In my last column, I explored familiarization (FAM) trips and how they are viewed within the travel agent community. This time around, we’ll discuss how you can get the most out of your FAM trip experience, including tips on managing information, and how to make a good impression on the supplier.
1. Perhaps the most important tidbit I could ever share: you can never be TOO professional, but you can most definitely be too un-professional. Remember you are representing not only your company, whether self-employed or an agency employee, but you are representing the travel agent community at large.
2. Everything else stems from that fact – the clothes you wear, the manner in which you behave, and what you do in the “off hours.” To start with, many of us receive FAM invitations addressed to the general agent community, but some of us are lucky enough to receive one addressed to us specifically, usually extended by the Business Development Manager. If you receive a personal FAM invitation, respond to the invite, even if it is to (politely) decline. When our clients don’t get back to us, it’s frustrating – why would we do the same to others?
3. Keep in mind your niche and your clients’ focus – if you work primarily with cruise clients, it does not make sense to take an Ireland land tour FAM. Leave the space available for another person who DOES have that focus.
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4. Don’t accept an invite unless you are CERTAIN you can make it. Oftentimes, these events are planned for a specific number of people, and it costs the host company money (with no return) to have you cancel your attendance. Yes, emergencies do occur, so if you are unable to make it, try to find a replacement to go in your place. The host will appreciate it!
5. A FAM trip is not a ‘cheap vacation’ for you! Don’t bring your spouse, your best friend, or your sibling unless the host gives permission. Don’t even think to ask if you can bring a guest – let the host extend the offer as part of the original invitation.
6. In line with that, most of the time a daily agenda of some type is provided. Expect to follow the agenda to the letter unless the host changes it. It is disrespectful to look at an agenda item and think, “that doesn’t apply to me” or “I have seen this before” and think it is okay to skip it. Your absence WILL be noticed.
7. Be on time for the day’s activities. It’s extremely rude to make the rest of the party wait on you. On a previous FAM I attended, two agents sharing a hotel room had become fast friends and had gone partying the night before, which is fine. What isn’t fine is they drank way too much, got hung over, and had to be woken up by a telephone call from the host asking if they were coming or not.
8. Don’t forget: you are there to network with your fellow travel professionals, and to learn about the host and their product. A FAM is a business trip, and should be treated like one. Often, poor behavior or outright un-professionalism can result in you being blacklisted from future FAMs. Also, you risk the reputation of your agency in specific, and the rest of the agent community in general.
What other tips do you have for your fellow travel professionals?