Tour operator Kuoni hopes to entice some staff it made redundant due to the pandemic back to the brand once demand returns in the longer term.

Speaking at WTM Virtual 2020’s Tourism Talent for the Future session, Nicola Sadowski, HR consultant for Kuoni parent company Der Touristik UK, admitted the company had been forced to lose “great talent” as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

And while the short-term focus in the market was on Covid airport testing and vaccines, she was hopeful the jobs market would pick up in the medium term once holidaymakers return in volumes to taking holidays.

She said: “We have lost a lot of great talent. Hopefully, we can start to reintroduce that back. We hold a lot of hope that we can be recruiting again and getting our talent back in.”

She admitted it would be a challenge to persuade employees to return but said the way the company had managed the redundancy process, communicated with staff and helped them find other jobs through its Talent Finder could go some way to attracting staff back.

In June the operator began a consultation process with staff as it looked to “reshape” the business through a full strategic review following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff were offered career counselling, help to use websites such as LinkedIn to find other work and were asked for their personal email addresses in order to be contacted about forthcoming vacancies.

Sadowski said: “How a brand acts in a crisis and how you communicate is vital so you are recognised as a brand that people want to come and work for.  How we deal with those people exiting the business, particularly in a business with long service – that process is key.

“We have lost really valuable team members with a really large amount of experience so with all that information and experience falling away from the business that represents some really tough challenges for Kuoni and for others across the sector.

“I would like to think we will be welcoming back the people we have let go when we have viable positions and work to be done.”

In March, Kuoni  made 70 staff redundant as the pandemic led to travel restrictions around the world and the UK was placed into lockdown, but reversed the decision once the chancellor’s furlough scheme was announced – reemploying those staff that were made redundant.

Niki Zoli, former director of social impact for Marriott International, told the WTM session that the industry would need its staff back.

She said: “We [the travel industry] are going to need our people back. We were already struggling [for talent] before Covid.

“It will start to come back in the second half of 2021 and 2022. If you want to return back to travel and tourism then there will be so many jobs long term.”

Those who have been made redundant have skills which allow them to switch to other sectors, added James Nally, senior manager for global recruitment company Michael Page, PageGroup.

He said: “The market out there is not easy but there are some skills that are transferrable.”