Fora, the New York-based host agency dedicated to bringing new entrants into the industry, this month launched its advanced certification program.
Creating the advanced training program has been a major focus for Fora of late, said co-founder Henley Vazquez.
When the agency was first gaining steam, she said, advisors who signed on would immediately have access to Fora's training library, which has a number of resources.
"What we realized pretty quickly is people learn a lot better when they're learning in a group and they have others to learn with them," Vazquez said.
So, Fora shifted to a program that groups advisors into cohorts. Now, when advisors join, they are automatically placed into a cohort of their peers. For a month, they take classes together, gaining access to a private channel and Fora's community forum, and they take an exam at the end of that month.
The month covers training basics, Vazquez said. That includes things like the building blocks of a business, how to organize the day as a travel advisor and the role of social media, among other topics.
Weekly training continues to be available to all agents, as does the library, she said.
Fora recently launched its first advanced cohort. Advisors must apply; there are 100 in the first cohort, Vazquez said.
"That gets a little bit deeper in terms of how you're building your business and how you're thinking about learning with travel," she said.
It's a month-long program of live classes and then a month-long program of asynchronous learning. At the end, advance course-takers build a portfolio that includes things like site inspection reports, reviews that have been shared with the Fora community and client reviews of the advisor.
"Because these are people who are really actively booking, we want them to showcase not only what they've learned and what they've done, but actually what people think about them as travel advisors," Vazquez said.
The Fora team evaluates an advisor's portfolio, and if it's up to snuff, they graduate the advanced certification program.
Vazquez sees three main categories of agents among the more than 1,000 who affiliate with Fora: new-to-the-industry, who are assigned a cohort for initial training; more active advisors, who sign up for the advanced certification; and advisors that came to Fora as professionals with established books of business. The advanced certification, she said, is a good fit for those advisors, too.
She envisions all of Fora's advisors, especially new-to-industry, will complete its training programs.
"The goal of the company is to open this up and give people opportunities," she said. "However, this is not the easiest thing, and it is one of those [where] you do by learning."
Another advanced cohort will start in two months after the first wraps up.
One advisor's take
New York resident Pamela Murphy had worked in hospitality and has traveled quite a bit with her husband, a chef, but she didn't connect the two until recently.
She had worked with a travel advisor before, though, and thought she'd be good at it. After all, she'd helped plan countless trips for family and friends. She hemmed and hawed for a while, but one night she came upon a targeted ad for Fora. She let them know she was interested, heard back right away and signed on with the agency in November.
Today, Murphy has more than 20 clients and is enjoying what she described as the supportive community at Fora; she also takes advantage of the chance to work in the agency's office from time to time.
Murphy completed Fora's initial cohort training and is currently enrolled in the advanced training. She is also taking advantage of other opportunities, like regular learning with suppliers and asynchronous educational material.
"It's also just nice to have a community and be in these trainings with people from all over the world," she said.
The advanced training in particular is homing in on how to build a brand and manage a business, Murphy said, as well as how to plan travel to destinations the advisor may not know as well. It's a confidence boost she said is benefitting her business.