Last year, Travel Pulse listed some resolution that travel professionals devised for 2019. Last week, we spoke about getting the word out. And this week, I wanted to tackle another outstanding resolution—getting certified. Easier said than done. Maybe!
The problem is, that certification in the travel industry has always been like trying to nail jello to a tree. No one ever agrees who should be the certifying agency, or what the criteria should be, or what it even is that should be certified.
At one point it was the IATAN card—and then the home based (non-air) agencies were excluded. The Travel Institute has their CTA and CTC courses. There was the CLIA card—but that insisted on CLIA membership. NACTA had one. OSSN had one. And then of course all the MLM companies issued their own “official travel agent card.” No wonder the consumer never knew where to turn.
But back in August of 2017, ASTA got into the game. And ASTA, in my opinion, has always been the obvious choice to take up the mantle. They have been around forever, but more importantly they are a brand that is recognized by the consumer. The ASTA Verified Travel Advisor Certification Program hits on all the aspect that a true business and travel professional needs. Marketing, ethics, law, relationships, speaking, negotiating, and responsibilities are all core aspects of the program. Of course there is a cost to it; but if you are serious about your business, you have to understand there are costs involved.
Aside from the “advisor” certification, which should put consumers at ease and give them a sense of your professionalism; consumers also seek out specific certifications.
I have been a cheerleader for working in a niche environment for decades. Few of us can be a true jack-of-all-trades. Discover (or better yet invent) your niche and dive right in. Get into the supplier certifications like Sandals. Want to specialize with Princess or RCCL—take their courses. Looking to sell a destination exclusively or mostly exclusively—take the courses offered by the Tourist Boards. These are all the product certifications that are completely separate from the business certification. These tell your client that of the professional planners, they picked one that is qualified for their wants and needs.
Look at it this way. You are charged with murder. You recognize the need for a lawyer—so Uncle Albert from Peoria who is such a good arguer and can negotiate any deal is not the man for you. You need a lawyer (professional certification)! So, do you go to the first lawyer you see? After all, Mary next door is supposed to be the best divorce attorney in town? Of course not! You seek out a criminal defense lawyer (product certification) to defend you in court. Travel is no different!
As I said last week, get the word out. And this week, make sure the world knows that you are a professional—and in what specific areas you specialize!
Next week? Be proactive!