Travel agents don’t need certification to sell travel but those who do should want it. As a trusted resource for clients, knowing the ins and outs of the destinations that you sell and making trusted, confident recommendations to clients should be a constant pursuit.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was poised for a banner year in 2020 with record-breaking numbers of people planning to travel and bookings that were off the charts. While COVID may have put the breaks on travel for 2020, it seems that, in 2022, travelers are making up for lost time with the industry poised to continue its boom right where it left off and they want advice.
With clients relying on the assistance of travel agents more than ever, it’s more important than ever to get it right.
“I’m a firm believer that the travel industry needs more trained agents,” said Ryan Doncsecz, Groups Manager, VIP Vacations Inc. “Many consumers in the world have had bad experiences with less seasoned agents, or even part-time travel advisors who may do this on the side. Not that there is a problem with this job being a second source of income; but, it is crucial that agents differentiate themselves by showcasing their skills and training. We want to be trusted, and accolades or training programs are a great way to earn a new client’s approval right off the bat.”
There are so many ways to learn and continue training on both destinations and technology to stay on track and be able to be the expert for your clients.
“One of the number-one reasons any traveler turns to a travel advisor is because we are experts in our field,” said Kirsten Andrade, Concierge Travel Planner with Favorite Grampy Travels. “As much as we’d like to constantly be exploring new destinations, and we do travel often, it is impossible to stay up-to-date on every destination without continuing our education.”
Travel agents do not have to be on the road 24-7 to learn about the places they are selling. In fact, these days, they don’t even have to leave their houses (thank you, Zoom). Virtual learning has truly taken hold and many destinations and organizations provide ongoing training opportunities to travel advisors through platforms such as the Travel Institute and Travel Agent Academy.
“Being a great agent takes more than loving travel; it takes time, effort and expertise,” said Diane Petras, CTIE, president of The Travel Institute. “Certification takes agents with passion and ensures they have the capabilities they need to be successful for themselves, their travelers and their teams.”
Continuing training and ongoing education often cost very little or can even be free. Many destination programs also offer specialists who complete their courses access to special rewards, promotions, fam trips and more.
The Jamaica Specialist Program offers travel agents who complete its course the chance to earn cash rewards. The Travel Institute offers a “Promote Your Professionalism” event every year, which provides scholarship money to allow travel agents to strengthen their business skills and travel industry knowledge. These are just a few of the many programs travel advisors can take advantage of in order to sell more travel and sell it better.
Training doesn’t only revolve around destination knowledge. Hotel and resort companies, cruise lines, destination management companies, airlines and booking platforms are also constantly updating products and technology to better serve travelers and travel agents. Staying abreast of these updates also needs to be a priority for those selling travel.
ALG Vacations newly launched ALGVPro travel advisor specialist program provides training about the many opportunities the vacation package company provides to both agents and clients.
“It is very important for agents to receive additional training, even after years of service,” said Doncsecz. “When looking at a new training program, such as ALGVPro, agents are provided updated information in terms of technology and tools that can be used to make or modify bookings as well as marketing tools that can be used for free to help get agency promotional information out to the general public.”
Keeping up with an industry such as travel that is constantly in flux can seem overwhelming. However, one of the benefits of programs such as ALGVPro is that they provide training on multiple fronts.
“Specific education programs, such as the ALGVPro program, allow us to stay up to date not only on the destinations but the most effective ways to secure these reservations for our clients,” noted Andrade.
Travel agents who are seeking to update their skillset can turn to host agencies, organizations such as ASTA, individual travel companies and business development managers to explore ways to further their knowledge.