Travel agents are showing strong interest in Africa as a destination, with 589 specialist certificates awarded to agents who received destination training during ASTA’s recent International Destination Expo (IDE) in Sun City, South Africa. The IDE immersed travel agents in the culture, such as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and in niche markets such as spa travel and wine tourism.
"Nothing can beat first-hand experience when it comes to selling a destination," said Chris Russo, ASTA's president and chair. "Networking with local professionals, immersing oneself in a destination–these are the things that help travel agents gain an in-depth understanding of a region's culture and environment, as well as establish partnerships with niche suppliers they otherwise might not have met."
Travel agents who completed destination certifications will be provided customizable press releases for their use in promoting their new specialties to their local media and communities. Additionally, they will be offered a complimentary one-year membership in the Specialty Travel Agents Association. The IDE is designed to immerse travel agents in the culture, attractions and travel business of each year's chosen destination.
Of the educational seminars, attendee Brenda Starr-Roberts with RisingStarr Productions of Sicklerville, NJ commented: "It was a delight to attend the FUNDI (South Africa) Specialist Training. I learned so much about Africa as a whole. The training opened my mind to all that is out there for us to explore. ... I never knew there was so much beauty, peace and serenity that could be had by visiting Africa. ... I learned the history and infrastructure of Africa. I got a chance to see mountains, waterfalls, wilderness and beauty. I learned of the 52 countries and what they had to offer. Each country is unique in its own way. South Africa is a wonderful place to visit. It has so much to offer a person for adventure or leisure. It was a big eye-opener. I thank the committee for putting together such an in-depth session."
More than 1,000 travel professionals from 29 countries gathered in Sun City to learn about the culture, attractions and travel business of the South Africa. The fifth IDE will be held in Istanbul, April 19-22, 2010, where agents will receive specialist training in the Turkey and neighboring countries.