t's much like the medical profession:
You can make a living as a family-practice doctor, but if you're
motivated to make the big bucks, you have to become a specialist.
For agents seeking to improve their fortunes, learning to be a
specialist in a destination or a travel segment can be the path to
Suppliers have created a wide range of programs aimed at helping
agents develop specialties.
Below, Travel Weekly offers a sampling of programs, mainly
selected from those offered by individual suppliers. There are many
additional programs available from trade associations such as ASTA,
the Cruise Lines International Association and the National Tour
Most of the programs included below were identified with the
cooperation of the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA).
Sponsor: Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises
Eligibility requirements: Open to all travel
agents. Must complete training program with test as well as
complete one adventure activity. Agents can send a photo of
themselves doing the adventure activity with their completed
In addition, agents who take fam trips with Glacier Bay are
provided with an Adventurology course book and can opt to complete
the training and adventure activity during the cruise.
Benefits: Course designed to help agents learn
to sell lucrative adventure travel.
Contact: (800) 451-5952 and ask for
'It's About You' Caribbean Specialist
Sponsor: Air Jamaica Vacations
Eligibility requirements: Open to all U.S. agents. Candidates
must study training manual (available in print or online versions)
and then pass online exam at www.theacademy.com/ajv. There's a $50 registration
fee, payable by credit card or check.
Benefits: Graduates of the course, which covers
11 Air Jamaica Vacations destinations in the Caribbean, receive a
certificate; first options on fam trips and co-op marketing
initiatives; up to $50 in bonus commission; and up to four ICTA
continuing-education units. Candidates who complete the course and
pass the exam receive two ICTA continuing-education units; those
who attend Air Jamaica Vacations' seminar series earn an additional
Aruba Certified Expert (ACE) Program
Sponsor: Aruba Tourism Authority
Eligibility requirements: For active U.S. or
Canadian agents. Must complete either four-hour training seminar in
person or an ACE Home Study Course available in print or online at
agents.aruba.com. Initial fee is $35 in both U.S. and
Canada. To maintain membership, ACE agents must fulfill certain
criteria, such as travel to Aruba at least once every three years
and active reporting of Aruba sales.
Benefits: Workbook, resource manual and
reference materials such as CD-ROMs. Upon graduation, ACE agents
receive four ICTA continuing education units plus lead referrals,
$20 cash-back coupon applicable to first booking, marketing
materials such as postcards and ticket stuffers, newsletter
subscription, access to co-op ad funds, invitation to annual ACE
convention and production tracking awards.
Contact: Aruba Tourism Authority ACE Desk at
(800) TO-ARUBA or http://agents.aruba.com
Aussie Specialist Program
Sponsor: Australian Tourism Commission
Eligibility requirements: For active U.S. or
Must complete training program, concluding with certification
quiz. Training kit, including printed source materials and
90-minute training video, costs $75. In addition, certificate
holders pay annual fee of $75. For Canadians, both fees are
Benefits: The main payoff is referrals, made by
matching prospects and agents geographically. Benefits also include
a marketing kit; free collaterals, such as posters, postcards and
tour shells; a monthly newsletter; and exclusive access to a
specialist's hot line and Web site. Agents can earn up to 10 ICTA
continuing-education units through participation.
Black Hills Specialist Program
Sponsor: Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes
Eligibility requirements: Must complete exam
based on material in a 32-page travel guide to the Black Hills.
Agents can use either an electronic or print version of the guide
and the exam. Test takes approximately two hours.
Benefits: Receive referrals; invitations for
events and fam trips; and special offers.
Contact: (800) 456-5332 or (763) 212-2558; www.blackhillsagent.com
Eligibility requirements: Open to all U.S.
agents. Participants must study 12-module online training kit and
correctly answer 60 of 90 questions in online exam. Registration
and first year's membership is $75; annual renewals cost $50.
Benefits: Upon enrollment, agents get e-mail
news broadcasts, telephone hot line, Brit-Agent Web-site access and
study-trip invitations. After graduating, BritAgents receive lead
referrals, 10 ICTA credits, certificate and permission for
promotional logo use.
Contact:www.visitbritain.com/trade or (212) 850-0327
Small-Ship Cruising Specialist Accreditation
Sponsor: Captain Cook Cruises
Eligibility requirements: Open to travel agents
worldwide; no productivity requirements or fees; must complete
84-page workbook and five-part quiz, which can be ordered from the
company or accessed through the company's Web site at www.captaincook.com.au.
Benefits: Last year, agents who completed the
program received a free four-day cruise, and Captain Cook said it
is working on a similar incentive for this year. Agents also
receive a certificate and some promotional materials. Also, the
company provides discount offers on fam trips and plans an
Contact:[email protected]; (866) 331-3365
Cook Islands Specialist Program
Sponsor: Cook Islands Tourism Corp.
Eligibility requirements: Agents must research
and correctly answer 90% of the 55 questions on the Cook Islands
test. Because the program is new, no productivity requirements are
Benefits: Agents who become Cook Islands
specialists get put in the destination's database; when potential
visitors inquire, they automatically get a list of agent
specialists in their area. Agents also have access to the latest
news and special packages and get priority on fam trips.
Contact: e-mail: [email protected]; www.cook-islands.com
Pura Vida Educational Workshop
Sponsor: Costa Rica Tourist Board
Eligibility requirements: For active U.S. or
Canadian agents. To launch at end of 2003, full-day, free training
workshop will feature in-depth introduction to Costa Rica,
including destination manual, video, interactive presentation with
group exercises, raffle prizes and a $50 flight credit on any
continental U.S. airline.
Benefits: Access to special resources network
on Web page; agent call center; free promotional materials;
generation of sales leads; income and travel incentives for
continued sales; and incentives to pass on to clients such as
in-country discounts; five ICTA continuing-education units.
Contact: (800) 398-0518; www.visitcostarica.com
College of Disney Knowledge
Sponsor: The Walt Disney Co.
Eligibility requirements: Open to U.S. and
Canadian agents, who must provide IATA, CLIA or ARC number. To
qualify as a specialist, agents must pass five exams of 20
questions each and a final exam of 50 questions, taken with open
book. The tests are sent in a packet by mail and can be taken at
the agent's own pace, either online, by fax or by mail.
Benefits: Graduates earn the designation of
Disney Specialist, which they can tell their clients, though they
are not authorized to use it on marketing collateral. Completing
the course earns 10 ICTA and three Access continuing-education
units. Graduates become eligible to enroll in the College of Disney
Knowledge Graduate Program.
Contact: (800) 4-MICKEY
Taking the Plunge in Dive Travel
Sponsor: Dive Travel Resource Group
Eligibility requirements: U.S. and Canadian
agents can enroll in two dive courses that are offered regionally
and soon will be available online. The courses are: Taking the
Plunge in Dive Travel and Staying Submerged in Dive Travel. They
also will be offered at the Diving Equipment & Marketing
Association (DEMA) Conference, to be held Oct. 8 to 11 at the Miami
Beach Convention Center.
Benefits: Two free online sales manuals: a dive
travel primer; Group Travel Countdown Checklist. Sales manuals on
other aspects of selling the dive market are $10 each. Sponsor also
offers an online Insiders Report newsletter.
Sponsor: Visit Florida, the official marketing
corporation for the state.
Eligibility requirements: Full-time U.S. and Canadian agents
working 30 hours a week or more are eligible. To qualify, agents
must present IATA, ARC or CLIA number. The course requirements
include completion of four seminars, two that are posted on the
Visit Florida consumer Web site and two based on material sent by
mail to the agent by Visit Florida.
Benefits: Graduates earn five ICTA
continuing-education units and receive a certificate. Their names
are posted on the Web site (www.floridaspecialist.org) as Florida
specialists. They receive a quarterly newsletter that tells what's
new in deals, fams and attractions and where Visit Florida trainers
will be at a given time. Graduates also have an advantage in
getting on fam trips.
Contact: Joyce Stillwell at (850) 488-5607 Ext.
338 or e-mail [email protected]. Register online at www.floridaspecialist.org.
Hawaii Destination Specialist
Sponsor: Hawaii Visitors and Convention
Eligibility requirements: Order and complete the Ke Kula
self-study program, $30 plus $9.95 shipping and handling. CD also
available for $35.
Benefits: Consumer leads; continuing-education
credits; sales tools to increase bookings; free, personalized
Hawaii pre-arrival welcome packets delivered to clients;
certificates for free attraction admissions and Hawaii resort stays
(but no special requests honored); constant access to proprietary
Contact:www.gohawaii.com, then click on Travel
Professionals at the bottom of the page.
Holland America Line Academy
Sponsor: Holland America Line (HAL)
Eligibility requirements: The Holland America
Academy is open to North American retail travel agents who have
either a CLIA or IATA number or a HAL booking number. There are no
costs and no productivity requirements. Travel agents who register
online at www.halacademy.com are sent a 160-page training
workbook and must correctly answer 75% of a 40-question test.
Benefits: HAL Academy agents receive $690 in
bonus commission certificates, six continuing education credits
from ICTA, a framed diploma, a storefront decal and a "cheat sheet"
of cruiser profiles. Agents also are eligible for a fam cruise
Hong Kong Specialist
Sponsor: Hong Kong Tourism Bureau (HKTB)
Eligibility requirements: For active U.S. agents. There are two
levels of participation: specialist and master specialist. The fee
for the online study course is $75, with a 50% discount offered to
agents associated with ASTA, Giants, AAA, American Express, Carlson
Wagonlit, Leisure Travel Group and Virtuoso.
Benefits: A manual plus Web site referrals;
advance updates on new tours and products; invitations to HKTB
events; invitations to group study tours; tour operator and hotel
discounts; nine ICTA continuing-education units; opportunities to
earn ICTA credits for attending HKTB seminars; and a certificate,
window decal and membership card.
Master level reserved for agents who meet more stringent
criteria, including having booked a minimum of two groups or 50 FIT
trips to Hong Kong in a calendar year. Master agents must also have
a minimum of five years in the travel industry and belong to two
Kenya Authorized Travel Specialist (KATS) and Master
Sponsor: Kenya Tourist Board
Eligibility requirements: Agents must take
online training course (occasionally available in a classroom
setting) and pass test. Registration is free.
To move on to Master KATS status, agents must complete a
seven-day escorted trip to Kenya or prove they have taken such a
trip in the previous five years.
Benefits: The Kenya Tourist Board provides
promotional kits plus regular updates on product news, marketing
opportunities and special offers. It soon will announce a series of
KATS fam trips. For the Master KATS program only, the tourist board
refers consumers to agents, matching prospects and agents
geographically. By becoming KATS sellers, agents can earn up to 10
ICTA continuing-education credits.
Contact: (866) 44-KENYA; www.kenyaagent.com
Kiwi Specialist Program
Sponsor: Tourism New Zealand
Eligibility requirements: Applicants can be travel agents,
wholesalers or airline reservationists, who must complete
registration form and quiz. Answers to quiz can be found by
searching www.newzealand.com. Tourism New Zealand will add training
modules at the site this month. Specialists must re-register and
update contact information at the end of each calendar year. When
the training modules are in place, Tourism New Zealand envisions
requiring specialists to complete one module a year in order to
keep the designation.
Benefits: Specialists can register their name
and contact information at www.newzealand.com to be located by
travelers looking for a New Zealand expert.
They will also receive newsletters and e-mails and have access
to a special toll-free information line and free collateral
materials, such as brochures, postcards, posters and videos, and
will be eligible for the Explore New Zealand discount travel
program for agents.
Contact: Fax: (310) 395-5453; e-mail: [email protected]
The Marriott Hotel Excellence Program
Sponsor: Marriott International
Eligibility requirements: Open to all agents in
the U.S. and Canada, who must complete a one-day training program
on the benefits and diversity of Marriott's lodging options.
Benefits: Graduates of the program are eligible to have their
agencies become Marriott preferred travel agencies, capable of
earning up to 12% commission on bookings. Travel agencies without
program graduates earn 8% commission. Graduates also have access to
special fam rates, contests, and 10 continuing-education ICTA
Contact: (800) 831-1000 or www.marriott.com/agents
Mexico Expert Program
Sponsor: Mexico Tourism Board
Eligibility requirements: For active U.S. or
Canadian agents. Training program consists of half-day,
classroom-style seminars focused on selling Mexico to leisure
travelers with an emphasis on niche markets.
Seminars are preceded by breakfast and a minitrade show where
agents meet with Mexico suppliers.
Agents receive a free, 400-page sales guide that includes
information on destinations and hotels, tour operator listings and
advice on shopping, dining and sightseeing.
The program cost varies depending on the meal provided but
starts at $29. Registration fee for the familiarization trips is
Benefits: Upon completion, agents receive a
Mexico Specialist diploma and are invited to take three- to
five-night familiarization trips.
The Norwegian Coastal Voyage (NCV) Niche Cruising
Sponsor: Norwegian Coastal Voyage
Eligibility requirements: Must be IATA- or CLIA-certified; must
complete free training program and correctly answer 20 out of 25
questions on a certification test.
Benefits: Eligibility for three $50 bonus commission coupons per
year that can be used for bookings on NCV escorted vacations,
independent vacations or expedition voyages; personalized
certificate; 50% off published rate for specialists and special
companion fare on fam trips.
Contact: (800) 323-7436, Ext. 408
Orlando Star Fams
Sponsor: Orlando/Orange County Convention and
Eligibility requirements: Entrants must be full-time travel
agents with IATA, CLIA or ARC affiliations.
To complete the course, agents participate in the Orlando Star
Fams (the next one is Sept. 16 to 21).
During the fam, candidates must spend 18 hours in educational
activities, including presentations of Universal Studios Orlando,
Disney World, Sea World and two other attractions as well as
presentations of hoteliers.
Registration fee for the fam is $195.
Benefits: Agents who complete the course earn
four ICTA units, gain first-hand knowledge of the destination and
receive educational and reference materials.
Contact: (407) 363-5842
Puerto Rico Travel Expert
Sponsor: Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC)
Eligibility requirements: Agents must attend
seminar, take six-night trip to Puerto Rico and pass written test.
Trip includes seminar, trade show, study materials and
The cost of the trip is $149; the price does not include air
Agents can obtain additional certification through continuing
education specialty courses on diving; golf; pre- and post-cruise
stays; nature and adventure; paradores of Puerto Rico; art and
culture; and conventions and incentives.
The four-night study tour is priced at $99 per agent; air fare
is not included.
Benefits: 12 ICTA continuing-education credits,
discounted prices on the Le Lo Lai Festival package, promotional
mailings, invitations to PRTC regional activities, support from
PRTC regional offices and framed certificate.
Sandals Certified Specialists
Sponsor: Sandals and Beaches Resorts
Eligibility requirements: Agents must complete
free, day-long workshop offered every week in various U.S. cities;
must agree to use Sandals' selling tools and to partner with
Sandals and Beaches.
Benefits: Co-op marketing and advertising;
participation in bridal shows; exposure on the Wedding Channel;
listings on the Sandals and Beaches Web sites; and use of special
logo on agency stationery, business cards and office displays. In
addition, an agency-referral program matches prospects and agents
Sponsor: Tourism Ireland
Eligibility requirements: Qualified agents must
register at www.shamrockclub.net/register and complete five online
Benefits: Basic graduate benefits available at
no charge, including certificate, 10 ICTA credits, an "E-Postcard"
tool for e-mail marketing, helpline access and invitation to annual
Irish fam trip.
Optional $99 program offers listings at www.tourismireland.com, lead referrals and free
promotional materials including letterhead and postcards.
Contact: www.shamrockclub.net/register or call
John Daly at (212) 418-0835.
South Africa Tourism Expert Course (Fundi)
Sponsor: South African Tourism
Eligibility requirements: Candidates must
complete eight-module training course and pass (with at least an
80% score) small quizzes after the first seven modules and a final
exam after the eighth. To keep the specialist designation, agents
must pay an annual $20 fee and take an annual refresher exam.
Benefits: Photos and relevant details about
each certificate holder will go up on the consumer Web site at www.southafrica.net. Also planned are referrals, fam
trips and other exclusive incentives as well as promotional
materials, newsletters and other information updates. ICTA said the
program is expected to be certified for ICTA credits by the end of
this month. Specialists -- who also are called Fundis -- will
become members of the Fundi Club.
Contact: Johann Venter, Fundi manager, at (011)
27-11 778-8138; fax (011) 27-11 778-8094; e-mail: [email protected]; Internet:
Spain Specialist Program
Sponsor: Tourist Office of Spain/Tourism
Institute of Spain
Eligibility requirements: IATA agencies only. Fees include
initial $95 for written course and $395 for obligatory educational
Benefits: Include 10 ICTA credits for passing
the course and five additional credits upon completing the fam
trip; newsletter subscription; access to a dedicated toll-free
number; listing at www.okspain.org; and invitations to special
Contact: Call (877) 465-2777, fax (305)
358-8223, visit www.okspain.org/ssprogram/program.asp or write to:
Spain Specialist Program, Box 310667, Miami, Fla., 33231.
St. Petersburg-Clearwater Destination Specialist
Sponsor: St. Petersburg/Clearwater (Fla.) Area
Eligibility requirements: Must be agent with IATA, ARC or CLIA
number. To qualify, agents take test on material posted on the
CVB's Web site (log onto www.floridasbeach.com and click on the Tour
& Travel Department). The test asks questions based on
information found on the site, including the visitors' guide and
sections about beaches, Tarpon Springs, bed-and-breakfasts and arts
and culture. Agents can download the test from the site or ask to
receive it by mail. A timed version can also be taken on the ICTA
Web site at www.icta.com.
Benefits: Agents who complete the course
receive four ICTA continuing-education units, a framed certificate
and a wall clock.
They are invited to attend a training trip to the
Contact: Nancy Foster at (727) 464-7237 or
Cindy Clydesdale at (727) 464-7462
Switzerland Network Specialist
Sponsor: Switzerland Tourism
Eligibility requirements: For ARC- and
IATA-accredited agents only.
Candidates must study and pass online certification course and
exam, and pay enrollment fee of $95 ($125 for Canadian agents).
Free membership renewal for agents reporting at least 10 overnight
trips to Switzerland annually; otherwise, renewal costs $60.
Benefits: Graduates earn 10 ICTA credits upon
graduation and another six after taking familiarization trip. They
also gain access to dedicated Web site and toll-free numbers,
consumer leads, promotional materials, workshops and seminars.
Other benefits are a program ID card, one eight-day SwissPass rail
pass each year, and Web site listing.
Contact:www.myswitzerland.com/na/trade or Noelle Tscherrig at
(212) 757-5944, Ext. 231
Tassie Specialist Program
Sponsor: Australian Tourism Commission and
Eligibility requirements: Continuing education
module for agents who are already Aussie Specialists. The learning
module costs $24.95; to earn the certification, agents have to
complete the self-administered training program and finish the
certification quiz with a score of at least 90%.
Benefits: Tassie Specialists are offered fam
trips at least twice a year, receive marketing aids specific to the
destination and receive a monthly newsletter with product updates,
marketing ideas and special offers. They also earn two ICTA
Contact: (800) 388-4662; fax: (310)
Tauck World Discovery Sales & MArketing
Sponsor: Tauck World Discovery
Eligibility requirements: Open only to owners,
managers and some top-selling agents, subject to a qualification
process and availability. Participants have to sign an agreement
that they will submit a marketing plan with realistic goals within
30 days of the symposium.
Benefits: Those who complete the program and
submit their marketing plans become members of the Tauck Symposium
Alumni Circle, which entitles them to enhanced sales and marketing
support and preferred brochure mailing status.
Contact: Request an application by e-mailing [email protected]
Universal Parks & Resorts Vacation Specialist
Sponsor: Universal Parks & Resorts
Eligibility requirements: Any interested travel
agent is eligible. Agents can call or log on to the Web site at
www.universaltravelagents.com and study the presentation of
information on both Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios
Hollywood. To qualify, agents must take a 50-question test and pass
with 30 or more answers correct. To complete the training, agents
are required to visit the destination. Special agent packages are
available for that purpose.
Benefits: Those who pass receive a certificate
that states they are a Universal Parks & Resorts vacation
Contact: Call (407) 224-6448 or log onto www.universaltravelagents.com and click on Universal
Sponsors to agents: You're sooo special
ravel Weekly spoke with Marc
Mancini, the travel industry educator who has designed a number of
training programs that help agents become specialists in
destinations or travel products.
TW: Why are these programs important?
Mancini: Clients want an informed, motivated
seller of a destination or travel product.
They want agents who understand what they're selling and present
products accurately and thoroughly.
TW: How do the programs help agents?
Mancini: Agents who take this kind of training
become missionaries for a place or a product. Their passion to sell
comes from their conviction that this place or this product is
superior to all others.
Completing these programs also gives agents the affirmation many
of them need that they are being recognized for what they know.
TW: What's the advantage for the program
Mancini: They're investing in the belief that
the person who takes the training will sell the product more
aggressively. Once the training is completed, the supplier can
measure the agent's productivity and continue to reward it. One
sponsor has found that 68% of its sales now come from graduates of
TW: Are many agents participating in these
Mancini: Only about 20% of all agents are
really gung-ho for training. There are many who have completed more
than one program. But 80% of agents take very little advantage of
these training opportunities.
What most agents don't realize is that the training isn't just
about a specific destination or product. It includes a lot of
valuable training on how to sell anything.