Why South African travel workers should come to the UK now

Contrary to expectations, what with Brexit uncertainty, employment in the UK is at its highest since the 1970s. And wages are escalating, too, according to the Office for National Statistics. Combine those facts with the knowledge that the South African economy is struggling and the value of the rand keeps falling, and the UK currently looks like a good place for South African travel workers to come to.

Requirements for South Africans wanting to work in the UK vary. But for those fortunate enough to have ancestral links, marriage links or an EU passport, opportunities abound. You can check your eligibility on the UK Government visa webpage.

Increase in South African travel workers in the UK

As a travel recruiter, I have definitely seen an increase in South Africans coming to work here. In fact, Brexit is helping – as Europeans move back to mainland Europe, South Africans are moving in and filling the gaps. Since starting at Progressive Travel Recruitment, I have had many past industry connections in South Africa reach out to ask me about opportunities or ways they can get into the UK. Sadly, many of these are candidates without access to ancestral visas or EU passports. But for the lucky ones who do have a right to work here, the doors are wide open – for now.

Progressive Travel Recruitment. Wages in South Africa vs UK. travel jobs
The contrast between South African travel job wages and UK wages is stark.

According to a recent online article in Business Tech magazine, rising UK earnings (reported as up by 3.5%) are good news for South African travel workers. Higher UK wages are a big draw with the rand in decline, as the illustrations here show. The article reports that South Africans should be able to earn and save here. After working here for a few years, expats often return to South Africa to buy property, and enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle than if they hadn’t come to the UK.

It also looks good on a travel CV, at least, to have worked abroad. Culturally, it’s pretty easy for South African travel workers to fit in here. I find that they’re sought after by UK travel companies. They tend to have a hard-working mentality and be English speaking. Outbound travel agents in South Africa are generally trained as worldwide specialists, and are also trained to tailor-make all arrangements themselves, so they have the GDS experience often required in the UK market. For business travel roles, South African candidates have generally moved from leisure into business travel, so are well versed in consulting on all travel arrangements from flights, complicated flight routings, land arrangements and visas.

Most of the roles I work with are business travel consultants but I don’t feel that South Africans are pigeon-holed in the travel industry. There are opportunities for leisure consultants, marketing, finance, account management, business development, events, hospitality. The opportunities are endless.

South African visa requirements for UK travel travel jobs

The only downside is the visa requirement. If you don’t already have an EU passport, or have access to an ancestral visa usually via a grandparent who was born in the UK, or visa advantages via marriage, it’s unlikely that you’d get a work sponsorship within the travel industry as travel work isn’t really on the skills shortage list. To get a work sponsorship you generally have to be in a specialised field where there is a lack of talent in the UK.

So, whatever Brexit brings in the next few years, it’s certain that right now it’s leading to an increase in open vacancies for those outside Europe who have the right to work here. Now is the time for South African travel workers to explore opportunities. There is always a chance that rules on ancestral visas will change, so I would say, if you’re South African and thinking about working in the UK travel industry, then sooner is better than later to apply.

Travel job opportunities in the UK

Our Progressive Travel Recruitment colleague Claudette Gouws, who lives and works in Durban, says, ‘Moving to the UK is definitely something I would love to do. I absolutely love our country, and would be heartbroken to leave, but given the opportunity, I would not hesitate. With tricky upcoming elections, and an uncertain future for our children here, many people are looking to move abroad if they can. My best friend has been in the UK for over 10 years now and she loves it; absolutely no regrets.’

And another colleague, our travel tech and IT specialist, Rosie Dunbar, is also South African, now living in the UK. She says, ‘I know Africa and the surrounding islands well but I yearned to see more of the world. Being at the centre of a travel hub like London makes travelling so much easier and more enjoyable. You can get to the most amazing places in 5-8 hours without having to remortgage your house to do so.’

Oh, and I’d better come clean too. I’m also South African and also have an EU (Irish) passport. I came to the UK for better prospects, to gain more knowledge, travel more, and save more. I actually work in both countries, and feel I have a foot in each as I’m able to work from anywhere. But my advice is, if you’re a South African travel worker and able to give it a go, then do it now.

Are you South African? Do you want to work in the UK travel industry? Got a visa or the right to work here? Contact Lee on lee@progressivetravelrecruitment.com or connect on LinkedIn here.

For Travel Tech and IT jobs and candidates, email Rosie on rosie@progressivetravelrecruitment.com