ACTE to Certify Travel Consultants

ACTE is committed to certifying travel consultants, citing a “strong demand” from buyers.  Exactly how this will work, and whether it will be effective, is unclear.

I spoke today with Ron DiLeo, ACTE’s new Executive Director, to better understand his thinking behind this previously announced initiative. The key points from our 30-minute chat are:

  1. Ron is quite convinced that there is a real need for this.
  2. The approach is still mostly undefined and open to input.
  3. There will  be specialist tracks, such as online booking tool or sourcing credentials.
  4. We agreed that you can’t equate travel manager experience with consulting ability.  Being good at one job doesn’t mean you’ll be good at the other.
  5. ACTE will likely check references as part of the process.
  6. Other firms, e.g., Sabre, may link their own consultant certification process to ACTE’s.
  7. The program is targeted to roll out early in 2011.

Ron spoke of the ACTE certification as being akin to a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  He wants ACTE to help those entering the field to find a place where they can get the basic tools and exposure they need to succeed.

Kudos to ACTE for wanting to improve the quality of a small but influential component of our industry. But I remain highly skeptical of this approach, no matter how well-intentioned it is.

I worry that any consulting certificate, from ACTE or anybody else, can create a false sense of security for the buyer.  It goes to the quality of the credentialing process. Let’s take a triangular view:

At one corner of the triangle, you have authoritative credentialing bodies covering professions like accounting, law, and medicine. They act as the profession’s gatekeepers. ACTE isn’t going there.

At the second corner, you see firms offering certification to consultants who simply attend a day or two of presentations.  Folks, that’s an attendance diploma, not a serious credential.

At the third corner, you see the top-tier management consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, Booz Allen, ATKearney, etc.) who – gasp – have no third-party credentialing process to certify their consultants.  Instead, they hire bright boys and girls from very good schools.  They assign them to work with more experienced consultants.  They weed out those that can’t meet their internal quality standards.

So how do the top-tier consultancies compete? On references and reputations, never on third-party credentials.  Why should consultants in the travel industry be any different?

Michael Tangney, Google’s travel manager and BTN’s European Travel Manager of the Year, weighed in on this issue earlier. He too puts the responsibility on the buyer for vetting the consultant’s capabilities. (See Michael’s full comment in the chain at the end of this post.)

Could ACTE deliver a real value-add credentialing process?  Something that would give buyers true peace of mind, or at least screen out the under-qualified consultants?  Perhaps.  But the risk of turning this effort into a diploma mill seems pretty high.

So what’s a better solution? To paraphrase your old-fashioned family doctor, just take two references and call me in the morning.

See this page for advice on selecting travel consultants.

See this page for a list of the better-known, not necessarily better-qualified, travel consultants.  Buyers, check their references.

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One Response to ACTE to Certify Travel Consultants

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention ACTE to Certify Travel Consultants | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement -- Topsy.com

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