Insider Secrets: How To Plan A Successful FAM TripJanuary 30, 2020 | By: Amalia Meliti
It’s a pillar of tourism marketing – the familiarization trip, called a FAM trip, for those in the know. A destination will host travel advisors, show them the highlights of the destination, take them backstage, introduce them to local culture, meet with local operators, and so much more.
It can be a lot, for all parties involved.
Remember that for travel advisors (née travel agents), it’s both work and fun. It’s a way for them to enjoy their job while also learning how to do it better once they return. The bottom line, however, is that FAM trips work!
If you’re promoting a destination and are in the process of planning one for travel advisors and reservation specialists, we wanted to help with some suggestions from our personal experiences. We’ve attended enough of these trips to know what advisors are looking for, and tastes are always changing. These aren’t hard and fast rules. Instead, they are solid considerations to keep in mind so that you can wow your guests as much as possible.
Free Up Time During the FAM trip
First and foremost, keep some free time on the schedule. It’s tempting to book every minute, back to back, to try and expose your advisors to everything in your destination. But beware. Travel advisors need to know and understand what the visitor experience is like, and wandering in a destination, even if just for an hour, is part of that.
Plan unstructured time between hotel visits or guided tours to make sure your travel advisors can tell their clients what it’s like to explore in the destination. Take them to shopping areas and well-traveled areas that, though they may seem a bit “touristy” to you, are areas of interests to them and their future clients.
Gauge Interest Beforehand
Get to know your travel advisors beforehand so that you can gauge their interest in your proposed itinerary. For example, are they looking for budget properties? Luxury experiences? Mid-range dining? Knowing what advisors want will help avoid wasting too much time in experiences that will not resonate with them. The ultimate goal is to guarantee that they leave the destination with a positive image and essential experiences that will help them sell your destination to their clients.
If you spend all of your time visiting luxury resorts, you’re limiting prospects for the agent, who would like to sell to a wider audience. Diversify as needed and tailor to your group. If everyone wants the same thing, great, but if not, make sure there’s a mix to satisfy all tastes.
Wine and Dine Carefully
Food is central to any destination, let’s be clear. Dining and, dare we say, wining your agents is always a positive practice and we encourage it. Still, do it carefully. There is too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to eating. Maybe three solid meals a day is not always the best practice.
Consider doing breakfast and dinner together as a group but then offer them some sort of lunch voucher useable during lunch hour (see Free Up Some Time, above!). This will allow agents to dine as they see fit, to seek out local cuisine on their own, and to enjoy the meals you share more fully without feeling like they are indulging too excessively. Not only does this give advisors the chance to feel empowered in the destination, to make their own decisions, but it also prevents wasting food – and money – on uneaten dishes. Who can argue against a green-minded approach, right?
Prep for Emergencies
However unlikely an emergency is, it’s always best to channel your inner Scout and be prepared. In a foreign country, it may be difficult for you to know what to do instinctively. If you’re an American accompanying a trip in the Caribbean, 911 won’t work. Or will it? This page shows that it’s not that simple. Instead, take some time to prepare a list of emergency numbers, hospital and police addresses, and even a few phrases in the local language should an emergency occur. Injuries, sicknesses, food allergies, and even petty crime could all befall a FAM trip, but with the proper preparation, you’ll be able to respond more proactively.
But you know what, sometimes you simply cannot be prepared. Who could have foreseen the recent New Zealand volcanic eruption or the closure of Thomas Cook in 2019? The most important thing is to be prepared mentally not to be prepared, and to keep a cool head and know how to find the information you need to keep everyone in your FAM trip from panicking. These trips are all about leaving a good impression on your travel advisor guests, and it might just come down to your personality in handling the crisis, however that may be.
Have a Plan B
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that’s fine. What better way for an advisor to step into the shoes of their client than to feel the uncertainty and excitement of the unexpected? But as an organizer, especially if you’re accompanying the FAM trip, you’ll want to make sure you have backups plans to avoid wasting time and turning off your advisor.
In a recent trip that Tahiti Tourisme organized for Canadian travel advisors to The Islands of Tahiti, for example, a FAM trip went awry when weather prevented a diving excursion, leaving the final day of a weeklong FAM trip hanging in the air. What to do? Fortunately, organizers were able to schedule a land excursion instead, offering advisors something new and exciting that they were thrilled to offer their clients. Having a Plan B will not only help you avoid a mini crisis, but it will make your problem-solving skills look all the more impressive.
Be Generous with FAM trip information
It’s easy to overlook certain things when you are preoccupied with wowing your advisors. Lavish meals, fancy hotel rooms, bespoke guided tours – your advisors won’t mind. Still, it’s the simple things that could make the difference. Do they have the itinerary in advance of packing their suitcase? Do they know where to get cash on arrival to your destination? Can they understand the local language? These are all potential oversights that get lost in the planning process.
Step back from your trip, put yourself in the advisor’s shoes, and think like a visitor. What would you want to know on day one? Knowing what will happen each day is a good start, so share with them. Surprises are fine, but advisors seem to have a favorite question each morning at breakfast: “So what are we doing today?” Let them know in advance so they can ask more important questions to get to know your destination more intimately. For most, it may be their first time in situ, so keep that in mind.
The list doesn’t end there, but at least now you’re in the frame of mind to think like a successful destination marketer.
Feeling overwhelmed by the intricacies of FAM trips? At DCI, we have 60 years of experience showing agents the destinations we sell, and we’re happy to work with you and your destination to learn the best practices that we employ. Contact Amalia Meliti at [email protected] for more information on how we can work to execute your next FAM trip.