Educational trips are changing

The training and development of know-how by travel agents is becoming fundamental at a time where the sector continues to have recruitment problems. One of the best ways to develop a team’s knowledge is to send them on educational trips, allowing them to participate in educational activities where they get can first-hand experience of products to offer to end customers. But things have been changing for the last few years. And not just in Italy. Even abroad, operators are increasingly focused on ensuring a return on investment and on calculating a type of ROI for each trip offered. This means that the selection of agencies – and agents – to involve is increasingly targeted, based on preferences for short, medium, or long-haul trips, feedback, sales results and future aspirations of individual agents. We discussed it with three managers responsible for three different networks.

The importance of familiarisation trips

“The growing focus on return on investment for educational trips offered by suppliers involving agencies is evidenced by a significant change in the sector,” begins Dante Colitta, director of the Welcome Travel Group network. “This change has manifested through a greater awareness of the importance of familiarisation trips, which have become less frequent than in the past. This can be attributed to several factors, including the reduction in the number of suppliers over the years and more limited budget availability for such activities. When they are organised, particular attention is paid to selecting agencies that are most interested and capable of providing meaningful feedback to the suppliers involved.” A key point of change, according to Colitta, regards the purpose of educational trips. If in the past they were organised just to facilitate networking and foster team spirit, now there is a trend to direct such events towards more targeted training on the product and the specific destination.

Cost control is changing

According to Stefano Colombo, sales & operations manager of the distribution division at Uvet, “in recent years, cost control by travel organisers/suppliers has changed substantially compared to the past. This aspect is due to an industry that has always struggled to generate significant margins. This is why fully sponsored educational trips have become a rare commodity. I agree that the financial burden can be shared in terms of costs. In this way, the agent’s attention will be maximised.” Sabrina Nadaletti, head of leisure at Gattinoni Group, emphasises the key role of educational trips: “I can confirm that 2023 was a year in which tour operators and suppliers (organisations, companies, hotel chains, DMCs) reintroduced training trips for travel agents. Product knowledge is essential for agencies to verify validity and to be confident during the sales process.”

Interaction between the parties

Collaboration between the network, the supplier and the travel agent for participation in educational activities is significant and plays a key role in the process. According to Colitta, the network plays an important filtering role for invitations and participation by the agencies involved. “Basically,” says Colitta, “the tour operator sends the network a profile of the agency they want to involve. The network carefully analyses it and collaborates with the supplier to manage the sending of invitations or, in some cases, works to stimulate participation”. Colombo at Uvet states, “from the network management side, we try to encourage the most relevant suppliers to propose tailored invitations to agencies with the best potential. Our task is to identify the most suitable agent to participate, and the parameters can favour either the most loyal agents or those with the greatest growth potential.” For Gattinoni Group, the network takes on the role of promoting educational/familiarisation trips by involving major commercial partners, agreeing on the destination and the agencies to involve.” In some cases, the network completely manages the invitation and the fam trip.

Feedback requested

As for the type of feedback requested by the organiser, “the supplier wants agencies to take action after the educational trip, establishing a more significant collaboration, particularly with agencies with low sales performance that have been selected based on their potential,” says Colitta. “The goal is to assess the effectiveness of the educational trip in enhancing the agencies’ skills and translating this training into a tangible increase in sales.” Colombo adds that there are suppliers who are very organised in analysing subsequent data, while others do it in a less scientific way. “Suppliers don’t give anything away for free any more,” he emphasises. “Some ask for a contribution to raise awareness among participants. However, there is the problem that agencies have fewer staff, which is not always easy to work around.” Nadaletti states that “the organiser asks to reward agencies that develop significant revenues with them, but also prospective agencies that can develop a specific product, destination or target.”

A contractual element

At Welcome, “the possibility of organising educational trips exclusively for the network’s agencies is included within contracts or commercial agreements. This practice has become as relevant, if not more so than in the past, reflecting a growing awareness of the importance of training events within commercial agreements.” According to Colombo from Uvet, “participation in trips is an essential part of an agent’s training, so we are working with various suppliers to reintroduce the value of this training tool.” And Gattinoni states that “with some suppliers, the network already plans events dedicated to its agencies during the contract phase, while with others they are requested during business.”

Improvements to consider

To refine this training practice, Colitta explains, “I believe it is fundamental to carefully select participating agencies, and I believe it’s appropriate to request a minimal contribution, which will later be deducted from transactions.” Colombo agrees: “The supplier must make a careful selection of the best, existing, loyal clients/agents and potential new sellers.” And Nadaletti says, “sometimes there is a lack of communication between some suppliers and networks because some organisations invite agencies directly for their own reasons, without involving us, or involving us later on. In these cases, it would be more appropriate to be consulted beforehand so as not to upset the balance and manage each moment of the fam trip (pre, during, and post) to the best of our ability.”.

Laura Dominici

Tags: , , ,

Potrebbe interessarti