Travel agents ready for Wise Up! Programme
WTM is preparing for an exam-breaking, grade ‘A’ lesson with the country’s top five multiple travel agency groups. Hundreds of UK travel agents are headed for a gigantic educational day experience during this year’s global exhibition.
The Wise Up! Programme on November 17 at ExCeL London will play an integrated role in structured product knowledge training for agents of all levels. MyTravel, United Co-op Travel Group, Thomas Cook, First Choice and TUI (Thomson and Lunn Poly) have all signed up to the attendance register.
This development has taken over a year to broker and began with meetings in the autumn of 2004. “This was a highly strategic move for WTM and we wanted the multiples to be honest about what we were offering agents,” said WTM’s Fiona Jeffery, group exhibition director. “This led WTM to entertain a number of agents and branch managers to act as ‘mystery shoppers’ last year, independently observing the first Wise Up! programme and giving us feedback about what they found.
“They completed detailed reports of their findings which proved really constructive and helpful,” she added. “While they were impressed by the overall scale and size of what we were seeking to do, they felt there could be many improvements. For example, most of the major multiples have very clear views of what products and destinations their agents should focus on. The huge range of destinations featured in last year’s Wise Up! were not all necessarily appropriate to their needs.
”It was also clear that there needed to be more dialogue between national tourist boards and the multiples about what they wanted and how they wanted it to be communicated. The multiples want the training to be very clear, focused and, above all, concise.
“Agents want to be treated with respect and understanding. The agents who attend Wise Up! have already made a huge effort to participate and have shown a real dedication to skills and learning. They come from all kinds of backgrounds – homeworkers, independents as well as staff from the larger chains and consortia. Students attend too, although these are limited in order that other agents are given as much time and help as they need during the day. But we have to recognise that these are the future of our industry.
“In return agents want destinations to commit to them and their varying needs. What Wise Up! aims to do is to connect the right agents with the right products in a way that offers mutual benefits and commercial advantages.”
Micaela Juarez, WTM’s head of marketing, who has played a pivotal role in getting the multiples involved, said that some of the groups are finalising specific programmes for their agents to follow during the day with a combination of presentations, stand visits and destination trails.
“WTM has to be a real learning experience for all the agents, where ever they come from,” said Juarez. “There is a very serious aim behind Wise Up! However, that does not mean the day is not going to be enjoyable, stimulating and fun.”
In addition to working with NTO’s for Wise Up!, the event is also partnering the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT), City and Guilds, Travel Uni, Seatrade, Sandals, Advantage and Genesys technology consultancy. Each will be staging workshops, presentations and seminars.
Travel Weekly will also be organising a workshop on Dynamic Packaging. It’s the phrase that’s been sweeping the industry over the last couple of years. But does anyone actually know what it is – or, more importantly, what it means for retailers, suppliers and customers?
The Accredited Travel Professional Scheme (ATP), due to be launched in January next year, is also participating in Wise Up! to introduce the concept of Continuous Professional Development (CPO) to young professionals. The new scheme, organised in conjunction with the Institute of Travel and Tourism, ABTA and the Skills Development Agency will recognise and encourage professionalism and expertise with membership being measured via the collection of points. For this year only, points can be banked from a visit to Wise Up!
Three hundred agents from MyTravel and CTTG will be travelling to London on November 16 and staying close to ExCeL London in order that they can make the most of their time the following day. These agents will be the guests of WTM on the Wednesday evening and are set to break the mould of over 900 years of history at The Tower of London – by skating in the moat.
The agents will be the first to ice skate at The Tower of London since the Thames Frost Fayres of the 15th and 16th Century, when the waters of the River Thames froze over every winter and hawkers set up stalls on the ice to sell refreshments to revellers. Skating will be followed by dinner and dancing on the river boat Bateaux Symphony.