Becoming a Travel Agent (Part 4)

| Wednesday, 22 Jul. 2009

Think it's a cakewalk to get started in this career? Think again ...

Endless Education Finally, the week mercifully came to an end. A couple of new franchisees overslept on this last day, but most of us were in the classroom at 8:00 a.m. on that Sunday morning. After our final class sessions, we would head to the pier for a last ship inspection before going to the airport for our flights home. Imagine my surprise when we learned that this was not the end of our training regimen: We were expected to log in for Webinars presented by Home Office several times a week, and to attend continuing training sessions offered by both CruisePlanners and the various cruise lines, mostly in the form of online training. Throughout the week, we were also encouraged to obtain CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) credentials, which would require many more hours of study and training. Finally, we were urged to attend CruisePlanners' annual convention -- a week-long affair in the fall with classroom training in a hotel, followed by a cruise that would also have an onboard classroom training component.

Will this training never end? "No, it doesn't," I was assured by the home office staff. Nor, probably, should it.

I doubt that CruisePlanners is unique in providing its new agents with all this training. Any large travel agency consortium with an established reputation will want to protect it. Based upon my week-long experience, I suspect travel agents are among the best educated individuals in any industry -- and they get most of this training on their own, often at their own expense. They have to, if they want to keep abreast of everything going on in the cruise industry.

I thought this was going to be easy, but in some respects I'm glad it's hard. It gives me a challenge and motivates me to be my best -- which I guess is always a good thing.

So the next time you sit in your travel agent's office, or deal with her over the phone, know that the advice she gives you is the result of many hours of training and education. She has to know a bit about every cruise line out there, though she is probably an expert on only one or two. She may know a bit about luxury or premium cruise lines, but she may be a knowledgeable expert in niche cruising on small "expedition" cruise ships. Try to find the travel agent who best meets your own cruising style and then give her a hug, either virtual or in person the next time you see her, because she's dedicating a good part of her life to making sure your cruise experiences are everything you want them to be -- and so very much more!

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