Why travel managers should care about the ASATA Professional Programme

The role of the travel agent has evolved from transaction to consultation, which means the industry needs to develop soft skills within the workforce. This was one of the key takeaways from ASATA’s 21st Century Travel Agent report, which also found that travel consultants have a duty of care to understand all the pain points along the customer’s journey and find ways to mitigate these so that the trip is not just painless but pleasant.

Speaking at the recent ABTA Conference in Rustenburg, Natalia Rosa, a representative of ASATA, said consultants often have the technology skills, but what truly differentiates them is the human interaction they have with the customer. “It’s empathy when something goes awry; the detail, destination and product knowledge; being well-travelled and basic business etiquette.”

The impact of the gap in soft skills is a lack of professionalism and ability to communicate true value, which is something ASATA aims to address through the ASATA Professional Programme (APP). Rosa explained that last year, ASATA was registered as a professional designation body by SAQA, which means the association can now confirm the TPRAC designation to travel agents.

APP is not a training programme, but rather recognises the training and skills the agent already has. “It’s an online profile the agent builds, which then gets pushed through to an independent committee for assessment, and within 48 hours, the agent can have the TPRAC designation behind their name,” said Rosa.

While there are a number of benefits for the individual being awarded the designation, there are also more far-reaching benefits for the industry. “We can now identify skills gaps, assist with statistical data and promote the travel industry as offering a career of choice,” added Rosa.

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