We all know that the Internet has changed the way people gather travel information, as well as “shop” for their vacations. The Internet continues to grow in usage as the “one stop” source for travel information and travel specials being offered by mega travel sites and travel suppliers alike. But recently, it has been documented that most travelers actually prefer to book their vacations with an actual travel professional, after gathering their information online.
The above facts confirm a major paradigm shift from the usage of the traditional “storefront” travel agent to the true “travel professionals” including the home based professionals who specialize in specific travel segments. Over recent years, clients have continued to become more concerned with the knowledge and expertise of their travel professional and less and less concerned about where that professional works. For the longest time, we have been led to believe that an agent’s own travel experience and knowledge would allow them to fulfill the needs of their clients. In the past this knowledge and experience was gained by supplier offered FAMS, training conducted in travel agencies and training offered at the major travel conferences. But now with so many clients doing the basic research online, is that necessarily true anymore?
This alone shows that continuing education is no longer a nice thing to have—it is mandatory! Suppliers, destinations, consortia, and host agencies have all invested millions of dollars in technology and training to set you apart from the crowd. The challenge is deciding which training will offer the most benefit to you travel practice.
The true professional travel consultants and understand that for them to compete in today’s world of online agencies and direct to consumer suppliers, they must be actively engaged in continuing education and visiting as many new ships and destinations as time and funds allow. They understand that networking is of utmost importance and they take advantage of trade shows and online forums like the TRO Community. These agents understand that their actual success is tied to being able to say, “I have been there and done that!”
One way to be seen as a true travel professional, is to develop an annual training plan. Spend a little time and money and continue to add to your knowledge. Why not start now? One of the better shows (and a great bang for your buck) is CLIA’s Cruise3Sixty. It combines thought provoking keynote speakers, informative panels, supplier updates, workshops, continuing education credits and the equally important ship inspections .
This year’s CLIA conference will be held June 2nd to the 6th in Vancouver BC. If you have never visited this Olympic city, here is your chance to gain product and destination knowledge. For info go to www.cruise3sixty.com
As someone who has been attending most of the major cruise conferences for the past 25 years, I can attest that I always came away with few new ideas that translated into enough new business to more than pay for the cost of my trip. And when you get back, don’t keep that knowledge inside your head. Brag a little and let your clients know that you attended and that you are up to date on the latest industry trends and newest ships in the industry. Don’t think for a minute that the call center agents of the online agencies and direct to consumer suppliers have this knowledge. They don’t, so don’t forget to always blow your own horn. Use your experience to send some timely tweets, add some pictures to your Facebook account and make some daily entries to your blog. By taking the time to add to your knowledge you will continue to be known as a travel professional. I will be there and hope to see you there as well!.
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 17 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others.
You can share your views with Larry at LNormanCTC@aol.com