28 Feb

ABTA supports Members to make customers aware of Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice

ABTA is supporting Members’ staff on how to talk to customers about the availability of Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice, through new online training.

The travel advice training, which launches today, has been developed in response to Members’ requests for support and guidance about how and when to raise the matter of FCO travel advice, and how to respond to difficult questions customers sometimes may have about their destination.

FCO travel advice provides important information on destinations for customers on a range of topics including local laws and customs, medical advice (including necessary vaccinations), visa requirements, safety and security. 

The training, developed in conjunction with the FCO, aims to help Members’ staff make customers aware of the availability of FCO travel advice as part of the booking discussion. It builds on the support that ABTA already provides in monitoring FCO travel advice, world events, and travel health updates, to keep Members informed of any significant event or incident that may affect customers.

The FCO training is the second course to be introduced on ABTA’s Knowledge Zone, an e-learning portal which is part of ABTA’s commitment to keeping its Members informed about key industry issues and to support on-going learning and career development.  Members can access the Knowledge Zone either through ABTA’s new education and careers hub or directly at abta.com/abtaknowledgezone.

The new training uses real experiences from sales staff to illustrate best practice in providing FCO information over the phone and face-to-face.  There is also a short animation with examples of how to deliver this advice; which is based on real-life questions from customers and experiences of frontline staff.  It also provides practical guidelines on how to make FCO website information clear and visible in both online and print materials. 

Nikki White, ABTA Director of Destinations and Sustainability, said:

“In response to Members’ requests for support and guidance on discussing travel advice with their customers, we have introduced this new training to help Members’ staff share FCO advice in a clear and helpful way.  Customers are increasingly looking to their travel providers to help answer difficult questions about travelling to some destinations. While the FCO advice can help inform a traveller’s decision, only an individual can make the decision to book a trip, not the Government or their travel agent or tour operator. We hope this training will help ABTA Members confidently steer their customers towards FCO travel advice and, that this in turn will help their customers to travel with confidence.”

Sarah Kingsbury, Head of Customer Operations at Virgin Holidays, an ABTA Member commented:

“We live in a constantly changing world, so naturally customers have questions about the places they visit – whether that’s about vaccinations and medical advice, or safety and security. While travel agents or tour operators may not have all the answers, it’s important to make customers aware of the best and most up to date source of travel advice - the FCO.

Members of our customer operations team tested this training and were impressed by the practical elements, particularly how and when to talk about FCO travel advice and how to answer challenging questions – which can be a difficult conversation to have while selling a holiday.”

Philippa Makepeace, Head of Consular Assistance, Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:

“We’re delighted ABTA have produced these practical guidelines. We hope that this training helps travel companies and their customers make the best use of FCO advice. Every day the FCO offers up-to-date and detailed advice from around the world. We know that sales staff are often asked challenging questions about the destinations they are visiting. We hope this training supports the travel industry in helping customers make informed decisions about their foreign travel plans.” 

ABTA is also running an event for Members and the wider industry about communicating FCO advice to customers. The event is in London on 20 March 2018. See full event details here or visit: abta.com/events