Serious Education Doesn’t Come In Tidbits | TravelResearchOnline

Serious Education Doesn’t Come In Tidbits

These days, you can’t throw a rock into the travel industry without hitting an Internet forum of some kind. Travel Research Online has the Community, for instance. These Internet forums are quite valuable, especially to the home-based professional. They provide a connection to colleagues all across the country, with different specializations and levels of experience. Story after story can be told of an agent asking a question on a message board and receiving immeasurable help, from advice for handling difficult situations to destination recommendations.

However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend at several of the online forums in which I participate: namely, the asking of very basic industry questions. Some examples include “What is a TC?” (when discussing group cruises), “How do I block group space?”, “Does my client need a visa?”, and many, many more. These types of questions concern me. From the client’s perspective, it’s expected that the travel professional have some base level of education in the how-tos and what-nots of the travel industry. The client expects the professional to know MORE than he does, or know where to find that information. Otherwise, what good is that professional?

No one expects someone with a desire to go into business for themselves to just set up shop without first researching the industry, learning very basic ropes on business operations, and getting a grip on what they need to know before they open the doors, yet this happens all the time for travel sellers. The importance of a good basic education in the travel industry cannot be overstated. Message boards are good for networking, getting detailed, first-hand accounts of a property, or getting a handle on the latest natural disaster to affect our clients; they are NOT a suitable substitute for making an investment in your education as a travel professional.

A formal education program at a community college or university may not be available to you, but if so take advantage of it. The Travel Institute has several courses that cover a wide range of travel niches and destinations. In fact, The Travel Institute’s Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) course and exam provides an excellent base level for the travel industry as a whole, covering all aspects from selling air to cruises. The Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program is mid-level, with more detail given to all areas of travel, and the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) program is widely regarded as a hallmark of knowledge and professionalism. Cruise specialists can highly benefit from the training provided by CLIA through their Associate Cruise Counsellor (ACC) and Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC) programs.

If you aren’t the type for a structured learning environment, Kelly Monagan’s Home Based Travel Agent Success Manual and Tom and Joanie Ogg’s various books provide a wealth of information that is essential for the serious professional. Also, consider books by Mike Marchev and the CD’s put out by Nolan Burris. Both cover aspects of the travel industry not typically found elsewhere. Travel Research Online (webinar page), The Travel Institute, and other organizations in the industry sponsor webinars on a variety of topics as well. Last, but not least, the Travel Agent Success Series deserves to be on the reference shelf of any serious travel professional.

Finding an experienced mentor in your area that you can meet with personally has also proven invaluable for many agents, especially if the mentor is willing to help you learn the basics rather than expecting you to have a basic level of understanding.

In fact, Travel Research Online will be rolling out a mentoring program soon – be on the lookout for it, and take advantage of it!

Yes, education like this costs money. There is no money more wisely spent, however, than on one’s education.

Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a four-year industry veteran and owner of Journeys By Steve and Exclusive Events At Sea. With Journeys By Steve, he offers up independent cruise vacations, escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land, and culinary-themed travel His newest venture, Exclusive Events At Sea, focuses on producing special event groups at sea. He can be reached at steve@journeysbysteve.com. Visit his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com or http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com.

  5 thoughts on “Serious Education Doesn’t Come In Tidbits

  1. Connie Sims says:

    I so agree with you on this. Thought it was just me noticing the influx of basic questions on the forums. Unfortunately, because of this, I have quit frequenting the sites. It is also sad when some agents decide to bash certain suppliers simply because they do not know how to utilize the tools they have in place for them.

    I do enjoy seeing your comments and articles.

    Happy Selling!
    Connie

  2. Geoff Millar says:

    I am in total agreement. So many basic questions on forums. In this industry, for some strange reason, we tend to compare ourselves with doctors and lawyers, for the life of me I can’t understand why. If I were becoming a doctor or lawyer I would not think of doing it without some formal training, and can’t do it without testing and a license. When I first got into sales years ago, I was required, by the company I started with, to take some indepth formal product trainig and also indepth sales training before I was allowed to interact with client.

    We call ourselves a professional industry. Part of being a professional industry is to at least understand the basics of that industry and basic product knowledge before interacting with clients. Just my opinion.

    Great article Steve.

  3. dcta says:

    What makes me crazy here on TRO are two bahaviors: first, there are a number of people who show up and contribute only when they need help. You know who they are – you’ll see they’re members since 2006 but they’ve only posted a couple dozen times. Second, people who are here all the time asking questions who purport to be professionals of long-standing. Sometimes they’re questions would indicate that they are beginners and other times it’s just irritating that these “professionals of long-standing” don’t offer assistance to anyone else!!! Just irks me!

  4. Brenda says:

    I decided to become a TA about 18 months ago. I looked everywhere for a reputable travel course. I found one online then I hired a very popular travel coach to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. Both were a huge investment into something I didn’t know if it was going to “pan-out”. Unfortunately I am more of a hands-on learner and having not worked at an agency my only resource is to ask in the forums. I truly understand the frustration of the more experienced agents but as a new agent I am frustrated too. It took me many months to find a travel course and when I asked other agents how to get in the business I was instead pointed to host agency websites. I’m so glad I found my coach and invested that money. I’m not sure many of the other newbies are in the same position though.

    BLUF

    It was not easy to find “how-to” travel business information. I would love to have a mentor but to most the notion of a mentee is a “sub-agent” something I can’t afford as I still need to recoup my investment…My observation from my short time in this industry is that some of the older, more experienced agents are not very welcoming to the younger ones, hence why we sometimes have to ask basic questions….

  5. John Frenaye says:

    While I tend to agree for the most part on this, let me present a few other considerations…

    The agent who has worked in a BM agency fro X years and now is home based and on his or her own and needs to learn the “other” end of the business.

    The agent who has only had experience with individual travel for whatever reason and now finds him or herself straddled with a group.

    While I agree that a proficiency test of some sorts would be welcomed to the industry and there is a level of expectation, we all need to start somewhere.

    Forums are not a replacement to any education, nut they are a supplement. And quite probably you are seeing these questions in TRO because of its size, reach and level of aptitude across all travel types. Plus there is usually someone there that can answer a question pretty quickly.

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