Agent to Agent: Digesting the Alphabet Soup
Dear Tammy: I’m new to the business, and all of the industry associations that are sending me information to join are overwhelming me. I’m not sure what to join and how it will actually benefit me.
I don’t just want to throw my money at anything, so can you help me wade through all of the acronyms?
Tammy: Sure, let me give you the ABCs on all of the acronyms!
Every industry is filled with many different organizations that you can join and use to network and grow your business. The most important thing you need to know is that you do not need to join every one right now.
As you grow, you can always join another one, but start off small and maximize your time in the organization that you do choose. Use it to meet other travel agents and vendors, promote your business, educate yourself and, ultimately, gain new clients. Perhaps you can even take on a volunteer or a leadership role. You might even lead a committee, teach a webinar or help to organize a conference.
Here are a few of the travel agent trade organizations and what they do. Take time to research each one. Perhaps attend a meeting as a guest or call and ask questions before you apply or join.
Short for the American Society of Travel Agents, ASTA is the world’s largest association of travel professionals and includes travel agents and the companies whose products they sell such as tours, cruises, hotels, car rentals, etc. The organization was founded in 1931 and today has members in 140 countries. They also provide conferences that are held around the world.
As someone new and young in the business, you might be particularly interested in the Young Professionals Society, which helps with networking, education, and career development.
Are you a travel agent who specializes in cruising? Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association and offers training and certification, online learning, webinars, networking opportunities and more.
This Travel Commerce Network offers marketing programs, booking tools, call center solutions, education and training, association and even accreditation.
The CCRA is easier to obtain as a new agent. Their resources, webinars and trainings are the best I have found out there.
Thiis organization, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 275 carriers (83% of total air traffic). It also offers training and events for its members.
I’m sure you’ll come up with more than what is listed here too, including your local organizations as well.
It’s not an easy decision, but I suggest joining a national organization to help get your name out there to start. You may also consider a local chamber of commerce or travel agent association to help network and grow your business.
Regardless of what decision you make, it’s fantastic that you’re considering joining something that will benefit your business. That’s a great first step!