The virtual challenge

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EVERYONE – from travel recruitment companies to tourist boards – uses the Internet to provide training for agents, and much of it is offered free.

The Travel Weekly Training Academy, for example, offers agents free online training with some of the biggest names in travel. It runs courses in partnership with companies and tourist boards including Blakes Holidays, Best Western Hotels, St Lucia Tourist Board, Germany 2006, Caymen Islands, Enjoy England, Kenya and Thomas Cook.

Travel recruitment company New Frontiers is developing its online training initiative in conjunction with other industry partners (see page 84).

Agents who do not take advantage of e-learning are losing out on a vital source of training and risk falling behind not only their colleagues and competitors in the business, but their clients too. The travelling public is using the Internet, TV shows and other information sources to learn about destinations, so it’s more important than ever for agents to make use of the available training.

Follow our guide to online learning and our tips on how to get the best out of this valuable resource.

Go at your own pace

One of the biggest benefits of online learning is that you can work as quickly or as slowly as you need to. Unlike classroom or workshop sessions, you will not have to keep up with the rest of the group, or become frustrated by having to wait for others to catch up. Instead of setting yourself a time limit or making yourself finish modules within a certain period, simply allocate yourself a number of hours a week and see how much you can achieve in that time.

If there are certain parts of the course that you are finding more challenging, spend more time on them.

Complete the courses one at a time

Once you’ve discovered the many online training courses available in travel, it’s tempting to want to sign up to all of them. Deciding whether you should start with, say, Kenya or Hawaii is a tough decision, but you’ll get confused if you take them both on at the same time.

Speak to your colleagues and your manager to see which areas of product knowledge the agency most requires. If one of your colleagues is a Kenya specialist, it makes sense for you to start with Hawaii. Once you’ve made your decision, try your best to stick with it. You’re better off getting to know a few destinations or products properly than having a limited amount of knowledge of many.

Use the Internet more widely

Alongside the online training developed specifically for agents, there is a wealth of additional travel information available on the Internet. If you are interesting in learning about a particular destination and there is no formal e-learning course being offered, search the Internet for another good source, whether that might be on the website of a hotel in the resort or an online travel guide. It might take you some time to find the best source, but it will be out there somewhere.

Remember the perks

Online training won’t just help you boost your sales and commission earnings. By setting yourself up as a specialist in a destination or getting to know a tour operator’s product thoroughly you will automatically improve your chances of being invited on their fam trips or to other social events like dinners, cocktail parties or weekend workshops.

Many also offer prizes, either for agents who get the highest pass marks or often just on a random selection based on completion. These perks will help motivate you throughout the process.

Choose a course that suits your learning style

While some courses might test you through multiple-choice exams, others might be more essay or project-based. Decide which type of learning suits you best and find a course that fits the bill. The beauty of the Internet is that the training doesn’t have to be just text-based.

Companies use pictures, interactive content, pop-ups, sound, video clips, 360º views of hotel rooms, beaches and other whizzy features to make learning more enjoyable. It’s much more fun than just reading a text book.

If at first you don’t succeed…

One of the best things about online learning is that it’s easy to retake exams, and you can do so at any stage in the process. Many of the courses are divided into modules, so if you don’t pass a module on first try, you can simply go back and do it again. There’s no need to wait for the next exam sitting or the start of the next college term.

If you’re really struggling, you can contact the course provider. Most will offer support throughout the course and will be contactable by e-mail or telephone.

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