Travel Recruitment in North America | Tips for relocating abroad

As a global travel business, we’re always interested in the cultural variances between different countries – in business and in everyday life. We often help companies expand into new countries, or assist individual travel workers who are relocating. We have just opened two new branches of Progressive Travel Recruitment in North America, and are always intrigued to explore the cultural differences between the US, Canada and here – three countries separated by a common language.

I asked our new North America travel recruitment director, Natasha Sharma, for her thoughts. Natasha worked previously as a travel recruitment consultant in North America and the UK and was also an HR Director for a multi-national Travel Management Company (TMC), which she helped expand into the UK. Her experience of recruiting staff for international travel agencies, plus a foray into luxury private jet charter in the USA, has given her plenty of experience of dealing with different nationalities and locations.

Natasha Sharma Director North America for Progressive Travel Recruitment smaller
Natasha Sharma, North America Director for Progressive Travel Recruitment

Natasha says, ‘In North America SABRE tends to be the most widely used global distribution system (GDS) in travel agencies, whereas Galileo and Amadeus are much more widely used in the UK and Europe. Some American companies do use Amadeus, and also Apollo or WorldSpan, but Galileo is less common. So, one of the first issues is making sure you have experience of the system used by the company you want to work for. Or, if you’re setting up in Canada or the USA, make sure you use the most compatible system. However, you’ll also find many large North American travel companies use their own booking software – which is easier for travel recruitment in North America, as training is then done on the job.’

Travel recruitment in USA & Canada

Another particular specification in certain parts of Canada is having local certification. Natasha says, ‘In Ontario you need TICO certification. This isn’t difficult to get, but there’s little point applying until you have it. It’s issued by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), a local regulator, with whom you have to register, before taking the travel counsellor test. If the job is in Quebec, a similar body, the OPC (Office de la Protection du Consommateur), requires certification.’

Natasha explains that if you’re applying for travel jobs with a CV, then there are a few differences in approach between the UK and North America. She says, ‘If applying via Progressive Travel Recruitment, we’ll format a CV – or resume – for you. But these points are worth remembering: don’t include photos, birthdates or marital status or any information about children. It’s most common to use the word resume rather than CV. And make sure you do include relevant current visa and work permit status and expiry dates if you’re not already a citizen or legally able to work in the US or Canada.’

Natasha says that there is still an uphill challenge for qualified foreign candidates to enter the North American travel market. This means that many travel candidates accept a reduced salary and lower positions just to get themselves in to start.

One sector that’s on the rise in North America (as well as in the UK and Europe) is the advance of travel tech companies. Natasha says, ‘Industry disrupters such as Airbnb and Freebird or the booking app Hopper, are evolving the way the travel industry operates globally. The traditional travel industry must work hard to keep up with the new wave to remain competitive.’ So, if you’re able to help companies tap into that, then you may well be welcome to apply for jobs in new countries. Travel tech jobs are a big growth area.

Unfortunately, some North American companies respond to challenges such as new tech companies by cutting back. Several airlines, agencies, and online travel agencies (OTA’s) now hire senior agents on short-term paid-by-the-hour contracts to save on paid benefits. This is obviously very frustrating for senior agents who lose job security, and appear to change jobs often on their resumes.

If you’re a business setting up abroad, you’ll need to think about the big things such as employment law – crucial if you’re hiring (or firing) in another country. Then there are the small but important differences, such as the way websites are presented, and how different cultures use social media. A specialist such as us in travel recruitment in North America can help with this information.

View from the UK

We recently helped a US company open an office in the UK, advising them on differences in behaviours and habits over here. Equally, informing them of what we consider basics, such as gaining ABTA and ATOL bonding, is sometimes information that isn’t known. Even helping choose the right location can be necessary. Everyone thinks they have to be in London, but there are many very successful travel companies all over the UK, and being outside London can save on office and residential costs.

Because we are so familiar with the UK market, we can easily help a company relocate here by introducing them to valuable contacts, discussing gaps in the UK market – and helping them map the market, as we’re so familiar with the talent pool for travel. We can also offer assistance with advice about branding in a foreign market, and tone of voice for marketing material.

Then there are the differences such as alternative spellings between the UK and North America – it can easily put someone’s back up by misspelling words in either country. Also working hours can differ, as can expectations from clients and candidates over issues such as how much notice period to give: in the UK it tends to be between 4 and 12 weeks, but in America it can be as little as 2 weeks.

One area where the US and Canadian markets have led, is in home working for travel workers. We’re ahead of the curve here at Progressive Travel Recruitment, but it’s certainly a growth area, and one where we can still learn from our North American colleagues and friends.

Relocation advice

Many of the UK Progressive Travel Recruitment team are ex-pats, so can give you get a candid view on working and living in the UK from an ex-pat point of view. We’re all happy to talk about lifestyle basics of relocation, too, such as where to buy a house, great schools, tax, and living costs.

We’re a global, multi-cultural team at Progressive Travel Recruitment, and have people who have worked on every continent. We are all well-travelled and understand and respect day-to-day cultural differences. As a business we understand this, but we also expect respect for our global approach in those we work with. We look for partnerships and clients who say no to any form of discrimination, who remunerate appropriately, and who offer training and development opportunities. We aim to be the most approachable travel recruiters in the market, and always uphold the global values of respect, integrity, honesty, and professionalism in all our work.

If you’re looking for specialists in travel recruitment in North America or to relocate for a travel job in the US, Canada or the UK, connect with James Roberts on LinkedIn.