The challenges of training travel agents


CONTRARY TO the hospitality sector which encompasses accommodation, food and beverage, where industry personnel receive regular training, few in the travel industry are formally trained. They include travel agents, tour operators and tourist carriers.

Although National Occupational Skills Standards (NOSS) have been developed for almost every job in the travel industry, there is virtually no NOSS-based training program offered in the market, except for courses. tour guide training which has been provided since 1964.

It is interesting to note that the National Training and Certification Craft Board was not established until 1971, the National Vocational Training Council in 1989 and renamed the Department of Skills Development in 2006. It is the custodian of all NOSS in Malaysia.

NOSS-based training programs are great for blue collar jobs, as apprentices learn skills in training centers that are not much different from actual workplaces, but not in the travel industry because of many jobs require a lot of interaction between colleagues, customers and suppliers.

NOSS-based training can take up to 2,400 hours or two years to complete levels 1, 2 and 3, and 1,200 hours or one year, for level 3 only, such as tour guides. Fortunately, the Department of Skills Development made an exception and reduced the training hours to just 500 for normal tour guide training courses,

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of NOSS-based training courses for other travel industry jobs offered by the Centers accredited by the Department of Skills Development, as demand had been low since the mid-1990s. Over the years, even responses to one-day training seminars organized by travel associations had been lukewarm.

In recent years, the only courses that travel industry staff have attended were the Mandatory Travel and Tour Management Course for successful applicants for new business licenses and the Travel and Tour Improvement Course for the renewal.

As there are several modules in each course, the marketing unit is limited to only one and a half hours. It would be difficult to learn anything well in such a short time. Thus, the time spent would be limited to raising awareness and awareness of the importance of several areas.

It should also be noted that the so-called travel agents are a mixed bag. Some are so successful that even tourism teachers couldn’t stand up to them, while many might be downright ignorant or totally indifferent. No one will be satisfied if they all train together.

In addition, each has its own products and niche markets. Those who run travel agencies only sell products for their constituents, such as airplane seats, hotel rooms, theme park rides, etc. On the other hand, tour operators need to create their own packages and market their services.

Then there are companies that offer passenger vehicles that come with drivers and others that are driven by customers. The operation of tourist buses and vans and the provision of car rental services are different things and are usually handled by different departments or companies.

While Tourism Malaysia (TM) promotes the whole country using various themes, destinations, attractions, cultures, food and shopping to the general public, tour operators can only target customers in niche market segments. , given their limited resources and the need to concentrate.

While only a few TM initiatives are suitable for individual tour operators, inbound and domestic tour operators should benefit from TM’s efforts. They should be aware of and take full advantage of these opportunities, but many seem to operate in a vacuum.

However, when it comes to digital marketing, success is not guaranteed as there are thousands, if not millions of competitors online. But failure is certain for those who do not make full use of the Internet. Those who don’t use email and social media to communicate are relics of the past.

Learning the basics of digital marketing well will take at least two full days. Thus, in just one hour and a half, the participants could be informed about the role and the activities of TM. But on digital marketing, it’s time to only scratch the surface for those who are totally new.

However, those interested in digital marketing have taken the initiative to learn on their own, either by taking physical or online classes, or self-taught through trial and error. As such, they may find briefings given within 90 minutes of little use and even boring to them.

Likewise, those who don’t use social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to promote their business aren’t going to change much after a brief briefing. In fact, most of their websites are so weak that visitors would be gone in seconds.

Still, it’s not rocket science to improve their websites by leaps and bounds as they can easily learn and copy from existing websites of major competitors. It is best described in a proverb “You can lead a horse to the watering place, but you cannot make it drink”.

While it may be futile to brief on digital marketing for some, it can also be beneficial for others, as in all training. While the content of a module is important, effective learning can only take place when there is a good trainer and trainees are eager to share and learn.

YS Chan is a Master Trainer for Mesra Malaysia and a Master Trainer in Asean Tourism. He is also a consultant and writer in the tourism and transportation sector, and a researcher for the Travel Industry Occupational Framework published by the Department of Skills Development. Comments: [email protected]


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