Fam Trips. They are the number one tool travel advisors want for educating themselves about a destination and/or a supplier. Makes sense, right?
You can take all of the online training you want. You can attend industry conferences and see a dozen sales presentations. But there is nothing like being in a destination, and testing out a supplier’s product, to be able to know whether or not those places, services and experiences are right for your clients.
So, when Travel Business Mastermind conducted a survey about the various services and support travel advisors receive from the industry, what I didn’t expect to learn was that the number one benefit agents want from a Fam trip is – wait for it – room inspections.
- @Richard D’Ambrosio
Yup. Room inspections. By a score 70% higher than the next closest answers – dining venue inspections and meeting with host staff.
Does that sound right to you? It doesn’t to me, especially in a time of COVID, when the emotional pull of travel is about exploring, connecting, relaxing. A resort’s room, a cruise line’s cabin, can impact some of our vacation experience, but so much of the joy of travel happens far outside the room where we lay our head down at night.
I closely study consumer travel research. I sit in on more than a dozen online consumer travel supplier Facebook fan pages. What most people talk about, and ask about, are things like dining venues, recreation activities, spas and excursions – the “doing” of travel.
Yet there it was in our survey of 381 travel advisors, about 60% of whom have been in the industry ten years or more! Yes. Experienced travel advisors, saying that on a 1-8 scale, where 1 is the most important, room inspections averaged a score of 2.5. Dining venues came in at 4.3 and meeting with host staff scored a 4.4 ranking.
Why do you think this is? Am I wrong about room inspections? How high a priority is it for your clients to know how pretty the rooms are and what the commode looks like? How difficult would it be for you to show your clients by sending them to a file of photos you store on Drop Box?
Help Richard Understand. Comment Below
Now, I can understand the need for a travel advisor to know where certain rooms are located, what the views are like, or whether the rooms have a swim up pool attached or are part of a club floor with added amenities. All of that impacts the overall enjoyment a guest has on a ship or at a resort.
But how easy would it be for me to find that out from a resort’s website or sales collateral? Do I need to spend the precious time I dedicate to a fam trip traipsing from one floor to another, at three different resorts in a single day, photographing and videotaping hotel rooms?
When I spoke with a group of experienced travel advisors before writing this column, they told me they saw very little value in room inspections (remember, nearly 60% of the respondents to this survey were in the business ten years or more.) And they complained that in a single-day multi-resort itinerary, the rooms start to meld into one big blob of hotel rooms.
Yes. For some advisors, building their knowledge about room types and claw foot tubs, holds some value. But after a few years of these room inspections, how much value are successful travel advisors really receiving from the way we conduct fam trips today?
And to add a little more meaning to this debate, understand that 37% of the respondents to our survey said that they spend $500-$999 per group fam trip, while 28% spent over $1,000 per group fam. (Costs are even higher for individually organized fams.)
If a travel advisor goes on three group fams a year, they’re investing way more than $3,000 on this part of their education. That’s on group fams alone. A large percentage of travel advisors also book their own site inspections on individual fam rates.
I don’t know about you, but I would want an awful lot more for my money than a personal impression of the resort’s rooms.
What Should Advisors Receive
Frankly, I’m all about the Benjamins, but preferably the Chases. (Salmon P. Chase, President Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, was on the $10,000 bill when it was readily in circulation.)
If I am going to take 4-5 days and thousands of dollars to theoretically supercharge my sales and marketing skills for a destination and a handful of lodging properties, then room inspections would be extremely low on my priority list.
That all said, according to our Travel Business Mastermind Advisor Survey, the industry is getting a lot of things right about fams. For example, three quarters of our respondents said there was some kind of formal training during the fam. More than half of the respondents said that the social they posted during their fam resulted in sales leads.
The most heartening figure was that 82% of respondents reported that host representatives were on hand during the fam, and regularly discussing ways that these advisors could build their business.
A Man on a Mission
This may sound crazy, but I’m on a mission to improve fam trips. They ARE the most important tool for travel advisors to educate themselves about the right products and services for their clients, and to promote those places and suppliers while they’re there.
They are a unique opportunity to get the feel for a property, and different sections of a resort, to see and feel how they might be right or wrong for an ideal client.
I just think fams need more business structure to maximize the time and money that everyone invests in these trips. For example, I wonder what the in-market training was that our respondents mentioned. How were the advisors prepped for the trip to maximize what they would get out of it? Were they instructed on how to visit the property to get the most out of it for their ideal client?
So many questions. Do you have any answers for me? If so, help this man on his mission to make fams more powerful for the hosts and the guests. Especially now in a time of COVID-19.
Richard D’Ambrosio is a master storyteller who, for more than 30 years, has helped leading brands like American Express, Virgin Atlantic Airways, the Family Travel Association (FTA), and Thomas Cook Travel tell their stories to their customers, the media, and employees. A professional business coach and content marketing consultant with his own firm, Travel Business Mastermind, Richard most recently has worked with The Travel Institute, Flight Centre USA and a variety of host agencies and tour companies, helping entrepreneurs refine their brands and sharpen their sales and marketing skills. Richard writes regularly about retail travel agencies, social media & marketing, and business management.