Travel training survey: Employer case studies

People1st and ABTA looked into several travel companies’ training practices as part of a survey on skills and education in the industry. Read extracts and download the full case studies below

Knock Travel

Northern Ireland-based Knock Travel owner Doreen McKenzie believes if staff are happy, customers are happy – and that filters through to your bottom line.

“I believe that if you invest in your people, they will deliver the goods,” said Doreen.

The company, which operates in leisure and business travel, gives all new starters a comprehensive induction course. Each staff member is then given a personalised training plan that includes core skills and specific training for their role.

Staff have the chance to try out new hotels or services. Recently the team sampled the new rail link between Belfast and Dublin.

“We promote this to customers as an alternative to taking the car – sales are about 10% up now,” added McKenzie.

Knock Travel also organises lunchtime walks for staff, supplying them with pedometers for motivation. McKenzie said: “Staff come back full of energy and any frustrations from the morning have lifted.”

STA Travel

STA Travel training supervisor Beth Owen believes training is crucial not only to the development of staff, but to the development of the company as a whole.

“Training gives us an opportunity to set up best practice and to try and implement where we want to go as a company,” said Owen.

Recent changes to the student and youth travel specialist’s training programme include the development of an intensive three-week induction course, and a stronger focus on teaching sales techniques and management techniques.

Sales and revenue have subsequently risen, and employee turnover has fallen by 20 percent in the last 12 months.

“We’re keen to promote that people don’t just come to work for work’s sake and for the money but that they come because they want to work for us as a company,” said UK HR director Catherine Wilson.

The Co-operative Travel

Well trained and developed staff are essential to achieving company goals, believes Co-operative Travel learning and development manager Gaynor Golding.

“It is essential that everyone has the relevant knowledge, skills and experience to ensure that the business achieves its objectives,” she said.

The company offers a range of training and development, including an induction course, an NVQ programme, and internal training on sales, customer service and management development.

Staff are also offered coaching and mentoring schemes, attendance at conferences and seminars and familiarisation trips. Co-operative offers online training through its CATS (Co-operative Academy Training School) system.

Over 90% of Co-operative Travel survey respondents said that they had received training or ongoing development in the last 12 months – and 78% felt that training had made them happier in their job.

“We don’t just take apprentices on for two years and once they finish they leave. Our retention of apprentices is very high,” added Golding.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook overseas resort staff receive an eight-day residential induction in the UK, followed by between 6 and 12 days on-the-job training.

Training continues throughout the season, and staff are offered development opportunities through the three-level Senior Training and Recognition Scheme (STARS).

“What we aim to do from the moment an individual joins the business is to offer them opportunities to develop,” said Elinor Carr from Thomas Cook’s learning and development team.

Further development is offered through the Institute of Leadership and Management-approved Overseas Management Development Programme (OMDP), which consists of a series of UK-based training modules, plus project work during the winter months.

Learning and development team member Phil Barnfather believes the OMDP programme’s benefits outweigh the costs of flying overseas reps home to participate.

“This is a part of the workforce that because of their remoteness and logistically they’re very difficult to get to and they can very easily get left behind. So it’s also about including them in the wider business and giving them opportunities to build networks.”

TUI Travel

TUI accredited programmes manager Andy Smyth believes that the operators’ two-tier apprenticeship programme creates longer-serving, more successful staff.

” On average, our travel and tourism apprentices stay with the company two years longer and contribute roughly 17 per cent more sales than other employees in similar roles,” he said.

In addition to standard training, apprentices are offered a two day ‘Welcome Event’, five hours of study time per week, e-learning opportunities and six off-the-job training days per year.

Support comes from an in-store mentor and an assessor, who will visit once a month.

Apprentices typically become assistant managers then managers, with further development opportunities such as a Foundation Degree also available.

“What we are obviously doing is trying to develop people for the future and the progression stages are very, very clearly mapped out… We’re always looking for them to become managers so it’s very much a case of almost putting the process in front of them,” said Smyth.

Bales Worldwide

Bales Worldwide HR director Vivienne Thorn believes rigorous training helps the company to sell ‘more than a holiday’.

“Our aim is to offer the highest possible service we can and we place a tremendous amount of investment in making sure our staff have the skills to be able to deliver this,” she said.

New sales employees receive 6-8 weeks of one-to-one training from in-house training co-ordinator Susan Rock, which Thorn believes helps maintain consistent standards. Staff also spend three days a year with a third-party training provider to develop advanced sales skills.

Product training is ongoing, with staff undertaking an average of two trips a year on top of office-based learning.

“We need people who are able to say ‘it would be better if you travel on this train so that you get to see that temple at sunset’ it’s that level of detail and making that level of recommendation,” said Thorn.

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