With the industry about to have more time on its hands, training is coming to the fore with suppliers increasing online content. From webinars to inspiring Spotify playlists, Debbie Ward highlights the options available
Without new bookings coming in, one of the productive things agents can still do to help their business in the long term is to train. It’s easily done in isolation with a host of free educational tools already online and more suppliers adding courses and webinars to keep agents in touch and inspired.
Ian Dockreay, managing director for Equator Learning, which includes the Travel Uni scheme, says interest has definitely risen since the global lockdown began.
“I’ve been getting calls now [from suppliers] for about 10 days and more people coming on and registering with Travel Uni. We’re definitely experiencing an upswing. A number of people are now self-isolating and working from home and want to train to improve their professional skills.”
He says suppliers are also adding new modules and upscaling existing ones. He hopes to see more agents moving up the Travel Uni training levels from student to graduate. “We’re going to be doing a series of e-shots to remind people generally it’s a very good time to train.”
When choosing what to study, Travel Uni’s Dockreay suggests first thinking about your agency’s current or target specialism. It may also be worth prioritising sectors and destinations where you feel the comeback is likely to be strongest or that will be coming into peak booking time later in the year. In early March, Dockreay was seeing particular demand for the Caribbean and the Gulf because the perception was they weren’t as affected by the virus.
He also stresses that online training courses have moved beyond being an end in themselves and many are now seen as the start of a relationship with an agent.
Those completing the Thailand Expert course, for instance, will have priority invites for fams and roadshows, while the site itself encourages return visits with webinars, blogs, news, offers and competitions. “Getting people onto our sites just starts the engagement phase – our suppliers really want to get to know the agents,” Dockreay says.
All Tipto’s face-to-face training is on hold for now but it launched new online training modules on 1 March. The organisation now has 20 supplier modules available on its website, with the newest from CroisiEurope, Jet2Holidays and Palladium Hotel Group.
Until the end of April, agents who complete all of them will get automatic entry into a prize draw, with a Pandora bracelet, £50 cash or a place on a Mexico fam trip up for grabs. Each module includes up to eight pages of information and a 10-question quiz at the end and Tipto estimates they should take agents and average of 10 minutes each.
Japan National Tourism Organisation
The JNTO launched its new training course on OTT (Online Travel Training) on 11 March and within a week it had already been completed by 50 agents.
“It think that’s really good and it’s nice during a crisis to have something to be happy about,” says head of trade partnerships and marketing Yumi Takakubo.
The course concentrates on frequently asked questions and takes around 20 minutes to complete. A giveaway of a traditional omamori pouch bag containing a yuzu citrus scented lip balm for those who complete the course is being extended to the end of April. The organisation has workshops planned for when the virus has subsided.
Some tourist boards are adding webinars to supplement their existing online training.
Samoa Tourism Authority
The tourism board, which has had to postpone its annual pan-European fam trip until the autumn, is working on boosting its OTT training site. “We will be including footage fresh from Samoa, quizzes and a competition to win a place on the fam trip to give them a real feel for Samoa as a South Pacific holiday of a lifetime,” says Sebastian Sarrasin, travel trade manager UK and Europe. “We are preparing our virtual training programme to be ready for when the trade is ready to think ahead and aim to launch after Easter.”
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
The bureau is setting up a programme of themed webinars that will give agents more in-depth insight into the city’s various neighbourhoods.
Israel Tourist Office
Isreal is hosting a timely webinar on 30 March at 4:30pm entitled “Crisis Management, Technology, Future Trends and Everything in Between”. It also has PowerPoint training for the destination available by email and another webinar coming up in April.
Pure Grenada is inviting agents to join 10-minute one-to-one Zoom “limes”. It even has a Spotify playlist to provide a Grenadian soundtrack for those working at home.
Sharon Bernstein, director UK and Ireland for Grenada Tourism Authority, says: “Pure Grenada aims to keep the beat going by moving training online to inspire and motivate agents for whom homeworking may be new. The focus will be on sharing ‘defer don’t cancel’ and ‘plan now, travel later’ strategies so agents can maintain conversations with consumers for when they are once again ready to travel.”
Czech Tourism started working with V Fam in February, a new virtual experience offering virtual fam trips to travel trade professionals. Agents and tour operators can learn about alternative destinations, new experiences and opportunities in the Czech Republic without having to leave their home. The tourist board is also continuing to update its modules on OTT with new videos, virtual experiences, live streams and recipes. Agents can also win a place on a fam trip later in the year as part of the online modules.
Qatar National Tourism Council
The tourist board will be offering webinars and Zoom sessions to replace face-to-face training during the coronavirus crisis. Agents can also complete Qatar’s TAWASH online training programme.
Balkan Holidays has brought forward online training developments it had in the pipeline, which will now be out in April. Trade sales manager Chris Rand says: “I was keen to be able to reach more agents more quickly and so we reviewed our whole suite of trade resources.” New video training concentrates on Black Sea coast resorts including client match tips. Balkan already has a dedicated web platform and social media sites for agents with more videos on winter product, desktop sales guides and an online module.
With more suppliers adapting and stepping up their online presence as agency visits and regional workshops are put on hold, it’s worth getting in touch with preferred trade partners to see if they can set up some training over a video conference call or similar. “I would expect that there is an opportunity for some operators and agents to build a really trusting bond as a result of what’s happened so far and the opportunities of contact through the screen in the future,” says James Mundy, partnerships manager for InsideJapan Tours, which is planning more interactive content for agents on its website.
Travel Counsellors has used rep webinars in the past to help train its widespread homeworkers. It says it is “proactively looking at ways to take our face-to-face training online for Travel Counsellors working remotely in the current climate”. The organisation already provides an array of online training materials via its in-house learning and development platform, COACH.