Want to Specialize? Start Here!  

Are you an expert on every destination, every resort, every beach, and every cruise in the world? If the answer is no, then why is it so tempting for so many agents to try to sell mass-market travel products?

If your clients want to find a place to go horseback riding during the day and attend an opera at night, where would you send them? If they want to gamble at casinos but also want some beach time, what can you recommend?

These questions illustrate the need for you to expand your knowledge and experience with destinations and niche markets. But, with the whole world to sell, you must be proactive in finding a corner of the world or a particular focus you enjoy or your customers gravitate toward. Start with something you’re passionate about.

No one can be an expert on all destinations or niche markets. But you can master one or two specialty areas through (1) personal travel, (2) general education, and (3) formal travel courses.

There is no substitute for a personal visit to learn about a destination. Governments and suppliers—such as cruise lines and tour operators—sponsor familiarization trips. These FAM trips usually are short, concentrated learning trips in a business format. Travel professionals must go beyond these brief visits to learn about locations, but they are great places to start.

Almost anything that contributes to your general education also can build your knowledge about destinations and specialties. Sharing ideas and best practices with other travel professionals, reading travel blogs and magazines, attending trade shows and conferences, and exploring websites and social media pages can help enrich your understanding of the world and keep you in touch with the latest trends and events.

But you also should strongly consider more formal education to fill any gaps in your knowledge and to open new opportunities for specialization. The Travel Institute’s TRIPKitSM offers (to new and seasoned advisors alike) a broad-based foundation of industry knowledge and fundamentals.

Specifically, the TRIPKit’s Travel Career Development textbook not only provides a comprehensive overview of air travel, ground travel, accommodations, cruises, and tours/packages, but it also addresses ways to customize trips to travelers’ specific needs and desires. This might mean focusing on a popular specialty—like adventure travel—or on a particular demographic—like families with children. In addition, the TRIPKit’s Exploring the World textbook concentrates on geography for travel professionals.

And there are still more avenues for formal education. Here are a few ideas:

  • Industry suppliers—such as airlines, tour operators, and hotels—give unique and enjoyable opportunities for learning.
  • Tourist boards of many countries and regions also provide special training programs.
  • Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has designed extensive education that includes classroom training and ship inspections.
  • Consortia typically offer supplier training and FAM opportunities.
  • The Travel Institute has created many specialization courses on destinations (e.g., Northern Europe, the Caribbean) and niches (e.g., Luxury, Golf).

All of this provides a great opportunity for agents to find new destinations and to promote unique products. Consumers have become savvy travel shoppers with a tremendous amount of information at their fingertips. Specializing and immersing yourself in one or two destinations or niches will allow you to provide your clients something they can’t find elsewhere. Creating and selling specialized destination travel is an important option for agents looking to generate new and profitable business.

To increase your knowledge on developing a niche, sign up for the Specialization—Finding Your Niche webinar presented by Patty Noonan, CTC this Thursday, October 17, at 1:00 pm EDT.

And, throughout October, you can take advantage of The Travel Institute’s annual TRIP of a Lifetime promotion, featuring substantial tuition assistance savings of 40 percent on the TRIPKit course and automatic enrollment in the Travel Agent Proficiency, or TAP®, exam after completing the course.