BOSTON -- The Institute of Certified Travel Agents said it will
broaden its membership base to include industry professionals who
have not completed an ICTA certification program.
David Preece, ICTA's newly named president and CEO, said the
group "needs to be as inclusive as possible" to broaden its appeal,
but "there have to be criteria" for membership that will maintain
and enhance the organization's role as the industry educator.
He said ICTA may settle on multiple levels of membership, with
each level providing relevant access to services and education. He
said ICTA will be ready to announce a membership plan by the time
of its annual Forum, set for September in Orlando, or maybe
In anticipation of the membership changes, the September Forum,
for the first time, is open to anyone who wishes to attend. ICTA
counts 5,500 dues-paying members, about three-fourths of them CTCs
and the remainder CTAs.
Liberalizing membership rules is part of a broader ICTA growth
strategy announced last fall that focused on unbundling educational
programs and making them available to individuals or organizations
outside the context of a CTC or CTA certification program.
Since that time, according to ICTA chairman Matthew Upchurch and
his colleagues on the ICTA board, the Institute has indeed
unbundled all educational materials and three-fourths of it has
Looking ahead, ICTA expects to sell more services on a bulk
scale to travel agencies, suppliers and travel organizations.
Some travel industry organizations already have begun to "embed"
ICTA course material into their own educational programs, the board
said. For example, American Express last month said it will include
ICTA destination specialist courses as part of its regular
curriculum for travel counselor training.
Materials, because they are maintained only in PDF form now,
could be readily customized for specific buyers, Preece said.
ICTA vice chairman Scott Ahlsmith said ICTA "could sell any
education program to any organization; we may even do certification
for other organizations; or we may just sell testing services."
In another example, Preece said ICTA, which has 13 destination
specialist courses, could provide back-of-the-house services to
help tourist boards manage their ongoing relationships with agents
who have completed the programs.
The ICTA name would not necessarily appear "all over these
things," Ahlsmith noted.
He added that ICTA "has been doing some whimsical things." For
example, he said, because some agents sell on eBay, ICTA opened an
eBay store so it could gain experience and talk intelligently about
it to its constituents.
One thing ICTA learned, Ahlsmith said, is that it is not so easy
to find things on eBay; sometimes ICTA staff cannot even find the