Aruba hopes to sign up to 1,500 in certification program

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NEW YORK -- The Aruba Tourism Authority's educational initiatives, familiarization trips and seminars will fall under one umbrella with the island's new agent certification program.

A typical fishing boatMarcial "Charly" Ibarra, the ATA's director for North America, hopes to sign between 1,000 and 1,500 retailers from May 15 to June 1 for the Aruba Certified Expert (ACE) program.

He said that benefits to retailers who become Aruba specialists include a referral program. Names of ACE agents will be sent out with Aruba travel information and will be listed on the tourism authority's Web site.

Also, travelers who contact tourism offices will be given a referral to agents who are Aruba specialists. As part of the certification, retailers will attend a basic three-hour training session and participate in a fam trip to Aruba.

One of the biggest components of the program is getting agents to the island so that they can learn first-hand about the product, Ibarra said. When complimentary air is unavailable for agents, the ATA will subsidize the cost.

Ibarra also said that Aruba is working to get the Institute of Certified Travel Agents involved with the initiative. The certification program is priced at $75. Agents will receive a $20 rebate for their first booking after they become certified.

The ATA is hoping some tour operators may award rebates as well, according to Ibarra.

For ACE information, agents can call (800) 2-ARUBA. Registration forms are also available on Aruba's Web site, at www.aruba.com.

In other news, Ibarra reported that the annual Aruba Travel Exposition will be replaced by Gogo's learning conference in the fall.

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