In a follow-up to our February 21 Travel Agent Magazine cover story on selling travel to disables clients, Travel Agent explores the question of whether agents selling accessible travel need to be certified.
As of now, there is no requirement for agents to be certified when selling the $15 billion industry niche that is accessible travel. We asked the same experts we featured in our cover story whether they thought certification was required and here are the answers we got:
Jim Smith, director of marketing for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA):
"You can’t certify every niche. If you require certification for agents selling to disabled clients than what’s next? You would then need certification to sell trips for singles, couples, family travel, gay and lesbian travel, etc. Where do you draw the line? There has to be some education about what questions to ask just like everything else. This is just taking the normal travel sale process and kicking it up a notch."
Kristy Lacroix, owner of Wheelchair Escapes, a Certified Accessible Travel Specialist and an active member of the Society fro Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH):
"I do think there will be a lot of very unhappy travelers if someone with no first hand knowledge of the ins and outs of disabled travel starts making reservations for them. There are so many details to consider when trying to meet the needs of a disabled traveler. We want our teachers, doctors and dentists to keep up with their certifications, why not our travel agents. When someone is going to invest their travel dollar with you, they should expect the best."
Kristina Rundquist, vice president of communications for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA):
"ASTA typically is not in favor of certification because of the extra level of government and regulatory scrutiny it brings down upon travel agents, however we strongly advise any consumer who is in the market for a travel agent, especially a consumer with special needs, to do their homework: Use the Find a Travel Agent directory on ASTA’s consumer site,TravelSense.org, to find an ASTA member who specializes in accessible travel; ask for client references; ask what personal experience they have with the destination, with travelers with disabilities and even with travelers with a consumer's own disabilities."
Did You Know?
The National Organization on Disability estimates that there are 54 million men, women and children in the United States with a disability, and as the baby boomer generation ages, there will be even more travelers who will have special needs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 42 percent of women over the age of 65, and 38 percent of men in the same age group, have disabilities.
We’ve heard some experts’ take on the subject, now lets hear yours. Do you think travel agents selling this niche should be certified in accessible travel or will that open up a can of worms and lead to certification requirements for every niche?