Hehehe…like I need to offer up a definition of what a FAM trip is but just in case you haven’t gotten the memo…or you’re my mother reading my blog for the first time….What is a FAM trip? (asked nobody in the travel industry ever)
Yep, I know industry professionals who got into this business for the FAM trips alone. No question, attending a FAM trip is probably one of the best gigs in town. And FAM trips are often the reason why advisors use “air quotes” to describe business trips.
As in….Sorry, I can’t make your baby shower, Brenda. I have to go on a ✌️business trip✌️ to the Maldives.
All joking aside, if you are reading this blog, you are serious about growing your travel business and as much as attending a FAM trip is a wonderful perk of this industry, a week away from the office still needs to be measured. Last I checked, it’s tough selling and making money when you are poolside, margarita in hand, doing the Cha Cha with the resident merengue band.
This article is all about how to get the most value from your FAM and how to ensure you continue to get invitations to the best FAMs on the roster. I have been both a participant on many a FAM and I’ve hosted equally as many – enough that I have some helpful conclusions that I’d like to share.
And right now, post-COVID, both suppliers and tourist boards are offering FAMs like hotcakes, trying to draw sellers in and reignite the market, so this topic is very timely.
FAM TRIP DOS
Create a checklist in advance
It’s always good to go into any FAM trip with a list of things you want to check out, especially when it comes to doing hotel site inspections. Having a checklist will ensure you are comparing each hotel against the same master list.
You’ll generally get a pre-list of the hotels you’ll be inspecting so it’s good to do a bit of preliminary research before the site inspection. I always take note of the rack rate to make a fair comparison.
For example, the entry-level room at the Holiday Inn probably doesn’t compare to the entry-level junior suite at the Mandarin Oriental. But there is also a 1000 USD / night price difference too. When making the judgement call, do those extra fluffy bathroom slippers tucked away in the closet equal the hefty price difference?
Don’t waste your time writing down how many rooms or restaurants each hotel has. Those are things you can always Google.
Instead, be sure to ask the sales manager hosting the site inspection this question…
“Tell me something about your hotel that I can’t find on Google.”
These tiny soundbites will help you establish yourself as someone who knows what she is talking about when discussing options with future clients.
I remember when checking out leBua at State Tower in Bangkok. The general manager gave me an insider tip that booking the clubrooms over the regular staterooms was actually the best deal. Given the clubrooms had so many additional benefits like all-day dining, they far outweighed the nominal price difference. I would never have gone that granular using Google.
And be sure to note the benefits of the hotel’s location. What tourist attractions and amenities are within walking distance?
Make connections with everybody
The general managers
You definitely want to make connections with the general managers of the hotels. I cannot tell you how often I’ve reached out when I had VIP guests. Don’t feel weird about it. In my experience, I’ve always found that general managers are so service-oriented, that they’ll bend over backwards to create a memorable experience. Even a welcome note from the GM can go a long way with your clients.
Most FAMS will include at least one industry journalist. Get to know them and pick their brains. They may have connections to editors that they can introduce you to for your own press later down the road.
And sure, your fellow FAM participants may be competitors but it’s always good to expand your network, no matter what. We travel professionals need to stick together.
Put together a shot list
Thank goodness for digital images. Don’t limit the number of photos you take. And approach a FAM trip as a content creator. The better variety of images you can shoot, the more it will help
Don’t just think about the obvious shots either – the ones normal travellers would take. Think about potential images that you could use as background on your website or for your Instagram reels. And try to also think about your brand colours when it comes to shooting. My entire IG feed is filled with my signature RED (hex code 9D271F 😉)
Come with a shot list. Of course, you’ll want photos of rooms, gym, pool, and spa but start each photo session with a shot of the exterior, the hotel name and a pic of the GM’s business card too. After hotel inspection 99, they start to look very similar.
Take more photos, AND VIDEO, than you think you’ll need.
Take copious notes
If you are quick with your pen, it might make sense to take notes that way but I generally use the voice memos feature on my smartwatch so I can keep up.
And if you can, before you retire for the night, try to force yourself to transfer the notes into a FAM journal.
It’s not always possible. FAM trips are generally jam-packed with activities. It’s not every day that FAM hosts get face to face with the industry’s top sellers. In my experience, they’ll want you to see it all. And with that kind of hectic schedule, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll start to forget things.
Book extra nights if possible
And because FAMs are typically so busy and there isn’t a lot of free time to explore yourself, if possible, see if you can arrive a day or two early or stay on later to do your own site inspections and wander around. Not all FAM hosts will allow this but it’s worth asking.
Just remember to pre-book any site inspections. Otherwise, you could be wasting valuable time waiting in the lobby for someone to show you the property.
I would never be so bold as to tell you what to pack. Plus, I’m the worst packer ever BUT I will say this…you heard that popular packing advice…”Lay everything out and then divide it by two and take only that?”
Well, the opposite is true when it comes to business cards. Whatever you think you are going to need…double it and then add a few more for good measure.
The travel industry still relies heavily on business cards. Make sure you have enough.
Be sure to tell your audience about your upcoming trip. Get them excited too. Why not even create some extra buzz by creating a contest around your FAM? Maybe you could have some fun with a “Where’s Waldo” contest.
This would incite your clients to keep an eye out for your social media posts – heck, even ask them to set their social media notifications so they don’t miss anything and then ask them to engage in some way. Get creative.
During the trip
Post as often as possible. Don’t worry so much about how you look or that your stories and reels aren’t fancy enough…your clients are going to love to see you in destination. And honestly, raw-unedited footage is far more relatable anyway.
After the trip
Three things you can do after your FAM trip
- Follow up with all the contacts that you made immediately. Connect over social media and through Linkedin. Send “thank you” notes to the FAMs hosts and hotel sales managers.
- Reach out to the FAM trip host and ask if there are any promotions they have on offer that you can send to your audience. I’m always amazed that few agents or suppliers use this strategy. You’ve just been on an amazing experience. Your enthusiasm is at an all-time high, there is never going to be a better time to go out in the market with a hot deal that you can’t stop talking about.
- Finally, host a webinar for your audience, using the hook of whatever promotion you were given by the supplier and run with that.
FAM trip DON’TS
Ugh. I almost hate to say this because, of course, if your air-con is dripping, and it’s a hazard…then yes, say something. But other than that…unless your hair is on fire…let it go.
Suppliers talk. The industry feels a bit incestuous. Once you get labelled as difficult, it could very well ruin future opportunities.
it’s a FAM trip and there will most likely be alcohol, LOTS of it. If you have a reputation for not being able to hold your drink…better to be safe and just avoid it altogether. This might sound like obvious advice, but from my experience, there is always that one agent doing shots at the bar at 2 AM.
Miss roll-call and/or be late
Yes, there will be late nights, but you really cannot afford to miss your morning wake-up call. A FAM trip can feel like a vacation, but it’s definitely not. And generally speaking, planned events are rarely optional. You don’t get to skip things that you might feel aren’t of interest to you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to bail out of the origami demonstration at 8 AM but I don’t. That’s just not cool.
Spend the night in the cruise staff cabins
The last thing you ever want is to be blacklisted from the FAM trip circuit. Trust me…it happens. But the good news is, conversely, the reverse is true too. Once you get recognized as a top seller, you’ll get multiple invitations.
Now your turn…what’s your top FAM trip tip. Leave it in the comments below.