As I celebrate my first year leading Norman Broadbent’s Aviation, Travel & Aerospace practice, I’ve been reflecting on the many positives seen across the sector these past 12 months, and also considering what we’re seeing coming down the line as we move towards the busy summer period….and beyond.
Firstly, the turnaround of the sector has been in full-swing, globally – passenger numbers are up (some at, or at least very close to pre-Covid levels) and it delights me to read and see this. Are we ‘back’ to the status quo of pre-Covid? No. Is a new status quo emerging? Well, yes, it’s already emerged as a result of the impact and forced changes of Covid.
The sectors I focus on lost a lot of senior level talent between 2020-2022, who haven’t necessarily been replaced. Budgets were cut, roles put on hold and organisations re-shaped. In many cases those at the level below stepped up and admirably played their part helping organisations transact and survive. Now we are somewhat out of the woods, we’ve seen a lot of demand for confidential Searches, as organisations seek to understand ‘what’s out there’ again that might be more aligned to delivering on longer-term strategic goals.
Be it an airport, airline, a critical player in the wider aviation eco-system or a PE/Infra House directly: seeking talent with different solutions to the same problems, who’ve lived experiences in adjacent or different sectors, has been high on the agenda.
Counter to this, however, the demand for aviation specific leadership talent also remains in paramount demand, nowhere more so than in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular – the rate of change and sheer vastness of the projects in this region are both mind-boggling and fascinating in equal measure.
I’ve said many times in the past year that the ‘sexiness’ of the sector has somewhat dissipated since Covid, but encouragingly the ‘allure’ very much remains: what does this mean? The core knock on effect is that it is taking longer (and is harder) to ensure the right talent is attracted to opportunities in the aviation, travel and aerospace markets once again, due to a heightened level of scepticism and career-protection-mode being fully switched on. Yet, this is nothing that hasn’t been overcome through honest conversation about the state of play and the opportunity at hand.
Summer ’23 will be a strong barometer of how well recovery has truly gone, but the mood music from across the Executives we engage daily is that this upcoming June-September period is promising bumper returns, and sorely missed revenues.
We’ve handled some really interesting Searches, seeing some outstanding candidates either entering, or soon to begin new challenges and what has encouraged me the most about the strength of the sector at the moment, is the breadth of clients we’ve supported; geographically, we’ve been called to action in the Americas, UK, Europe, Middle East and South East Asia; client-wise, we’ve partnered a real interesting mix of airports, airlines, travel tech providers, InfraFunds, PE houses, airport development consultancies, VertiPort providers and ground handlers, to name but a few.
I believe we’ll continue to see strong demand for Executive Search services, globally, and related products such as mapping, marketing intelligence and assessment, to support the continued growth of the global Aviation, Travel and Aerospace sector; I’ve always said that if the Search industry is busy it means the sector is doing well. The remainder of 2023, and heading into 2024, looks incredibly encouraging for both the sector, and by default, for our Aviation, Travel & Aerospace practice’s growth, and I look forward to continuing to serve the markets that I have deep affinity for, for many years to come.