A new program called Allways Tourism is being developed to improve the quality and services of Greek travel agencies so they can compete more effectively in the international market. The program will focus on continuing education for employees, business development, improving the work environment and reducing regional inequality through information technology (market place, e-learning).
The program targets travel agency employees, particularly those with the least job security, such as women, employees over 45 years of age or with lower levels of education, as well as mid to very small sized businesses.
“Our goal is to help travel agents adapt to the changing requirements of the global tourism industry — to transform them into travel consultants,” explains Anna Anifandi, manager of the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies, the association responsible for coordinating the partnership of 15 organizations working on the program.
Ms Anifandi says that this multi-faceted program would address every aspect of the travel agency business, and that each partner would participate in the area of its expertise. Partners include non-profit agencies such as the National Center for Social Research, the University of the Aegean and the National Tourism Organization, as well as private enterprises.
Studies will be conducted to identify employee-training needs and to design educational programs that encourage the use of information technology. Training will include marketing and promotion strategies for tourism products, and the use of quality assurance programs.
The educational programs will be taught through distance learning coursework combined with seminars, workshops, and on-the-job training. Certificates will be awarded for successful program completion.
The Allways Tourism program also will include the creation of an electronic registry of travel agencies, a computer network and portal to connect individuals and businesses within the sector. An Information Center will be established to provide information on the latest developments and trends in tourism, and a forum for those employed or seeking work.
According to Ms. Anifandi, the Allways Tourism program is expected to begin next year, but development of the program is already underway. Last month, members of the Allways Tourism partnership met with representatives of similar initiatives in Portugal and Italy. The meeting was an opportunity to share know-how and technology in the transportation and logistics sector on an inter-country level.
Beginning this fall, two pilot projects, designed to serve as models for developing cultural (Thrace) and athletic tourism (Crete), are expected to be up and running.
The Allways Tourism program has a budget of 1.2 million euros, and is being funded jointly by the EU’s EQUAL program and the Greek Ministry of Employment and Social Protection. EQUAL is an initiative to increase the quantity and quality of jobs, and to stop discrimination in the workplace.