Steven Freudmann, chairman, ITT
Steven Freudmann, chairman, ITT

Barbara Collins, commercial and training director, Worldchoice
Barbara Collins, commercial and training director, Worldchoice

Claire Steiner, director, ITT
Claire Steiner, director, ITT

Richard Carrick, chief executive, Hoseasons
Richard Carrick, chief executive, Hoseasons

The Accredited Travel Professional scheme has failed to take off because of a lack of trade support and awareness and a funding crisis, according to senior industry staff.

The Institute of Travel and Tourism has run an ATP pilot for 100 industry staff for 18 months, funded by the London Development Agency, but the industry has not adopted the scheme and has yet to attract substantial funding there are just 60 validated members in the trade.

ATP is an accolade to recognise an individual’s professionalism and achievements, according to ITT director Claire Steiner. But this message isn’t clear to employers. “A lot of people think it’s an exam. It’s an accolade to encourage people to think about what they have achieved and develop themselves through learning,” she said.

“We know people are more likely to book online than through an agent. If we can go to the public and say: ‘These are people who know their stuff,’ consumers will use that knowledge.”

Simon Pratten, managing director of management development specialist company Transitions, said ATP was key for the professionalism of the industry. “It will provide professional services and staff at the best standard.”

But ITT chairman Steven Freudmann warned some high-street multiples had expressed doubts and did not want to benchmark their standards against rivals.

“We need answers from the industry on whether it’s going to accept and adopt ATP,” he added.

Worldchoice commercial and training director Barbara Collins said the consortium backed ATP as an industry standard. “The multiples’ approach has been lukewarm because they have their own in-house training and feel they do not need something like this.”

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick said companies should offer ATP in addition to in-house training. “The fact that companies say they don’t need ATP because of their own training is irrelevant,” he said. But he stressed the need for funding . “Some sort of expense has to be put into ATP and we need Government support to do that.

“Once the scheme becomes established it will have a life of its own, but it needs cash.”

There are three levels of ATP: bronze, silver and gold. To achieve bronze, which costs £25, staff need a minimum of two years’ experience, with a level 2 NVQ or equivalent.


The value of training

Efforts to create an industry-wide standard with the Accredited Travel Professional Scheme will be fruitless unless companies recognise the difference training can make to a company’s bottom line.

C&M Recruitment managing director Angus Chisholm said the message that companies which invest in management training would benefit financially longer term “is clearly lost somewhere”.

He said: “We need buy-in from travel companies. We need to start looking at it from a pounds, shillings and pence point of view.”

Worldchoice commercial and training director Barbara Collins said its agents had begun to see the value of training after it launched its Action Plan for Profit scheme. “We took 10 companies through the scheme and fed back how much it added to the bottom line. Now we’ve taken 70 companies through it.”

Hays Travel managing director John Hays added: “The big guys will only get involved in ATP if it adds credibility to their organisation. It has to be seen as adding value.”


Employers seek personality

Travel employers still rate personality as more important than academic qualifications when recruiting new staff.

C&M Recruitment managing director Angus Chisholm warned there was a gap between what employers sought in new staff and the traditional training students go through to get into the industry.

He said: “They are not really interested in tourism degrees or National Vocational Qualifications. They want interested people. They do not view education as important.”

Future training should be shaped around these needs, he added. “Lot of the skills sought are soft skills and people are recruited for personal aptitude. There is a gap between what people are asking for and the training they do.”