Written By: Tom Ogg
With 2019 right around the corner, 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.
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.
Supplier Sponsored Travel Designations
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.
What Travel Industry Training is Available?
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:
Supplier Seminars and Webinars
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.
Trade Shows and Conventions
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.
Travel Industry Organizations that Offer Travel Agent Training
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.
Developing Your Technological Expertise
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.
An Interview With Diane Petras, President, The Travel Institute
A travel professional is vital to saving travelers both time and money while providing peace of mind and security before, during, and after travel. The goal of The Travel Institute, which recently celebrated its 25,000th certified graduate, is to ensure agent vitality ongoing by ensuring well-educated, well-prepared agents continue to serve the industry. Recently, we reached to Diane Petras, president of The Travel Institute, to see what’s new heading into 2019 and how TTI can help travel professionals refocus on achieving their professional objectives.
It seems The Travel Institute has a solution for every travel professional so can you share what the offerings are for the various types of new and established travel professional?
The Travel Institute’s mission is to advance the careers of all travel professionals at all levels of experience through quality, relevant and timely education that translates into job readiness every day for our students and graduates in a complicated and ever-changing industry.
In 2018 specifically, we expanded how we deliver our content and today, along with our printed and other traditional materials, include additional videos, interactive online courses, articles, white papers, and weekly webinars for trending topics as hosted by our staff and/or our Professional Educator program experts.
In addition to educating new and experienced agents ongoing, we also work with industry stakeholders to better understand and value the role agents play in our mutual success. This year, we accomplished that by partnering with many host agencies to help train their independent counselor network. We also worked with the supplier community, increasing awareness of and support for TTI-certified counselors as top producers.
For both new or experienced agents, we offer a variety of programs including introductory courses, advanced certifications, and continuing education—all designed to ensure well-educated, well-prepared agents ongoing for our industry. Offerings include:
TRIPKIT: TRIPKIT curriculum has long been considered the industry’s “gold standard” for new agent education. A self-guided course with both online and print components, TRIPKit is a comprehensive overview of booking air, ground, accommodations, cruises, tours and packages that also exposes industry newcomers to additional “must-have” knowledge necessary for success. Used by individuals studying independently, agency owners and managers who are training new staff, and post-secondary vocational institutions teaching travel-related curriculum, TRIPKit is a turn-key, affordable and flexible educational tool trusted by more than 2,000 graduates in 2017 alone and we have high expectations for our 2018 numbers as well!
Certified Travel Associate (CTA): The first level of certification in the travel industry, our CTA courses are strategically designed and delivered to help those selling travel every day to grow sales, enhance their value to clients, improve efficiencies, increase their marketability and, of course, earn more! The CTA course’s thought-provoking, self-paced and layered curriculum provides the knowledge and tools a travel professional needs to achieve the next level of success in their travel career.
Certified Travel Counselor (CTC): The most prestigious certification in the travel industry, our CTC course is specifically constructed with a travel manager’s learning “toolbox” to prepare travel professionals with supervisory responsibilities to meet the increased demands that come with their management role. Each online course topic builds upon the last, creating a complete management preparation program.
Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE): The CTIE program offers the high-demand skills needed by today’s leaders to drive excellence throughout their organization. More than just “being in charge,” leaders need to focus on goals that are aligned with their organization while also motivating their team to achieve these goals as well. Each skill addressed in this program is carefully presented to prepare tomorrow’s travel industry leaders for the challenges they are likely to face each day.
Premium Membership: Our premium membership is an opportunity to access comprehensive education options ongoing with unlimited access to webinars, online content on a variety of topics. It allows travel professionals to immerse themselves in learning and strategic expertise available from both TTI staff as well as a “who’s who” list of industry veterans and experts delivering on-demand webinars, podcasts, blogs, white papers, articles, and online, in-depth and self-paced specialist courses such as: Luxury, Golf, Alaska and Italy, to name a few.
For all of our programming, we encourage feedback continuously so that our content continues to evolve and meet the needs of both our students and the industry.
Also, if the Travel Institute is offering any incentives for travel professionals to act now, rather than later, please share those, as well.
We support cost-effective education for our industry year-round hoping to maximize accessibility for our students and for the industry more broadly. That said, we also do have special savings from time to time. Examples include this past October’s “TRIP of a Lifetime” for new agents and this December’s annual “Season of Savings,” which will again include special offers on certifications, memberships and other products. Still, we find those who take their career most seriously will rarely miss an opportunity for professional development regardless of our pricing. Instead, they view ongoing education as a necessary investment in their success.
What are you offering brand new travel agents that want to begin a career in the travel industry?
There are many important qualifications to evaluate before determining if one is capable of being a successful travel agent. Our industry is complex and constantly changing and the TRIPKIT course provides the primary opportunity to learn more about the role and evaluate their fit. At the same time, the baseline knowledge gained through the course enables a new agent to be successful. And, of course, the continuing education and online support community available through The Travel Institute further enables agent success both short- and long-term.
How about travel professionals looking to specialize in destination or life style niches?
The Travel Institute offers many online, self-paced Destination and Niche market courses designed to provide a travel professional with the tools and knowledge needed to be successful in various industry segments. Recently, we launched two new, robust niche programs: Selling Luxury Travel and Selling Golf Travel. We also recently revamped our North America Destination program. A new Europe Specialist course will also be available soon.
Is the Travel Institute considering any additional educational programming in 2019?
Absolutely, and I encourage everyone to stay tuned as we develop our 2019 plans! We have an entire team dedicated to the development and delivery of timely, relevant webinar content focused on identifying emerging trends and delivering content in response.
Are there any updates or additions for agents wanting to pursue their CTA designations and are there any incentives to start before the end of 2018? How can agents engage in starting their trek for this professional designation?
The CTA program went through a complete revamp in 2017 and we have continued to tweak the content since that time to ensure it is most relevant, timely and accurate. For agents interested in pursuing their CTA, they should simply go to TTI’s website and enroll. It’s that easy! If cost is a concern, consider taking advantage of our Season of Savings during the month of December (specific savings to be announced). We welcome hearing from individuals with other questions or concerns too!
How about the Travel Institute’s CTC program?
It seems that agents that are searching for a professional designation would pursue a CTC designation, which has been the benchmark of professionalism for over 50 years in the travel industry.
Indeed, the CTC designation continues to be the benchmark of professionalism for travel agents, representing a capable, experienced agent who also has the appetite to become a leader through advanced learning in industry specifics as well as management topics such as negotiating, project management, accounting fundamentals, coaching, team building and more. CTC prerequisites include a minimum of 5 years of industry experience along with a passing score for their CTA. Following successful completion of the CTC course, continuing education is required to keep this certification current and maintain its value.
Are there any updates or additions for agents wanting to pursue their CTC designations and are there any incentives to start before the end of 2018? How can agents engage in starting their trek for this professional designation?
We continuously make changes to the CTC program to ensure accurate, timely and relevant subject matter. For agents interested in pursuing their CTC, they should simply go to TTI’s website and enroll. It’s that easy! If cost is a concern, consider taking advantage of our Season of Savings during the month of December (specific savings to be announced). We welcome hearing from individuals with other questions or concerns too!