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Travel Agents

 October 09, 2012
Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) Targets Travel Agents As Major Influencers of Long-Haul Travel

 Record high number of travel agents around the world now trained to sell Canada as a destination through Canada Specialist Program.

As a key factor in guiding travel decisions, especially for travellers making complex trips from abroad, travel agents and tour operators are flocking to get with the program - the Canada Specialist Program, (CSP) that is.

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)'s state-of-the-art tool for the travel trade around the world now has more than 10,000 fully certified agents, and there is no sign of the education momentum slowing. Knowledge is power in a business where the clients demand highly specialized information.

The CSP enables tour operators and travel agents to sell Canada more effectively, especially from CTC's key international markets. It's anything but a boring classroom experience: instead, photo carousels that showcase exciting Canadian travel experiences bring the program to vivid life, alongside an interactive map that features downloadable driving itineraries.

"A travel agency thrives on having unique information that visitors can't find anywhere else," says Charles McKee, CTC vice-president, International. "The Canada Specialist Program provides this intelligence in an easy-to-use format that gives travel agents a competitive edge for Canada, as well as allowing them to offer a high degree of customer satisfaction."

Just how influential is the agent in shaping an itinerary? When CTC recently surveyed* 13,000 travellers from its key markets, more than a third had referred to the websites of online retailers, travel agents and tour operators. Travellers from Canada's hot emerging markets placed an even higher relative importance on the travel agent, with Brazil (15%), India (17%), and China (21%) consumers using travel agents and tour operators to get quality intelligence about Canada.

The CTC survey revealed that decisions on where to travel are often made right up to the point of purchasing the ticket, so arming agents with the right information to sell Canada is a key ingredient in ensuring travellers chose Canada over other competing destinations.

The word about CSP is spreading. Travellers see the program logo as a benchmark of trust when they are planning their trips.

CSP comes in eight, user-friendly training modules: Introduction; British Columbia/Alberta; Manitoba/Saskatchewan; Ontario/Quebec; Atlantic Provinces; Canada's North; Winter Experience; and Aboriginal Experiences.

Once qualified, agents can get their hands on a bulging shelf of goodies to help them give Canada a competitive edge, including FAM (familiarization) trips, discounts, partnership funding for promotions, a listing on CTC's consumer website, and window-display materials. CTC's travel trade managers also pitch in to help; they regularly post travel news and events info.

The UK is the CTC market with the most qualified agents (almost 4,000 keen Brits), followed by Germany, China, India and Australia.

*CTC's Advanced Path to Purchase Study was conducted in 2010 in all of CTC's key markets among an online panel of 12,991 consumers.