If there is one Internet prediction on which most travel industry
professionals agree, it is that agents can continue to prosper in
the new technological age if they are specialists in almost any
destination or niche.
The studies and surveys repeatedly tell us that retailers must
offer added value to the potential buyer. It is a notion that
applies to all industries, not just travel and tourism. The travel
industry, however, literally offers the world as its playground,
where the greatest obstacle to selecting a specialty could well be
the number of choices.
The Internet might someday become all things to all people, but
at least for the foreseeable future agents would do well to
remember that knowledge still is power when it comes to the point
One group of agents acknowledging, indeed embracing, that idea
recently "graduated" as certified sales specialists for
Switzerland. In a program sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, the
Swiss government's tourism arm, agents learn the minutiae of
selling travel products to that part of the world. In return for
their loyalty that brings tourism revenue to Switzerland, they earn
higher pay on Swissair vacation packages. Of course, there is an
Internet connection: Specialists who have their own Web sites get a
listing on the Switzerland Tourism site.
Many countries, especially in Europe, have similar courses that
result in specialist titles for travel agents. Wales, for instance,
offers the Wise Wales program. And some, like the Swiss, want their
groups of specialists to be, well, special. So they limit the
number of people who can earn the designation.
Switzerland already has 382 specialists in the U.S. and is
continuing the program only until there are 750.
We believe that agents would be well rewarded by providing what
the Internet cannot.