The New Year is here, now is the time to plan for making your investment in your professional knowledge. While this should be an ongoing endeavor, it doesn’t hurt to establish specific objectives for 2019 and incorporate them into your 2019 business plan.
There are really three kinds of training that every agent should be engaged in to improve their professionalism. Professional designations, supplier designations and technological expertise and these are the areas you should focus your attention on. So let’s look at these three to see what’s available.
The Travel Institute - Formerly known as ICTA, The Travel Institute offers several opportunities to gain professional level designations in the industry. Since The Travel Institute represents the “Gold Standard” of professionalism in the travel industry there is no need to look any further for industry recognized professional designations.
Completing The Travel Institute’s curriculum, you may become a “Destination Specialist” (DS) and use The Travel Institute’s DS professional designation behind your name. The Travel Institute also offers the Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and the Certified Travel Consultant (CTC) professional designations, as well.
So important is the Travel Institute for you to consider that we reached out to TTI’s President, Diane Petras for a 2019 update that is featured as a sidebar with this article.
While the Travel Institute will grant you a professional designation within the travel industry that is recognized within the industry and by some consumers, many of the travel industry suppliers offer substantial “specialist” programs for agents and will award them specialist designations once they gain the expertise. Disney, Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Marriott and Sandals are just a few.. Virtually all of the cruise lines and important river cruise lines also offer designation programs. In fact, you will find that almost every supplier of any magnitude offers an opportunity to become a product “expert”. By gaining these specialty designations, you let your clients know that you have acquired enough knowledge of the specific destination or product to service their needs professionally.
A good way to learn how to sell specific travel products is to get the training directly from the suppliers and industry trainers. Following are the different types of industry training opportunities that are available to the travel agency community:
Virtually every day, one supplier or another is training and entertaining travel agents in major cities throughout the nation. Hotels, resorts, airlines, tour operators, government tourist bureaus and cruise lines host breakfast, lunch, or evening functions to expose their products to the travel community.
Webinars are offered on an ongoing basis and are stored both on supplier’s sites and trade publications. Webinars are a great way to gain exposure to a wealth of diverse products and services that you may be interested in selling. To receive webinar invitations simple, subscribe to the TravelProfessionalNEWS.com email list.
One of the best ways to increase your knowledge of the travel industry is by attending one of the many trade shows or conventions that take place. Many of the trade shows feature hours of seminars by industry speakers on various topics designed to increase your effectiveness in your business. The trade shows occur all over the country, and many of the industry conventions convene in foreign countries. All of the industry conferences offer travel agent tours of the region both pre and post-conference. The personal travel experience gained by attending the events and the content of the seminars make this a great way to get rapid exposure in the industry.
Travel Weekly puts on the CruiseWorld conference and it is the best in the industry and shouldn’t be missed. You can secure a special rate for these shows by joining www. TravelProfessionalCommunity.com. It is completely free to join and offers numerous benefits.
“Cruise 360” is a trade show event provided by CLIA and is an excellent trade show if selling cruises is your specialty. Both the Travel Weekly and CLIA trade shows include seminars, an elaborate trade show, many meals and ship inspections. These events afford you an overall exposure to the cruise industry that you can’t afford to miss.
Many of the organizations that operate in the travel industry offer other certification programs.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) offers a certification program for travel agents that want to present themselves as cruise professionals in the cruise industry. You can become a Certified Cruise Counselor (CCC), Accredited Cruise Counsellor (ACC), Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC), Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC) and a Travel Agency Executive (TAE) by fulfilling the criteria to qualify. These designation are only available to CLIA members.
While years ago CLIA’s agent training programs and designations were extremely valuable, today the cruise line’s own agent training and designations are substantially more valuable. Consumers have no idea what CLIA’s designation stand for and having a “Specialist” designation for a cruise line a client is considering is much more valuable. If you chose to pursue a CLIA designation be sure to understand the implication in terms of the cost for your ongoing CLIA membership.
Travel marketing and operations have changed so dramatically over the past decade that it is fascinating watching new concepts and opportunities unfold. Of course, a travel professional needs to be on the cutting edge of new technology if they want to stay robust in tomorrow’s marketplace.
In addition to setting professional goals and training objectives one, should also budget an investment of time and resources to learn new technologies as they become available. Gaining technological expertise is sure to lead to one’s overall professionalism.