Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, raised several very interesting points during his keynote at the ASTA Global Convention in San Diego in late August.
“Any business that doesn’t innovate over time gets passed by,” was the first phrase that caught my attention. The second was: “If you give people what they want, how they want it and when they want it, you will be successful.”
The messaging was very appropriate for this ASTA convention because it was clear that ASTA itself had innovated to deliver a dynamic conference filled with good educational seminars for advisors, and a trade show that was buzzing with agent / supplier interactions. There was an optimistic and collegial vibe at the show; that is likely because business is good for most travel agents and suppliers, but everyone also seemed genuinely happy to be with their peers in San Diego.
ASTA executives were also upbeat and proud that this is indeed a “new ASTA.” That was made clear when Zane Kerby, ASTA’s president and CEO, announced that it is launching a Verified Travel Advisor program. The VTA courses are specific to ASTA’s expertise, such as Ethics for Travel Advisors, a Legal Overview for the Travel Agency Industry, Agency Relationships and the Law, and U.S. Travel Agency Regulatory Compliance.
These are not easy topics to tackle, and nor should they be. The consumer is looking for travel advisors who are the real deal and ASTA says it gets many calls daily from people seeking to determine if the travel agent they are using is legitimate.
From my perspective, the image of the travel advisor in the eye of the consumer has risen dramatically over the past few years and the VTA program will help it even more. Getting certified will be a real commitment, but those who do so will be set apart from their peers. You can access the course at ASTA.org/VTA.
Back to Arnold Donald’s comments at ASTA; I really found him to be very tied in to the travel agency community. He took questions from the audience and didn’t falter once when it came to being candid. Ultimately, he feels it’s Carnival Corporation’s role to deliver a product that will create repeat clients for the travel advisor.
“You can make a commission from somebody once, but if they don’t have a great experience, you’re done,” he told the audience. “What’s way more important is building that lifelong customer. When you do that, then you build a business that’s sustainable, and that’s going to reward you over time.”
I say the same is true of education and certification; they are gifts that will keep on giving year after year and also help you to earn lifelong customers.
There are so many great tools available to help travel advisors elevate themselves; be sure you’re taking advantage of all the opportunities so you can stand out and operate the best travel business you possibly can.