FRAMINGHAM, MA – The Travel Institute reports an overwhelmingly positive response to its new digital credentials online tool for validating agent certification, citing nearly 2100 graduates with active credentials to date. In addition, the education leader credited its new validation tool as a powerful motivator for a record 472 agents who enrolled during July to begin the certification process.
“The early response is confirmation of the value digital credentials provide,” enthused Diane Petras, CTIE, president, The Travel Institute, further explaining, “Digital credentials are on track to become a routine step in the travel agent selection process as consumers, colleagues, and others can now easily and quickly confirm a specific agent’s certified credentials online through The Travel Institute.”
Launched in late June, the digital credentials tool offers 3rd-party confirmation of CTA, CTC, and CTIE certifications through a customized link agents activate and then use to affirm their education and skill level on their website pages, social media, email auto signatures and more. “Getting certified is ‘Step 1’ and it’s a short-term investment that yields a lifetime of dividends in terms of knowledge gained, yet travelers don’t always understand this. ‘Step 2’ now is activating your digital credentials and then marketing them to ensure the public understands the professional value you have worked hard to create as an agent,” Petras explained, citing a lack of industry education standards that leads to traveler confusion and frustration about agent capabilities. Recent graduates agreed:
“Digital credentials provide an easily recognized standard of knowledge that clients can put stock in and trust,” said Robert Pugh, CTA, project lead, Auto Club Enterprises, or ACE, who manages agent training focused on ongoing education.
“Lately there has been an increase of ‘travel agents’ in my small town,” said Zac Wilson, CTA, Daydream Vacations LLC. “In our growing industry, some believe no experience is necessary but I believe travelers deserve better. The worst time and place to discover the details of your trip have been mismanaged is while you’re on vacation,” Wilson said, adding he is now marketing his credentials so travelers understand the distinction.
The tool also combats an increase in overstated, self-reported agent capabilities at a time when technology, specialization and other industry dynamics make agent education more critical than ever. Rhonda Stanley, CTC, vice president, talent development for The Travel Agent Next Door agency, said she offers certification scholarships to her agents, both new and experienced, because she sees clearly the increased capabilities and confidence certification enables. “The material is exceptional, it covers every part of the travel industry, including professional and practical skills. We have agents that have been in the travel industry for decades and just never got certified. They are truly excited to use the knowledge and skills they’re gaining [through certification] in their daily work,” Stanley said.
Taylor Ruecking, director of marketing and technology for The Travel Institute, emphasized how digital credentials, included at no charge, support a graduate’s marketing efforts. “This is a promotional tool that validates and showcases their achievement in a competitive, online marketplace” he said. “Early data shows digital credentials are being widely shared as a way to differentiate and capture new leads. We encourage even our most experienced graduates to take a few minutes to activate their digital credentials and strengthen their online presence,” he explained, adding future enhancements will include more robust search capabilities for consumers as certification becomes better understood and a more significant factor in agent selection.
A tutorial is available to The Travel Institute’s 25,000+ certified graduate roster. Agents can also learn more in the “ NEW Marketing Tools that Set You Apart!” webinar this Thursday, August 8 at 2:30 pm EDT, a “how to” session in marketing to ensure current and prospective clients are aware of an agent’s certification, expertise and value