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Handling the Cost of EducationFebruary 5, 2007 By: Mark Rogers, Jennifer Merritt, David Eisen, Camie Foster Travel Agent
Every good agent knows that it's key to stay up to speed on all that's happening in the industry, but how much education is necessary? And who should be responsible for the cost? Travel Agent asked, you answered.
Watson & Watson
Some agency owners turn to the convenience and cost effectiveness of the
Internet to school agents at home and in the office. "Being a member of
Virtuoso, there's a tremendous wealth of training available via WebEx seminars,
and our people take advantage of that," shares Bob Watson of Watson &
exist that cover just about every travel-related topic, from a specific hotel
property to a national or community tourist office trying to promote their
area. He also encourages fam trips, and notes, "Generally [the agents] are
responsible for any expense incurred, but if something comes up that doesn't
require payment, our agents will take advantage of that."
Watson believes education is vital, regardless of who pays
for it, saying, "It represents an investment on your part as well as the
willingness to learn."
Etherson Travel Destinations
"Our training is primarily in-house," says Rick Etherson, owner
of Etherson Travel Destinations, in
TN. "We don't send our outside agents away for travel agent
training." First, he says, "We send them on a Sandals fam trip. We
pay the air, while Sandals picks up the rest."
Etherson explains he leads in-house training sessions
utilizing manuals based on the products the company sells. He keeps his agents
up to date with two refresher courses a year. The company has five outside
sales agents, including one who is a CTC with 30 years of experience.
"We have a narrow alley of sales: the Caribbean,
says Etherson. "We quickly try to get our people off the thought that they
can sell the world. We encourage our agents to specialize— there's no better
way to succeed."
Aloha Travel Agency
Hawaii Aloha Travel is a tech-savvy travel agency run by owners Bruce and
Yaling Yu Fisher with the support of a team of independent contractors. The
agency, based in
such, says Bruce Fisher, it's critical that every agent is well versed in the
destination and products available.
"Especially when you're selling
agent," he says. That's why every independent contractor is required to
earn destination-specialist certification through the Hawaii Visitors and
Convention Bureau's Ke Kula O Hawaii program, as well as completing NCL's
Specialist Plus program for
Kelly Shea, vice president and owner of Earle Travel in
the benefits of agents attending online seminars.
"If an agent doesn't know a product by the end of day,
they can find out pretty quickly," she says, adding, "It's a good way
to cut costs."
To keep costs trim, Shea encourages all agents to take
advantage of fam trips, which are usually wholly or partially paid for by the
tour operator. "When fams come across my desk, they go to everyone in the
office," Shea says.
agency covers education depending on its relationship with the agent. "The
outside consultants we use have their own business, so we don't pay for their
training. However, on our corporate side of the business, we do have full-time
travel consultants that work from home. They are full-time employees of MacNair
Travel, and we do pay for their training," notes Skip Fortier, manager of
vacation travel at MacNair Travel in
—David Eisen, Camie Foster, Jennifer Merritt, Mark Rogers