Rail Europe's revamped travel agent certification course was produced with the changes in the agent community in mind, including the growth of home-based agents, said Peter Rahaman, vice president of sales.
“What we're finding is that more and more agents are becoming home-based, and education is paramount,” he said in an interview with Travel Weekly's Home-Based Agent eletter. “You've got American Express closing a number of stores and having more agents working from home. In the past, we'd do more training in stores.”
With the boom in home-based agents, it can be difficult to find and train the new breed of agents, Rahaman said. An online course serves an important purpose because “it provides agents with the knowledge they need to serve clients. Booking a trip to Europe is a time-consuming experience, and it's where a trained travel agent can show their worth.”
Rail Europe spent a year overhauling TRAC, the Rail Agent Course, its education program that was launched in 2000. New features are separate modules for Switzerland and France and more detailed product information, tips on how to integrate rail into a European FIT and finding market segments for rail products.
In all, there are three parts to TRAC: the Rail Europe program and the new Switzerland and France modules, each of which has its own exam. All three are accredited by the Travel Institute for continuing-education units. Agents who complete the modules receive a certificate as a Swiss Rail Expert, France Rail Expert and Rail Europe Expert and are placed on a list for Rail Europe promotions.
“TRAC has been quite successful for some time, but it was time for an update,” said Rahaman. “We've included more product information, more tips and targeting the audience. In the past more people would have been sold a rail pass; now more people are buying point-to-point tickets through electronic tickets.”
The entire three-module TRAC course can be taken at the agent’s pace, stopping and starting when necessary, and requires between two and four hours to complete, depending on an agent's prior knowledge of European rail, he said.
“The key is to have the education. That's where agents make the difference,” Rahaman said.
For more information, see www.agent.raileurope.com