Skills and industry knowledge are the backbone of what makes a great travel agent—and the key drivers behind the Travel Institute’s recent update of its Certified Travel Associate (CTA) curriculum.
The changes have increased the minimum number of courses that need to be completed and enhanced the program’s focus on entrepreneurial skills, to help the smallest of agencies and independent contractors run their businesses better.
Among the new courses, programs on how to prevent credit card fraud and how to sell travel insurance have been added to the core requirements.
“Our industry is experiencing an exciting entrepreneurial spirit as a non-conventional career strategy, fueled by personal passion as well as peer group support,” said Diane Petras, chief operating officer.
“The Institute is experiencing a rise in student enrollments for our Travel Introductory Program (TRIPKit) as a career in travel gains renewed interest,” Petras said. “This is good news for our industry, and results in a higher number of CTA students, because after taking the TAP exam, they need certification to take them to the next level in becoming a sales agent or starting a unique lifestyle-, destination-, or luxury-focused travel business.”
Two of the most frequent requests are for more training on topics like closing the sale and operations. Students also asked for shorter webinars.
In the last two years, the Institute has revised its Travel Career Development (TCD) and its Exploring The World (ETW) textbooks, which are both sold to colleges and are used in the Institute’s introductory training (TRIPKit) program. The organization then moved on to a complete makeover of its Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) and Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE) content at the end of 2015, which led to the overhaul and relaunch of the CTA curriculum this year.
Education is an ongoing imperative
“If you want to remain relevant and find new opportunities for growth, you must commit to ongoing learning,” Petras said. She advises agents and owners to set aside a specific day and time each week for learning.
“It’s easy to find time to run to the grocery store or stop at a gas station. Those tasks don’t need much thought because they stem from necessity. The key to finding time for learning is to give it that same priority,” she said. “Think about all the time you spend waiting (doctor’s office, airport, bus, train, etc.) and fill that by reading an article, watching a video, listening to a podcast in our premium member’s lounge.”
The Institute has overhauled its website to make its continuing education courses easier to find and organized in logical categories “so that our graduates could focus on what was most important to them.” It also promises to remain focused on agencies as they grow; a tailored programs is designed to help when agencies replace or add staff.