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Sun 22 Jun 2008 02:23 PM

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Be there or be square

For many working in the travel industry, the fast-paced growth the sector is experiencing means there is little time to leave the office.

We live in a region where the pace of life is frenetic. Working for a successful business often means long hours, extra work and no time for extra-curricular activities.For many working in the travel industry, the fast-paced growth the sector is experiencing means there is little time to leave the office particularly when some companies are under-staffed either because it's hard to recruit the right people or because the volume of work is too great.

However, by chaining themselves to the desk or their respective workplace, many in the travel and tourism trade are missing out on vital opportunities to learn how to improve their productivity and that of their companies.

The region is swarming with seminars, workshops, conferences, exhibitions and networking events that address the issues travel trade issues, yet more often than not, attendance levels are low.

Because the going is good at present, there is a tendency for many to stick their heads in the sand, but this ostrich approach is short-sighted and in the long-term will take its toll.

During the past year editorial staff from the ITP Business hospitality group, including myself, have attended several industry events where the numbers in attendance have been shockingly low.

Most recently, the UAE's New National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority (Tamnia) staged an open day that discussed ‘maximising the role of UAE nationals in the travel and tourism sector'.

Of 400 travel industry representatives invited only 10 made an appearance, an indication of the lack of urgency this sector attached to the Emiritisation issue, according to Tamnia's chairman of the board of trustees, His Excellency Ahmad Humaid Al Tayer.

For those who didn't attend the meeting, Tanmia is considering fining travel companies that don't take Emiritisation seriously - but how would the travel trade even know about this and the implications on its business if they didn't attend? Thanks goodness for Arabian Travel News!

The Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG) faces similar problems. There are some 300 travel companies in Dubai but just 60 are DTTAG members and attend its meetings.

This is surprising given that DTTAG can represent the travel community when it comes to dealing with issues such as fines for not adhering to Emiritisation policies, not to mention the new licensing laws that the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is implementing.

Those who attend DTTAG meetings will know they can also receive subsidised training and be represented when it comes to negotiations over commission and the like.

Those who don't take time out will not benefit and will probably keep their heads stuck in the sand until it more than likely chokes them.

It doesn't stop there - agent workshops, seminars and training days are still under-attended when let's face it, agents need all the training they can get seeing as many are still finding it hard to make the transition from an order-taker to a travel professional.

In a zero commission environment, they will flounder.

The message is ‘take time out' to learn how you can improve your skills and knowledge and apply that in your workplace and this applies from the top down.

If you don't you'll be left behind in the rat race and fall at the first of many hurdles that will now doubt be thrown your way in this competitive environment.

Gemma Greenwood is the senior group editor of ITP Business' hospitality magazines.

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