Tips for Getting the Most Out of a FAM Trip

What is a familiarization—or FAM—trip all about?

We can all agree that firsthand experiences through visits are irreplaceable when it comes to learning about a destination or a specific product. Both governments and suppliers, including cruise lines and tour operators, frequently organize sponsored trips called FAM trips, also known as educational trips. These trips are offered to genuine travel advisors and other professionals in the travel industry at a reduced rate, aiming to familiarize them with the travel destination or product.

There is no better time to schedule your FAM trips than right now because your clients expect YOU to know the best destinations, cruise ships, attractions, and accommodations to recommend.

If you want to jumpstart your trip planning—and you have access to our Premium Library—be sure to view the timeless and informative, previously recorded session, A Master Class on Making FAM Trips Work by Anne M. Smith, CTIE. If you don’t have Library access yet, there is no time like the present to check out the Premium Library and treat yourself to the vast array of 200+ webinars, with more being added monthly.

What are FAMs? They usually are short, concentrated learning trips in a business format and frequently are offered as an incentive by suppliers or an agency owner as a reward for performance. More often, however, travel advisors take FAMs so they can inspect hotels and restaurants, sample attractions, experience local culture, and learn about the sponsoring companies. This allows travel advisors to be able to sell those products more effectively.

What should you know about a FAM? Sometimes, the best tips come from you, and we like to share those when we see them. In her Facebook blog, Travel Agent Hacks, Lene Heltberg Minyard, CTA asked agents what factors they consider in deciding whether to go on a FAM and what makes FAMs so valuable.

There were many responses, but Margie Jordan, CTA Vice President of Agency Education at CCRA Travel Commerce Network, made many important points and provided insightful questions for travel advisors to ask before embarking on a FAM/Educational Trip. Here are excerpts from her post:

  • Is it a destination that is represented by your agency, something you actively market and sell or have in your existing business plan to add as a new destination?
  • Are the properties you’ll see ones that match the quality of hotels/resorts you sell?
  • If you go, have you mapped out key questions, goals, things you need to know or see?
  • What’s your plan to market the knowledge you gain from the FAM? Blog posts, articles, videos, newsletters, photos?
  • How will you turn what you learned into marketing that converts?
  • Do you have any clients interested in going who can follow your journey?
  • Does the cost of the FAM fit within your marketing budget for education and training?
  • If all of this is a go, the FAM is of huge value to you and your business. Set up a series of automated social posts so you can actually work and learn without the pressure of sharing up-to-the-minute updates on your trip. Perfect to schedule are posts like, “Today, we’re on our way to Florence.” Include a few things to know about Florence with a great photo. At the end of every day, I make a recording of all the things I saw, learned or experienced. It’s a great way to remember the small details. Send that recording to a transcriptionist, and you have the beginning of some great content. FAMs should be strategic and can work really well in your marketing if you plan well. Research where you’re going, the tourists spots you’ll see, the history of the region, hotels close to those spots that you may not see during your FAM, etc.

What is the behavior requirement during a FAM? We recommend observing proper professional etiquette while on FAM trips. This means you should:

  • Plan to immerse yourself in the local culture to really experience a destination.
  • Be kind to everyone with whom you come in contact because you represent yourself, your agency, and your country. 
  • Don’t overindulge because this surely will detract from your learning and harm your reputation.
  • Show proper respect and demonstrate professionalism by dressing appropriately. (Pro Tip: FAM trips can be very long days of walking and standing. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes and attire.)
  • Always exhibit professional behavior because this is a business trip, not a vacation.

In its article, Guidelines for FAM Trip Behavior from HBAA, Business Travel News Europe reported on a white paper about FAM etiquette created by England’s Hotel Booking Agents Association. These are some of the HBAA’s top FAM trip etiquette tips for agents:

  • Always respond to an invitation.
  • Don’t participate in trips that are not relevant to your clients’ requirements.
  • Once acceptance is confirmed, it is compulsory. If you can’t attend, make every effort to find a replacement.
  • Don’t assume your immediate family is invited to participate. This is a business trip. 
  • Make sure staff members are insured for overseas trips and for activities.
  • Be courteous to your hosts.

In short, FAM/educational trips can provide in-depth, first-hand knowledge about the products you have in your inventory. Use that wealth of information to customize trips and demonstrate your immense value to your clients!

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