Have you seen this profession? | TravelResearchOnline


Have you seen this profession?

Way back in 2008, not more than a few weeks after we launched TRO’s editorial pages, I argued the travel professional community needed a set of formal standards by which to operate.  Last week I waded into the same waters, tempting out a number of rebuttals,  some emailed in private, not entirely happy with my editorial.  Texas travel agent David Appleby wrote a particularly strong and well-articulated comment and I promised a response. I first want to thank David for his comments and the opportunity to respectfully disagree.

David’s commentary asserts the present scenario, while not perfect, has served the industry pretty well. This is actually the very early point at which we diverge.  I think the past 15 years has roughed our industry up pretty badly and our lack of exclusivity has not served us well.  We have emerged from the ravages of disintermediation not as a unified profession but as a band of rugged and tough survivors. The world and the industry continues to evolve, however, and without standards, the profession will continue to dilute. What has tested us  may have made us stronger.  Now it’s time to prove we also are wiser.
cartonWithout a common set of standards, in fact, it is difficult to argue there is a profession at all.This is why I think it important for organizations like NACTA, OSSN, ASTA, host agencies, consortia and others to require their membership to adhere to a set of well documented standards. These are not arbitrary associations. These organizations are made up of travel planners who need to decide the course of their corporate professional future.

Likewise, the Travel Institute has for years produced a number of  excellent programs for travel professionals to further their base knowledge and skill set. Yet, there is no testing requirement to be called a “travel agent.” Self policing our industry is very likely the only viable avenue in the absence of a will to mandate and enforce barriers to entry.

Does it matter anyone can call themselves a travel agent?  Here’s the rub and where David Appleby has a good point.  With no barriers to entry, with no professional standards,  it is fair to ask whether the issues are actually important to the profession.  Yet, each time the consumer media prints an article favorable to the travel agent we celebrate as though a child from a milk carton has been found and rescued.  I assert the demonstrated professional insecurity is the direct result of exactly how poorly the past 15 years has treated our profession and the need to create more elevated standards to protect our economic interests.

If anyone can be a travel professional, then the title will have little meaning to the public. Name another profession with no certification, no education requirements, no testing. Anyone who claims to be a travel agent IS a travel agent under the current schema.

It is imperative for the industry to hold itself to a higher set of standards.  I think our political and professional profile, our very future, depends on a higher standard or we truly will eventually be invisible.  Let’s hope our leadership continues to makes demands on membership, because the pubic certainly will.

Let’s hope we continue to make demands on ourselves.

  3 thoughts on “Have you seen this profession?

  1. Marlene Robinson says:

    I was training a new agent this weekend. She told me that she has been telling people that she is training to be a travel agent. She said quite a few of them told her that they are travel agents. She stated: “I did not know there was so many. They seem to be everywhere.” My response was that entry to barrier is really low – almost anyone who wants to be an agent can be but she would have to figure out a way to differentiate herself from the rest by finding her passion, doing what she does extremely well, thereby bring value to her clients. All things are not equal so I agree that national standards or exam would be a place to start.

  2. Ultimately I think we have a balancing act here … we can’t afford to dissuade folks from LEGITIMATELY entering the industry. We desperately need the new blood (note, I didn’t restrict it to YOUNG blood). 😉 But at the same time we don’t want the perception that “anyone” can hang out a shingle without some form of training/knowledge/education.

    In David’s comment he mentioned that it was impractical to have a universal certification for salesmen in general. But to counter his point, there IS certification/licensing/education required to be a “salesman” in the insurance industry. Same thing for the real estate industry. So within an industry it’s not unheard of (or impractical) to have an entry level requirement before being able to sell the product or call yourself as part of that industry.

    Maybe it is as simple as having to pass the TAP test? Or CTA at minimum?

    Yes there are TAs that focus on particular niches. I’d ace a test about New Zealand but fail miserably if you tested me about Dubai. I’d do great on a test about cruises, but there are some TAs that have never sold a cruise in their life. Why handicap them by making them learn material they’ll never need?

    So, yes, we need SOMETHING, but it is a balancing act between attracting new blood and portraying a certain amount of professionalism across the industry.

  3. Sarah Krafty says:

    While the no certifications required was instrumental in my decision to become a travel agent just over a year ago, I have been striving ever since to differentiate myself, become certified and feel as if I were a professional travel agent. I have a host agency, and use them as best I can. I belong to NACTA and CLIA. I am working on my ACC, and plan to work on my CTC as soon as I’ve completed the ACC and also reached the 18 month in the business requirement. But still I feel on my own, unstructured. I don’t know if I’m on the right path. If what I’m working so hard to create is even the right way. I think a set of standards would help to guide me. I could see step one, two and three more clearly. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I am recreating the wheel.

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