16 experts advise on what’s to come this year.
As national unemployment ranks swelled to more than 12.5 million last month--5 million more than at the start of 2008--industry groups are gearing resources to the expanding number of travel-industry jobless. The U.S. Labor Department said 200,000 travel-related jobs were lost in 2008. The U.S. Department of Commerce expects 247,0000 industry posts to evaporate this year. Unknown is the number of jobless travel managers.
The National Business Travel Association this month announced its own stimulus package to help unemployed members "extend membership on a complimentary basis," defray buyer costs to attend the national convention in August in San Diego with $500 scholarships or award up to $200 in scholarships to buyers to attend other events.
"The global economic downturn is quickly proving to be tougher and longer than many first expected," NBTA president and CEO Kevin Maguire told members in a letter this month. The association's stimulus package is "directing significant funding for programs and initiatives designed to advance the business travel industry and to invest in the future of its members ... to better position the industry to provide value through this economic downturn and to emerge from it even stronger."
NBTA also promised to "further enhance and promote greater usage" of its job board. The board at presstime listed 40 positions, although most were for suppliers.
The Business Travel Coalition last month created an invitation-only LinkedIn group for job seekers as well as a public Web site that contains more than 30 résumés.
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives has a job bank, powered by JobTarget.com. Four jobs were posted, but 386 members had posted résumés on the site. "That number is fluid and has surged and dropped to match developments in the business travel industry," according to ACTE executive director Susan Gurley. "Our research indicates that a substantial number of people who have posted their data on the job bank are still employed and looking for higher salaries, greater influence or better benefits within the industry."
"There are travel management positions out there, even in these difficult times, yet various logistical complications--like trying to sell a house to recoup a lifetime investment or getting a loan--are limiting options," she added.
ACTE also is monitoring the needs of members for additional resources. "Only 18 members" have contacted ACTE "regarding special arrangements for attending events and adjusting membership status," said Gurley, who urged those with such concerns to contact her directly. "There is a tremendous shock for people who suddenly find themselves unemployed. A large part of their identity is put into question. ACTE understands this sense of identity loss and is handling the needs of our members on a case-by-case basis."
Colleen Guhin agreed that her January layoff as strategic sourcing manager from OnSemiconductor was a shock. For the first time in her 20-year career in travel management and procurement at such firms as Texas Instruments, Motorola and OnSemi, Guhin is unemployed.
"Initially, you feel hurt," Guhin said. "It's hard to understand and you ask, 'Why me?' " But Guhin is convinced that her next job will come through networking. "Travel isn't an industry in the job search arena," she explained, so there is no central source of travel management or procurement positions. Outplacement services have helped her "write a good résumé for the first time in 30 years" and attend a half dozen webinars, including one via LinkedIn, to network.
Mark Walton, principal of both a consulting business and Travel Solutions Group job placement, said the market is "difficult with a lot of applicants, few jobs."
"I've never seen it this slow in 12 years," Walton said. However, he said, there are some jobs. For example, his firm was hired by Kraft Foods to find a director of corporate travel and is seeking senior executives to fill positions for a Middle East travel agency. "I think the market for account managers and operations is extremely poor and likely to be so for quite awhile," Walton said.
Job boards also list travel management positions at Coca-Cola, a Houston energy company, advertising agency, financial services firm and others. Travel management companies, hotels and outsourcing firms likewise have posted positions. However, Guhin said, the few jobs she found posted usually appeared on multiple sites and sometimes Web links dead ended when she tried to apply as the company either withdrew the position or it never existed.
Walton advised those looking for a job to "broaden their horizons" as a narrow scope might not produce a position. "Don't just look at travel manager opportunities, look for jobs that have similar skill sets," he advised.
"Unfortunately, conditions will probably get worse before they get better," said a spokesman for outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. "The job market is the tightest it's been since the early 1980s. Job cuts have not reached record highs, but the unemployment rate is rising, more people are working part-time for economic reasons, and many people have simply left the labor pool out of frustration." Following the 2001 recession, it took 15 months for steady job creation to return.
"The travel industry is especially prone right now due to the global nature of the downturn," the CGC spokesman noted. "For a while, foreign travel was helping to prop up our economy. But now that has declined significantly." The firm said the transportation sector lost 16,473 jobs in January and February, with 2,183 more in entertainment/leisure that includes hotels. However, this sector also topped the list of "announced hiring plans" in February with 7,900 new hires. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said more than 33,000 hospitality jobs disappeared in January with 18,000 of those at hotels.
"There definitely are jobs for the unemployed," the CGC spokesman added. "While the economy is losing more jobs than it is adding, right now, plenty of companies continue to add workers, even if it's just replacing someone who left or retired."
Association of Corporate Travel Executives Global Job Bank
Business Travel Coalition resume box
Institute for Supply Management Career Center
Meeting Professionals International Career Connection
National Business Travel Association Career Center
Travel Resource Group
Travel Solutions Group
U.S. Travel Association Get A Job.com
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