THE DAYS are long gone when educationals were little more than just free holidays.
These days operators want to know that if they go to the expense of taking a group of agents abroad, they are going to get more sales as a result.
Hence British Airways Holidays has restructured its educational programme to make sure agents return from trips abroad with a full head of information, not only about the destinations visited but also about its full product range.
It has devised a programme of four Super seminars with places for up to 50 agents on each to replace the numerous smaller educationals it used to hold every year.
Each Super seminar will be led by three experts from the BAH team who will host two half-day workshops, one to give agents an overview of the operator and the other to provide in-depth training on BAH's product.
Other companies hosting each educational, including tourist boards and hotels, will be invited to speak at the first seminar.
Sales executive Pauline Mitchell who helped devise the Super seminars said they have been designed to give agents more confidence to sell BAH when they returned to the office. "In the past we felt that agents were not really getting the full benefit of educationals because when we had so many small groups we couldn't justify sending a team of experts on all of them," she said.
"With this new format we can make sure we have people from BAH on hand to give agents all the information they need about a destination and about our holidays."
The first Super seminar, which was held in Grand Cayman in June, was hosted by national account manager Linda Pyle, sales executive Marie MacDonald and Sarah Barnes, a controller within BAH's Caribbean telephone sales area.
Mitchell said that although there was a work element to the six-day trip, BAHstill made sure that agents had a lot of fun.
Activities outside the classroom included sightseeing, snorkelling, scuba diving, a submarine trip, barbecues, breakfasts on the beach, and a gala dinner.
One of the agents who went on the trip, Nikki Cromarty of Alba Travel in Inverness said: "The first three days were very busy - we were on the go from 8am to 10pm with only a couple of hours free time - but the last two days were much more relaxing.
"The atmosphere in the workshops was laid back so I didn't feel they were hard work, and I found it beneficial to see the island which I feel I can now sell much better."
One of the criteria for selecting agents for the Super seminars is that they should be first-time visitors to the chosen destination.
And, rather than selecting agents at random, BAH will be targeting those who have sold the highest number of its holidays to the country chosen for the educational. "The idea is not just to take them on a holiday, but to show them a destination for the first time so they can sell it when they get back," added Mitchell.
In order to judge the success of each trip, BAH will examine each agent's sales figures a month later to see if their performance has justified the expense.
The next Super seminar will be held in the Far East in September, followed by a two-centre in Vancouver and Seattle in October and a city break, possibly to Istanbul, in November.
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