BTA: Web specialist program making strides

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NEW YORK -- Enrollment in the British Tourist Authority's specialist program for U.S. travel agents has skyrocketed since it became available on the Internet late last month.

According to Clare Packer, marketing executive for the travel trade at the BTA in New York, some 60 new agent candidates for BritAgent certification signed up online at the www.travelbritain.org/trade site since its June 20 debut -- a significant jump over previous enrollment rates.

"We've also had existing enrollees who've been with us for a longer time decide to take the [certification] test on line," Packer added.

There currently are 600 BritAgent enrollees nationwide, of whom about half have been tested and certified.

While any agent who pays the $75 fee to join the program receives limited benefits, such as a year's subscription to "In Britain" magazine, graduates who've passed the certification test gain access to consumer leads, 10 continuing education credits from the Institute of Certified Travel Agents, permission to use the BritAgent logo on promotional materials, and a supply of brochures.

Previously, candidates who opted to take the test would have to contact Wellesley, Mass.-based ICTA for the materials, and then return them by mail for grading.

"We did research and found agents felt online testing would be more convenient," said Packer, adding that the move has reduced costs, as well, allowing the BTA to slash its fee to $75, down from $200.

Agent reaction to the online move is overwhelmingly positive, she noted. "They've commented that they love a paperless program, the modules read well, and that our turnaround time is excellent."

For more information, contact Packer at (212) 850-0327.

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