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Tue 16 Jun 2009 04:00 AM

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Train yourselves or pay the price

The agent training seminar at Arabian Travel Market in May raised a number of important issues.

The agent training seminar at Arabian Travel Market in May raised a number of important issues.

Agents who attended were keen to learn from the panel of experts on how training could be embraced to improve service levels in an age of zero commission from airlines.

While everyone agreed training was essential, there were varied responses as to who should pay for the training of travel agents - the travel agencies, the suppliers, the government or bodies such as DTTAG and the ATTAC.

All had valid opinions, but I couldn't help but think that if a travel agency is unwilling to spend money on training its own staff then why not let them go out of business?

Okay, that agency may give the industry a bad name, but a bad restaurant with ill-informed staff doesn't stop the client visiting other restaurants. All it means is they won't go back to the one where they received poor service.

Sure, money is tight for many businesses at the moment, but there was a sense of exasperation from some of the suppliers of agencies who said they were offering training for free, but they weren't being taken up on the offer.

These are suppliers who offer incredible commission potential.

Furthermore, it is very well training frontline staff, but there needs to be a focus on training the owners and management - or as I believe, they need to focus on training themselves.

And I'm not talking about sending themselves on more fam trips.

They need to understand how they need to change and developtheir business models to enter into the commission-free environment.

This is a new era for the travel trade in the Middle East and companies from outside of the region and some of the larger agencies are gearing up for the rebound with more advanced products, a greater use of online technology and a concrete plan for the next 10 years.

Those agencies that don't train themselves to adapt will go out of business and they will only have themselves to blame.

The industry needs greater unity and it needs to be fought for, but ultimately it is down to the individual company to survive.

Jamie Knights is the editor of Arabian Travel News.

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