graduation shutterstock_137242832By Louise Wallace

Travel agents are a happy bunch, with Forbes singling them out as some of the most satisfied employees on the scale. According to Forbes, travel perks and a relaxed workplace environment are the key ingredients to happy consultants, with the ability to create great holidays and satisfied customers also rating highly on the list.

With no barriers for entry, the tourism industry is an open door for anyone keen to give it a go, but research compiled by recruitment specialist Progressive Personnel shows that career progression is central to overall career satisfaction. With over 70% of tourism employees expressing disappointment with their salary package, Progressive Personnel claims that 84% of people in the travel industry plan on changing jobs in the next 12 months.

But interestingly, over 80% plan on staying within the tourism sector. That’s where formal training comes into the picture so that employees can upskill and step into roles with greater earning potential.

While agency groups such as Your Travel Centre welcome novices with no industry experience to join their ranks, a Certificate III in Travel is the golden standard for most networks who are looking to recruit skilled agents with an ongoing commitment to the industry. But as William Angliss Institute program leader of Tourism and Travel Stuart Christelow explains, formal training is coming to the foreground as major brands implement more rigorous benchmarks.

“Prospective employees may not need a full qualification, but very often they are expected to have been trained in a reservation system and in airfares as a minimum,” he tells travelBulletin.

And as major agency groups continue to dominate the travel industry landscape, he says there’s a greater demand for qualified staff who are looking to move up the corporate ladder. “We are facing a significant change to when there was a larger number of small, private businesses which required little or no qualifications,” he claims.

While the 19-week Certificate III in Travel serves as the gateway to the travel industry, Christelow says further training is essential to progress beyond consultant level. And while any additional training will help to sweeten consultants’ CV in the eyes of potential employers, he says a Diploma or Advanced Diploma is the most logical progression after a Certificate III.

“A Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Travel and Tourism will help to develop supervisory and management skills in a broad range of areas. Those looking to upskill may even consider a degree option after this for a higher level of management progression,” he says.

FC Business School national business leader Kelly Spencer agrees that further study opens doors and provides candidates with skills and confidence to take their careers to the next level. While learning is an “ongoing component of everyone’s career”, she recommends a Certificate IV in Travel and Tourism or equivalent for retail travel consultants looking to progress beyond the standard. And for those looking to step into a Business Development Manager (BDM) role, she recommends training to a Diploma level and beyond to build management qualifications that add to their business acumen.

“BDMs need to have a sound understanding of the industry and would benefit from an accredited qualification in business or management,” she says, adding that nationally recognised qualifications are the gold standard to ensure training is rigorous and comprehensive.

Additional training does come at a cost – both in terms of time and money – but part-time and online study options are available. Accredited institutions like the William Angliss Institute and Group Colleges Australia also provide flexible courses allowing students to strike the right balance.

Formal training is available at all levels, with William Angliss offering a traineeship program for new employees without formal qualifications. The program is supported by the government to ease financial pressures for employers and employees, and most learning occurs in the workplace during work hours. Full time employees can also gain recognition for skills learned on the job, and qualifications can be awarded if employees meet certain unit criteria.

But while formal training is becoming increasingly important to retail agency groups, it remains unchanged for the booming home-based sector which has a stronger focus on practical skills and product knowledge. Some mobile groups such as Travel Counsellors require all consultants to have a Certificate III in Travel, but it’s up to individual consultants to drive their own business.

Travel Counsellors encourages consultants to complete additional training via accredited organisations such as the William Angliss Institute and GCA, but general manager Tracy Parkinson says regular in-house training is ample to keep consultants’ skills up to par.

“We offer a range of training opportunities that fit in with our agents’ busy lives which is delivered in a number of ways including face to face classroom style, webinars where agents can log on from their home, and recorded training videos that can be viewed at a suitable time,” she says.

Parkinson says GDS training, fares courses, and product updates on cruise and niche product helps agents to improve their knowledge base, but she concludes that any additional skills are beneficial in progressing the career path of travel consultants.

Subscribe To travelBulletin