Travel Agent Certification – What are your Options?


Travel Agent Certification

You’re wondering what type of travel agent certification is out there.  That’s funny.  I’ve written an article on just that topic!  How handy.

Let’s make sure we’re clear about what this article is and what this article isn’t.  It IS about travel agent certification.   It IS NOT about travel agent training.  What’s the difference?  Well, it’s a blurry line so we decided to make our own lines in the sandbox.  We’re saying certification means:

  • it comes from organizations specializing in education only for the travel industry
  • has a comprehensive training program, not just a specific destination or vendor
  • it is not provided by a vendor, destination, or travel agency

We’re also going to be selective.  The travel agent certifications we mention aren’t the only certification or training program for travel agents – you can find plenty more.   What we want are organizations that are active in the travel agent community at large.

What constitutes “active in the agent community”?  They attend travel agent events, they provide resources and tools beneficial to agents, I know them or have met someone that vouches for them.   I’ll also say this article isn’t an endorsement of any of the programs; think of it more as a vetted list!

I believe that an active organization = having a pulse on things. An out of touch organization is the last thing I want associated with a travel agent certification program!  Therefore, organizations that I haven’t seen active in the community got the axe.  Sorry.

The Basics on Certification

diploma-graduation capFirst things first; understand that there is no universal travel agent certification.  If you found a site that hints you need to take their course in order to become a travel agent, run the other directionThere are no travel agent certifications required by law in the US and most of Canada.

Here’s how it works.  In the travel industry (especially for the US), there is no formalized process to become a travel agent – that is to say, no national board exam you need to pass, no state certification requirements (although, make sure you’re familiar with the US and Canadian licensing and seller of travel laws).

That can be great – anyone can break into the industry regardless of education, finances, or location.   On the other hand, anytime ‘anyone’ is involved, by default you get… how shall we say this?  A wide range of capabilities.  Translation: you’ll have some really unqualified people calling themselves travel agents.  Boo.

But you take the good with the bad – that’s the upside and the downside of an industry with a low barrier to entry.

TICO logo

Note: Travel agents in Ontario, Canada, you’re the odd ball out.  All agents and supervisors/managers must take the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) exam.  It currently rings up at $32 CAD.  

Travel Agent Certification Programs, Fun Acronyms

Eeek!  The travel agent certification programs we’re going to mention – and we’ve got two of them – mean acronyms, fun!  Stephanie Lee, MCC, CTC, CTIE … awesome!  Mm, love me some acronyms.

The Travel Institute Travel Agent Certifications

The Travel Institute

With nearly 50 years under their belt, The Travel Institute holds the prize for the longest running travel agent certification program.  They’ve got a few programs, each focusing on agents at different stages in their career.  These certifications are used by travel agents across the industry – cruise, corporate, luxury, leisure.

Certified Travel Associate (CTA)

CTA

Description:  Agent must have 18 months experience in the industry and are required to take 8 core classes, 4 electives.  This is a pre requisite for the CTC certification.

Time to Complete:  Most agents can finish within 3-6 months but have up to 12 months

Cost: $295 complete course, $225 test only (must have 2 years experience)

Maintenance: To maintain certification, agents must earn 10 continuing education credits (CEUs) a year.

Certified Travel Counsellor (CTC)

CTC

Description:  Agents must have 5 years experience in the industry and a CTA designation. The CTC program is designed for travel agents looking to build or grow their business – owners, managers.  Curriculum consists of 10 courses on key topics and the completion of a white paper 2000-3000 words in length.

Time to Complete:  Most agents can finish within 6-9 months but have up to 12 months

Cost: $495 complete course, $545 for CTC Fast Track (includes testing out of CTA program)

Maintenance: To maintain certification, agents must earn 10 continuing education credits (CEUs) a year.

Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE)

certified-travel-industry-executive-travel-institute

Description:  This designation is for non-consumer sales roles with 5+ years of experience.  It is equivalent to the CTC.  Curriculum consists of (100) videos 10-15 minutes in length and the completion of a white paper 2000-3000 words in length.

Time to Complete:  18 months

Cost: $495 complete course

MaintenanceStudent must commit to annual Travel Institute membership and annual certification maintenance (not detailed).

TAP Test: Since it’s a bit confusing, I want to mention the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test offered by The Travel Institute (Cost: $90).  This isn’t a travel agent certification; think of it like a final exam for a Travel Agent 101 course.  No degree comes with it, but you’re learning.  Also important to note, the TAP test is offered by institutions outside The Travel Institute.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Travel Agent Certification

CLIA Logo

CLIA’s travel agent certification program dishes out four power-packed acronyms depending on the agent’s familiarization with ships.  To gain accreditation, an agent must first be a member of CLIA.  As the CLIA affiliation would suggest, this is a travel agent certification program geared towards agents specializing in cruises.  This is a certification heavy on hands-on experiences.

Accredited Cruise Counsellor (ACC)

ACC

Description:  100 credits total – 30 from required trainings, 50 from electives, 20 credits from product knowledge requirements being met.

Product Knowledge Requirements (must all be on CLIA member lines):  Take one 2-6 day cruise and one 7+ day cruise, complete 5 shipboard inspections, 25 staterooms booked/deposited

Time to Complete:  2 years

Cost: $70 enrollment/re-enrollment fee + course fees + ship inspections fees (if any) + cost of cruises

Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC)

MCC

Description:  Must have ACC certification.  100 credits total – 50 from required trainings, 30 from electives, 20 credits from product knowledge requirements being met.

Product Knowledge Requirements (must all be on CLIA member lines):  Take two 7+ day cruises on lines not utilized for your ACC, complete 3 shipboard inspections not utilized for your ACC, 40 staterooms booked/deposited

Time to Complete:  2 years

Cost: $70 enrollment/re-enrollment fee + course fees + ship inspections fees (if any) + cost of cruises

Elite Cruise Counsellor (ECC)

ECC

Description:  Must have MCC certification.  Complete any 10 live or online CLIA seminars and exams (those taken for MCC or ACC are acceptable), 20 credits from product knowledge requirements being met.

Product Knowledge Requirements (must all be on CLIA member lines):  Take one 2-6 day cruise and one 7+ day cruise on lines not utilized for your ACC or MCC, complete 5 shipboard inspections on different ships from your ACC or MCC, 50 staterooms booked/deposited

Time to Complete:  2 years

Cost: $70 enrollment/re-enrollment fee + course fees + ship inspections fees (if any) + cost of cruises

Elite Cruise Counsellor Scholar (ECCS)

ECCS

Description:  Must have ECC certification.  Complete ALL of CLIA’s live and online seminars and exams.  20 credits from product knowledge requirements being met.

Product Knowledge Requirements (must all be on CLIA member lines):  Take one 7+ day cruise on lines not utilized for ACC, MCC, ECC or prior ECCS, book/deposit 30  staterooms

Time to Complete:  Renewable annually

Cost: $25 enrollment fee + course  fees + ship inspection fees (if any) + cost of cruises

The Big Question – To Certify or Not

I’m often asked if an agent should go through a travel agent certification course before they start their agency. That’s the million dollar question – to certify or not to certify.  First, keep in mind this site specializes in working with agents aligned with host agencies, many of whom are new to the industry.

In travel, training is plentiful but also (very) fragmented.  You can get training through your host agency, franchise and/or consortia.  Suppliers, destinations, and associations have boatloads of trainings for you; travel schools – both on and offline – have trainings to help you learn the ropes.  It’s like the toothpaste aisle at Target, you’ll never have a lack of options.

Here’s my thought on getting a travel agent certification.  To avoid wasting money and time, get your toes wet first and see if you even like the industry.  Join a host agency, make a few bookings, try your hand at being an entrepreneur and travel agent – it’s not for everyone.   If you do like it, I say certification is a great way to network, expand your knowledge base, and get a cute (yet professional) lil’ acronym to put after your name!

Travel industry veteran Nolan Burris gives a great talk on the power of certification (speaking specifically about The Travel Institute).  He sums it up wonderfully so I’ll leave it to him:

Looking for more?

If you found this helpful, make sure to join 3,000+ agents and sign up for our monthly newsletter for more helpful reads or visit our resources page to find our most popular articles and other resources for travel agents – check it out!

In Closing

Steph Lee TravelI work with agents starting and growing their travel agencies.  I love bringing new people into the industry and showing them all the delights the world of travel offers!

If you have any questions on certification, getting started, or general industry questions, I’m your girl.  You can find me on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

>>Learn more about Steph

Comments