning staff aged 18 to 21 will be paid at least £5.13 an hour, and 22 to 24-year-olds at least £6.50 an hour.
John Hays, managing director of Hays Travel, agreed it was important that travel companies kept pace with the marketplace to compete with other industries.
“We want to recruit and retain the right people,” he said.
“The majority of our staff are already paid the NLW or above and we will continue to hold annual salary reviews.”
An Abta spokesman pointed out that in addition to their wages, many agents received benefits such as discounted travel.
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