Resolution: Develop a Professional Development Plan!

January 7, 2020

The start of a new year always brings plans for self-improvement. But you’re not just starting a new year. You’re starting a new decade! So, it doesn’t matter if you are brand new to the industry or are a seasoned travel counselor. Now is the time to create your education vision for the future.

With so much training available in the travel industry, it’s important to strategically plan your professional development. You must begin with a firm foundation. If you are new to the industry, a great resource is The Travel Institute’s TRIPKitSM, a program that provides an in-depth and broad approach to developing travel agent skills. Or, if you are more experienced, it may be time to earn your Travel Institute credentials: the Certified Travel Associate (CTA®), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC®), or Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE®) designations.

And planning your educational growth does not have to be difficult or complicated. Here are some things you can do to get started.


Step One: Examine your strengths and weaknesses. You may remember last week’s Hot Tip Tuesday about an article by KHM Travel Group’s president, Rick Zimmerman, titled Playing to Your Strengths—and Your Weaknesses.

Rick suggested that you determine your strengths—the things that you are good at and enjoy—and lean into them.

Regarding any particular weakness you may have, Rick said: “You can work to strengthen your skills or knowledge in that area. …Determining what you are capable of starts with looking inward. Be truthful with yourself and be fair.”

After you have assessed your strengths and weaknesses, think about the past year and ask yourself what areas you want to develop or improve upon in the new year. Maybe, in 2019, you spent too much time researching products. So, in 2020, you might pledge to take more webinars and training from specific suppliers.

Or, in 2019, you may have found your marketing sputtered a bit or otherwise fell short of your expectations. In 2020, then, your professional development plan might include education on social media marketing, such as How to Promote Your Value Using Social Marketing by Catherine J. Heeg, Customized Management Solutions, found in The Travel Institute’s Premium Access Lounge. It also may include focusing on understanding your audience and properly targeting them. Who are they? Where do they like to travel?

Step Two: Determine your business goals. You likely have created a business plan for your agency, so it’s time to develop your professional development plan. The goals of your business plan should support your professional development plan, and vice versa. So, re-examine your business plan. What do you want to achieve in 2020? You might consider specializing in one or two areas. Think about destinations (Northern Europe, Hawaii), niches (honeymoons, luxury travel), all-inclusive resorts (Sandals, Breezes), cruises (Royal Caribbean, Ama Waterways river cruises), and so on. Then find appropriate training in those areas. For example, if your goal is to reach higher sales in cruising, then you should seek more educational opportunities from the cruise lines.

Step Three: Develop or improve your soft skills. This is critical because they lay the foundation upon which you build all the other skills. So, you might plan to take four or five classes in 2020 and every year thereafter. And we’re here to help you. The Travel Institute—with its mission of being your lifelong learning partner in the travel industry—is one of your best education resources. Consequently, we offer extensive education on soft skills like sales, communication, team building, business writing, ethics, leadership, management, emotional intelligence, and so on through our certification programs.

In each of the three steps, be sure to create clear and specific professional development goals and, most importantly, set a deadline for achieving those goals. This will go a long way toward helping you keep all of your new decade’s resolutions!

And there is no time like the present to jumpstart your personal and professional growth. Kicking off 2020, The Travel Institute’s New Year New Career campaign is aligned with industry needs, focused on new agent training and specialization in continued support of new agents entering the travel industry and experienced advisors continuing to learn.