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Tue 24 Mar 2009 04:00 AM

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Get the knowledge

ATN delves into its vaults of industry contacts and information to provide hints and tips to help agents through the working day.

ATN delves into its vaults of industry contacts and information to provide hints and tips to help agents through the working day.

In every industry there are tools and tricks of the trade that the old pros can sagely pass on to the uninitiated.

This usually comprises a collection of hints and tips that, seemingly marginal on their own, can make a huge difference to an individual's working day when implemented collectively.

Black Cab drivers negotiating the complicated maze of London's city streets have to study every street, route and potential traffic congestion spot for three years before being examined to see if they qualify for the accolade of having ‘The Knowledge'.

Being a far more generous publication, ATN has decided to run through some quick tips for the region's travel agents, from tourism board training courses, to travel jargon - creating the industry's very own version of ‘The Knowledge'.

National know-how

National Tourism Boards (NTBs) are a fantastic source of destination knowledge that are currently under exploited by the region's travel agents.

The thinking is that it's difficult to schedule a time for a visit from tourism board representative when you are busy trying to make bookings, but this judgement could be misguided, claim industry experts.

"Travel agencies have to make time for the National Tourism Boards," said Dubai Travel and Tourism Group (DTTAG) general manager Leo Fewtrell.

"All they have to do is ask and they will have reps coming round giving them all of the information they need, which will tremendously improve their destination knowledge and ability to sell to their clients."

In fact, waiting on visits isn't always necessary as a large number of NTBs offer comprehensive websites offering destination knowledge and itinerary options.

"We do generate a lot of interest with agencies asking for training," says German National Tourist Office director marketing & sales office Gulf countries Anjte Roeding. "But I think the preference is for the personal contact here. Agents want to speak to you personally before they can be persuaded to make use of the websites."

Austrian National Tourism Office market manager Middle East Klaus Ehrenbrandtner stressed the "tremendous amount of information" offered to agents online.

"There are courses that agents can do to gain real knowledge of Austrian regions and already more than 250 agents from the region are certified," he said.

"The top 20 graduates will be invited on our annual fam trip, so there are lots of incentives for agents and agencies to make use of our website and training options."

Savvy speak

Know your TMC from your GDS? All industries have their own bedrock of abbreviated terms and lingo that initially can seem baffling and the travel trade is no exception. Ploughing through this minefield can sometimes be disheartening, especially if its during negotiations with a corporate client when stopping to ask what a phrase means is more than likely not the best route to securing the business.

Thankfully a solution is on hand with new travel industry website from Travel Intelligence Network (TIN).

Knowledge in a nutshell• NTBs: Make maximum use of National Tourism Boards, either by asking a representative to come in to train you or by checking out their websites and the training courses they offer.

• Learn the lingo: Keep up-to-date with industry phrases to be able to understand clients and travel partners when they go jargon happy. Visit www.traveljargon.com.

• Client communication: Get feedback from your clients to help get better understanding of your products and destinations.

• Industry input: Work together with colleagues in the industry to share your collective knowledge about trends and destinations.

The company has developed a website listing more than 11,000 terms, acronyms, and expressions for business and leisure travel to help out industry professionals if they come across a phrase that leaves them stumped.

"Traveljargon.org is the fast, simple and friendly solution for locating explanations of travel industry phrases," says TIN director Maggy Sainsbury.

"Although the initial content has been compiled by us, the global travel community has access to Traveljargon.org and can therefore help each other to learn as new terms are introduced." Visit www.traveljargon.com.

Feedback is free

The client knows best as the old saying goes, but in some cases, the client knows more.

Agents can enhance their knowledge simply by making sure they put in a follow-up call to clients to see how their trip was.

"The key to understanding your product is to understand your clientele," says marketing specialist Piers Bracher, the clients director at UK-based Diamond Advertising.

"Phone your clients and talk with them; feedback is free."

Brotherly loveA good way for agents to find out about a new marketing niche or destination is to take a peak at what rival companies are doing.

Key industry trade shows like Dubai's Arabian Travel Market pop up throughout the calendar year and provide a great opportunity to suss out the strategies of other agencies in the region.

This doesn't even have to be sneaky or underhand. Information sharing with fellow agents can only be beneficial; after all, everyone is working in the same industry.

One way to keep in touch with fellow agents and to work together within the industry is to join travel agency groups such as Abu Dhabi's ATTAC, Dubai's DTTAG, Ras Al Khaimah's RAKTAG or Bahrain's ABTTA.

You only have to look at the recent achievements of several agency groups in India in forcing airlines to retain travel agent commissions to see that there is strength in numbers.

These groups are used as platforms to collectively train agents and for networking where knowledge on destinations or best practices outlines can be shared.

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