Pic: Daniel Case
True Fam Trip Tales:
- The agent who took home all the premium alcohol from his hotel room, as he figured it was “free” for him to drink at the resort so it must belong to him.
- The agent who only came on the fam in order to buy a dress she saw a few weeks earlier when on a personal trip to the destination.
- The husband of a travel consultant who revealed that he was in fact a taxi driver but technically he didn’t lie on the fam application as he was involved in “travel.”
- The agent who had never been on a fam, didn’t bring business cards or proper dress, and did not take one note or photo during the entire trip.
It kind of makes you want to say “Grrrrrrrrrrrr.” And yet, with very few exceptions, fam hosts seem to be reluctant to talk about how to get the most of out a fam and how to maximize the ROI (Return on Investment) from the point of view of the suppliers and the travel agents.
For the tour operator or tourist board, a fam is an investment in time, money, and personnel in order to have the participants experience a destination as much as possible, for the purpose of promoting it to their clients.
But it’s also an investment for the travel agent, the agency, or the host agency. You are taking a break from selling in order to embark on a professional development adventure for the purpose of offering your clients your first-hand knowledge: suggestions and recommendations to make their holiday sing.
Fam trips are business opportunities where travel agents can expand their repertoire of destinations, or return to a familiar destination, in order to engage with supplier services on a one-on-one basis, establish relationships with local experts, discuss particular client needs, and lay the foundation for future client “value” experiences.
Here are eight tips to help you organize an action plan and get the most out of the fam experience.
1. Evaluate what’s offered.
Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to sign on. Where is the fam going? Is this in your present or future book of business? How long is the fam? What’s on the itinerary? Is this specifically aimed at travel consultants or is it just a slightly discounted group tour? Are there educational components to the trip or is it just a sightseeing excursion? Who is operating the trip and how have other travel consultants felt about their fams in the past? Evaluation makes you think before you send in the application form.
2. Ask key questions.
If the tour operator or tourist board is serious about attracting travel consultants who will sell the destination, they will welcome your questions. So no need to be intimidated. Your goal is to find out if this is a legitimate venture that will accrue to your business’s bottom line and your revenue stream. If it doesn’t then it’s a waste of time.
3. Plan the basics
Whether you currently sell the destination or you plan to, you need an Action Plan—a written document that covers what you hope to accomplish. At the very basic level, you want to get a comfort level at the destination so you can sell it with ease and confidence. You need to know hotels (those included as well as others in the area), restaurants, food choices and specialties, attractions, walkability, health and safety concerns, public transportation, activities (arts, festivals), language concerns, culture, history, markets, bargaining (if applicable), currency (ATMs), climate, weather, seasonality and more. Make a checklist of what you need this fam trip to do for you.
4. Number your objectives
Set reasonable and achievable goals for each fam trip. This will not only give you a sense of success but also provide you with some alternatives to suggest to your clients. Examples: Visit three four-star and three five-star properties. Over the course of the trip, eat at five restaurants and order different foods each time; collect 25 business cards; experience two “adventure” activities; sit on three beaches; have a spa treatment at two spas; speak with four local shopkeepers; take one bus or subway.
5. Project future needs
Fam trips are occasions to bring your client’s concerns along for the ride. This includes special (niche) interests: The Clarks love to visit wineries and sample craft beer; the Douglases love live theatre; the Crawleys are photographers; the Hendersons want to chill out and visit nature. It also includes current concerns: that island wedding that the Johnstones want. Here’s your opportunity to meet the wedding planners and the caterers at the resort.
6. Stack the deck
The secret of your success goes beyond your skills, experience, and personality. It also lies in the contacts you’ve made and maintained over the years. This is your treasure chest—your secret horde—that you can refer to when you need that special favor, anywhere in the world. But the deck of business cards you collect is only useful if there is a relationship attached to each. So when you meet someone, take a few minutes to get to know them, smile, look them in the eye, acknowledge their value to you and your future bookings, and affirm your value to them in a partnership scenario where you send them bookings.
How can you use these contacts? An invitation for your client to attend a sold-out event; a behind-the-scenes tour; a special occasion where you need flowers and wine delivered to the clients’ room or an upgrade; an unusual request from a client (“We want to work in a rice paddy for a day, or spend time with a Michelin chef. Is there any way you can arrange for us to meet the architect who designed the building?”)
7. Document the experience
Unless you have an eidetic memory (the complete power of recall, like Dr. Spencer Reid on the show Criminal Minds), you will need to take notes or voice notes, photos and videos, as well as brochures and business cards. When you return home, organize your materials for easy access. Post a short article in the company newsletter; update your social media channels; let the tourist board know of your adventures; do up a press release and send it to the local newspaper. Celebrate your experience as publicly as possible.
8. Learn to teach
Just because YOU went on the fam doesn’t mean that your office mates can’t support your sales. Put together a short presentation with photos or videos. Give a synopsis of the trip, as well as your thoughts about which clients in your database would enjoy travelling there. Remember that your knowledge base includes destinations that you never have visited—but know about through networking with trusted colleagues.
Fam trips are unique professional development opportunities for travel professionals and deserve to be regarded as such. Take the appropriate steps to maximize the benefits to your clients and your career.