Industry Training with a Purpose
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

I will admit to being someone who is constantly curious. If I see a machine, I want to know what it does. If I see a company, I want to know what they do. Any opportunity to learn something new is a good thing, right? Well, you can go to the extreme and spend all your time collecting random knowledge without a purpose. It would make you a great Jeopardy! contestant, but it isn’t really practical in the real world.

It is probably pretty accurate to say the travel industry probably has more hours of free training than any other industry in the world. And I am confident there isn’t another industry with a product that is so fun to learn about. Who doesn’t love seeing gorgeous destinations and the experiences clients can have there? Or seeing new resorts or cruise lines – it is all eye candy for travel agents!

But here’s reality check #1: you have a limited number of hours each day to work in your travel business and you have to determine the best way to use those hours. If you are learning about products and destinations you will never sell or that won’t appeal to your ideal client, you aren’t using your time wisely.

Everything has an opportunity cost. If you spend an hour learning about a new cruise line, that’s an hour you cannot spend working on an itinerary for a client or marketing to attract new clients.

This leads to reality check #2: Training does not equate to new clients. Will it help you serve your existing clients? Possibly – if it is a fit with your ideal client profile. Will it help you get more of those ideal clients? No.

Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t take time to learn. You absolutely should. And sometimes you can do training that doesn’t have a practical purpose, but it is just something you want to do. What I am saying is that you should evaluate training before you decide to do it. I am pretty sure you can spend 40 hours a week on travel industry training between destinations, cruise lines, hotels and resorts, tour operators, consortia training, and certifications offered by various industry associations. That doesn’t mean that doing so is a good idea.

So here is reality check #3: Of the time you spend on training and development, 80% should be on things OTHER than travel products and only 20% should be spent learning about travel. That 80% should be on topics like marketing, social media, list building, sales, and business operations. That will serve you far better as a travel entrepreneur.

The travel industry has not done a good job of providing training on business topics. For most of the life of the industry, they didn’t have to. Now that the vast majority of travel agents (92% according to the 2020 travel agent study conducted by Host Agency Reviews) are independent and therefore responsible for their own businesses, this is more important than ever. At Gifted Travel Network we do a great job of focusing on this side of the business because our co-founders are business coaches. And it makes a difference!

The bottom line is that it is important to build your own skill set and knowledge base, but not all training is created equal. What is important for one travel advisor may not be important at all to another. I encourage you to stop and ask yourself before you begin a training course, “Is this the best use of my time and energy right now?” If the answer is yes, proceed! If it is no or you aren’t sure, then put it on the back burner for a while.