Travel Agent Appreciation
Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Aug 27, 2018
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IATA teaching agents how to deliver the right services

Special needs, special care


(Photo above courtesy of IATA)

Assisting travellers with special needs is a business imperative whose time has come, particularly given the demographics of an aging, but still active boomer generation. And IATA has developed a learning module to allow travel agents and their suppliers to serve customers with physical disabilities and mobility issues, as well as those with hidden special needs such as sleep apnea and autism.

“The topic of special needs travel is becoming more serious as IATA is coordinating the creation of a task force to review resolutions related to passengers with reduced mobility and standardize them for the airline industry and connected segments such as airports,” revealed a Montreal-based IATA spokeswoman.”
The Assisting Travelers with Special Needs course was released in late June this year following a year of research involving collection of information and references for content development that began in 2016.
Following that, it took another year to complete content authoring with external validation before production of the course which is available in e-textbo0k format. And it’s expected there will be more training to be rolled out over the next two years.
Explaining the rationale behind the new initiative, the spokeswoman explained, “Special needs travellers represent a promising market for the travel industry, but, to unlock this business opportunity, suppliers and agents must first be able to identify customers who may have special needs. Then they must deliver the services that make their journey safe and pleasant.”
She added, “The course provides knowledge and skills in identifying customers who may have special travel needs and may require non-emergency special services, support or accommodation from suppliers. There are special needs travellers who are not disabled, so this course helps industry professionals identify and assist them.”
And she pointed out, “Travel agents increase their service value when they request the right support from cruise, rail, lodging, airline, and attraction suppliers on behalf of their special needs travellers.”
The course, which is recommended for professional travel retailers with at least two years in the industry, is designed to train participants to welcome special needs customers and make the necessary arrangements to enable them to safely travel.
An IATA outline explains, “The course empowers learners to request special services and facilities available from industry suppliers and provide assistance and advice to vast types of special needs travellers. They will understand the growing need in the special needs segment and learn how to grow their business through participation in the course.”
Learners will be required to study four separate units – The Special Needs Traveler, How the Travel Industry is responding, How Aviation is Responding and Air Emergency Assistance Services – which will require 20 hours of study to be undertaken within six months of enrolment.
Candidates will be allowed one attempt to successfully complete an online, two-hour, multiple-choice questions, final examination by achieving a 70% or higher passing grade. An IATA certificate will be awarded upon successful completion of the exam.