Promote Your Professionalism 

What is a professional? The term is used to describe people who earn their living by practicing a skill or engaging in an activity that requires expertise.

But, being a professional means more than mastering a specific body of knowledge. A true travel professional demonstrates a certain attitude and a commitment to the standards of the occupation and to the interests of the client. Only people who have the willingness to give those standards and the client’s interests priority over personal considerations — and who possess the skills and knowledge to perform their jobs with expertise — truly demonstrate professionalism.

Throughout July, travel agents can enroll in the Certified Travel Associate (CTA), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), or Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE) programs and qualify to receive a scholarship. Depending on selected coursework, the value may be as high as $275 off standard curriculum pricing. To qualify for a certification scholarship, individuals must complete the application form on The Travel Institute’s website at www.thetravelinstitute.com.

For the next four weeks, Hot Tip Tuesday will address various important dimensions of professionalism.

First, we recommend that you promote your professionalism through certification and branding. Earning your credentials as a Travel Institute certified professional is a statement about who you are and about the commitment you have made to your career. Clients prefer to deal with a recognized professional, and having earned a CTA, CTC, or CTIE will let them know you are serious about what you do. As Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President of Sales Vicky Freed, CTC, says, “Having those three little letters after your name is no small thing.” Listen to what Vicki has to say.

Additionally, it’s critical that you brand yourself so prospective clients will think of you first. Your company’s name should mirror what you do and what makes you unique. It should tell a story and demonstrate that you are the ideal choice for your clients’ needs. The best brands concentrate on a specific type of client and the products they are looking for.

Second, you must understand that first impressions are lasting impressions. Jan Carlzon, of SAS Airlines, first coined the phrase moments of truth to describe the myriad opportunities you have to leave a lasting impression with your customer during every encounter. A moment of truth is a chance to connect with your customer and create a foundation for customer loyalty. Consider what Carlzon said:

  • Every passenger has four contacts with SAS employees per flight
  • 125 people per flight = 500 moments of truth per flight
  • 500 moments per flight x 1,500 flights per day = 750,000 moments of truth per day

What kind of impression could your agency make with that kind of exposure?

Third, don’t be sidelined by business fears that can hold you back. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, allowing self-doubt to interfere with doing our best work. Public speaking is an area that many people struggle with. In fact, speech anxiety — or glossophobia — tops death, heights, snakes, and spiders on most people’s lists of fears. But giving a speech is a necessary evil and plays an important role in promoting your business. So, resolve to address your self-doubt in this area, and don’t be a person who would rather die than give a speech!

Finally, you must get your name out there. You must constantly promote WHO YOU ARE. Travel agents are an underappreciated group, and that is because, overall, we do a poor job of self-promotion. Many clients don’t understand what the CTA, CTC, CTIE, destination specialist, or other Travel Institute designations mean. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to tell people WHO YOU ARE.

Noted author and in-demand speaker Larry Mersereau, CTC, suggests that you explain your credentials on your website, perhaps in an About Me page or a Frequently Asked Questions tab. Use those locations to tell your clients and prospective clients all about your many years in the travel business, the hours or years of study it took to attain your credentials or the thousands of miles you’ve logged serving your clients.

These are all investments in your career your client should understand. They amount to the value you add and demonstrate the benefits clients gain from working with a professional.

Today’s Hot Tip Tuesday was based on the Customer Service module and the Business Writing module in the Certified Travel Associate program.