My Iowa farm boy education taught me; a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Similarly, consumers’ opinions of travel professionals are only as good as their most recent transaction. Travel Professionals are links in the retail travel distribution chain and the weakest link decides the overall strength of the chain.
When Bob Lepisto, CTC convinced me 14 years ago to give my
energies to The Travel Institute’s Board of Trustees, he sold me on continuing
education, competence testing, and professional certification. He stressed that quality, accuracy, and
completeness of information exchanged during every travel transaction shaped consumer
opinion. He taught me The Travel
Institute’s nonpartisan, unbiased, and apolitical legacy offered the perfect seedbed. Its neutrality offered a unique place in the
travel industry for travel professionals to grow their skills and knowledge. It was a safe harbor where travel
professionals could train to win consumers’ hearts and minds.
From the moment I joined the Board, travel professionals suggested The Travel Institute needed to communicate the rigors and integrity of competence testing and professional certification to consumers. Matthew Upchurch, CTC, my predecessor as Chairperson, agreed. He wanted, however, to make sure the content and the testing “passed the sniff test.” By that he meant, the credibility and integrity of The Travel Institute’s education and testing would pass inspection by some of the travel industry’s toughest critics – the consumer travel press.
After careful review, The Travel Institute focused on making its content more relevant and improving the predictive quality of its certification testing. The Board of Trustees wanted the content and resulting testing to be comprehensive and challenging, yet fair. We wanted a consumer travel writer to study the content, take the test, and write, “I learned a great deal and would have confidence in any travel professional that completes the same course of study and passes the test.”
Today, The Travel Institute’s curriculums are up-to-date and relevant. Its testing is more rigorous and predictive of an individual’s competence than ever before. The Travel Institute’s educational content and testing now pass the “sniff test.”
With consumer opinion as a backdrop, I’m am mystified by anyone’s resistance to The Travel Institute managing annual competence testing as a qualification for an IATA ID card. Won’t suppliers welcome and deliver extra benefits to travel professionals who qualify for an industry ID card that requires more than just a membership fee, an insurance certificate, or business license?
None of us enjoy taking tests. If, however, a fair and balanced competence test separates travel hobbyists from travel professionals, doesn’t that make every link in our retail distribution chain stronger?
Send a clear message to IATA and the travel industry press. Tell them you support exposing hobbyists and recognizing travel professionals. Tell them you support recurring testing. Consumer opinion and the future of travel professionals are at stake.