If you ask any of my Facebook friends they will tell you that I lead such a glamorous life as a travel agent! Why, just this month alone I jetted off to Cancun and Jamaica – posting beautiful pictures of the scenery I was taking in – what’s not to love? They picture me in these distant locales sitting on the beach with a frosty drink in hand…relaxing with the waves lapping at my feet. Of course in their minds, I got there for free as well. I even had an old classmate contact me today to ask how his daughter that “loves to travel” could get into the business!
Of course I posted beautiful pictures while I was away – that’s how I subtlety remind friends and clients I am in the travel industry. However, all of us know that these trips were anything but a vacation! The reality is that I was on a FAM trip in the wonderful Riviera Maya region as the guest of one resort chain where I had extensive training on their destination-wedding product. I also had the opportunity to visit all 8 of their properties. I also took advantage of the “off time” during those days by arranging to do my own site visits to 7 more resorts. I haven’t had the chance to travel to the region since 2009, and a lot has changed – I had to make the most of my “not free” airline fare!
I then had one week home to furiously try to play catch-up for my clients; and then off I was to Jamaica as the guest of another resort chain – where we again had in-depth destination wedding training and 6 resort tours on the agenda. Once again, I (and several other agents) took advantage of the “downtime” to travel to a 7th resort in the chain that was not on their pre-planned itinerary.
If you are keeping track – that is 22 resorts in the span of about 8 days over a 3 week period!
However, the undeniable truth is – although it was not anyone else’s idea of a vacation – I had a blast! I just loved getting the chance to take in the vibe of each resort – to me that is the very best way to know which one fits which clients. I took copious amounts of photos that will certainly not win any photography contest, but will serve as a great reminder of what each resort had to offer.
After concluding each site visit, I furiously took lots of notes. I didn’t worry about how many rooms or pools it had – that can be easily pulled from the resort fact sheet. No, my notes were all about how the resort made me feel. For instance one resort that I actually sell quite a bit (but had never visited) I really liked – but I had not anticipated how “hot” it would feel with such white buildings and low lying vegetation. Initially that put me off. But that was mitigated by the service from the staff, which was stellar. I also was not aware that there was a major resort being built adjacent to the hotel–that will definitely color my choice of rooms at that property. At another resort, although the property was OK – what put me off a bit was the quality of the interaction I witnessed between the staff and guests. All of this is information I could never gather from brochure, photos, and a fact sheet; and is precisely why I feel the investment of time and money to get there is essential to do my job properly.
Maybe one of these days I will get to see these places on a real bona fide vacation and just relax by the pool…nah…who am I kidding?
How do you approach your FAM trips? Do you look for a vibe as I do, or are you more pragmatic? What makes a good trip? A bad one? Let’s talk!
Barbara Oliver is a 8 year veteran of the industry operating two independent travel companies All Together Now Travel and Romantic Journeys (both currently being redesigned) in the Los Angeles Area. In addition to her agencies she is theLos Angeles director of NACTA as well as a regular attendee and frequent panelist at many trade shows. She has her CTA from The Travel Institute and her ECC from CLIA.