The good, the bad and the ugly of FAM trips


Much more than a free or highly discounted vacation, FAM trips are invaluable learning opportunities for agents to get firsthand experience of a destination or a particular supplier. Spending time in destination getting to know what the tour operator or resort is like helps travel advisors better sell the product to their clients or even to know if it’s truly the right fit for their clients.

While Tom Gehrels of Adventure Coordinators says FAM trips are important, he says not all experiences are created equally.

“I am not a fan of the ‘let’s show you twenty hotels in a day’ type trips,” he explains. “They just leave you breathless and once you come home you have no idea what you saw. The best FAM trips allow you to join in as a customer and you are not treated any differently. That way you get to experience what your customers will experience. I always pick trips to new destinations and yes, they help me book more trips as clients are looking for that personal experience.”

Meanwhile, Judith Coates, the founder of Wired for Travel, believes FAM trips are one of the best ways to learn about a destination and a supplier’s product.

“I encourage the associates on my team to apply for FAMs whenever possible. Being on a FAM is a great opportunity to use social media to our advantage. When clients see that you are in a destination, it piques their interest,” she says. “There’s no amount of online training you can do that will give you the same expertise and confidence in knowing what would appeal most to your clients.”

In order to try to turn a FAM trip into a selling opportunity, she suggests following up with the people who commented on social media posts during the trip to offer to meet with them to discuss future travel plans. “Or to send out an email to your client list, letting them know you’ve just returned, and would love to set up a one-on-one meeting with them to talk more about the destination,” she adds. “It’s so much easier to sell a destination if you’ve been there.”

However, Coates thinks that tourist boards and travel suppliers need to step up their game when it comes to qualifying FAM candidates. “I want to travel on a FAM with like-minded travel advisors who are there to learn not get a free vacation,” she explains. “It also really helps when the FAM host clearly explains the expectations of conduct while on the FAM, and what is expected when the FAM is over — eg, posting on social media, providing appropriate tags to use on posts.”

Rather than joining a group FAM, Kemi Wells-Conrad, the founder and president of Wells Luxury Travel prefers individual DIY FAMs.

“I want to experience the resort more like a guest to see the vibe, see the regular menus,” she says. “I am a huge believer in our need to experience things firsthand. Being able to talk to your clients about specifics of a destination or property is invaluable. FAMs definitely help me sell more. I use social media to share my story — mainly on Instagram stories so I can save a highlight reel with details!”

Similarly, Val Burnett, the owner of Wanderlust Getaway, believes that bigger isn’t always better.

“FAM trips are an important part of investing in your yourself and your business. Personally, I find the smaller FAMs are more of a valuable experience, as they offer a deeper dive into the destination or resort and I find it creates more of a connection between the participants and suppliers of the FAM,” she notes. “By participating and building your knowledge and your support network, it helps you create a better experience for your client.”

Although she’s slowed down on the amount of FAM trips she takes, Kyla Coe of The Travel Agent Next Door based in Camrose County, Alberta, says they are essential to helping agents sell.

“I prefer small groups now, but everyone should make a list of prerequisites and get er’ done — a beach, Europe, an ocean ship, a river cruise, Disney, Hawaii, and some exotics,” she says. “One of my favourites that I plopped myself on was with Royal Irish Tours, experiencing their Best of the West itinerary in Southern Ireland. Some other samples are four river cruises. Educational experiences like that will pay you back 10-fold for years. You can answer when your clients ask ‘have you been there?’ Yes, I have, let me tell you…”

For Ola Ulewicz, owner and travel advisor, Jet Lag Voyages, Barrie, Ontario, it’s all about attending meaningful FAMs.

“What I mean by that is that you need to be selective with the trips. Of course they can all sound fun, however I think when doing a trip, it should really corner the style of travel you aim to sell. If you have a goal of selling luxury cruises, but you’re taking a Cuba FAM, I think it is counterproductive and also not fair to other advisors and the travel suppliers.”

Ulewicz believes agents should prioritize going on FAM trips that will be the most valuable to their business and those held by suppliers they know and will treat their clients right.

“It is so valuable to test the product you’ll be sending your travellers on — then you can most certainly give your travellers a real sense of what to expect,” she adds. “And I’ve always said, you should never trust a travel advisor that doesn’t travel — and FAMs are a great way to practice that mantra.”

Notably, Nancy McInnis, a travel consultant with Mayne Travel Services in North Bay, Ontario, sees FAM trips as one of the most valuable selling tools available to a travel agent.

“While in-house training sessions and webinars are beneficial, I truly believe there is no better way to sell and/or promote a destination than experiencing it first-hand,” she says.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Fisher, at travel advisor with Enjoy Travel, Midland, Ontario, tries to choose a FAM trip to a new location every year

“This is the only way to see for yourself all the amazing things the location can offer and when you return home you are even more passionate about speaking about it because you have seen it for yourself,” she says. “Yes, they help you sell and yes, they make you a better advisor for your clients.”

On the same note, Amy Davoli, the owner of Travitude Travel Group, says FAM trips are truly beneficial.

“I believe that the more first-hand knowledge a travel advisor has, the better you are at selling, the better you are at recommendations, and the better you are at providing the little things for clients,” she exclaims. “Whether you are learning about a supplier or a destination, all of it is valuable. Personally, I do a lot of self-led FAMs. I will also take every opportunity when I am traveling personally, to schedule a tour or site inspection. I like to personally travel with different suppliers so I am able to understand them better and I am able to see how my clients will experience their travels.”

While getting paid to jet off to incredible destinations, stay in swanky hotels, and experience all the coolest activities is one of the perks of the job, Roy Dong, an independent advisor with ONVIGO, says FAM trips are also super valuable for travel advisors.

“They allow us to understand hotel brands more deeply. We can learn all about different places, hotels, and activities so we can give the best advice to our clients,” he notes. “Plus, FAM trips are great for making connections. We get a chance to meet important people in the travel industry, which often leads to awesome deals for our clients. And the fun fact is – clients love knowing that their advisor has been to the places they’re going. So, are FAM trips valuable? Totally! Do they help us sell more? You bet! But most importantly, they’re a ton of fun and let us do what we love – explore the world and make our clients happy.”

Similarly, Brenda Dillon, a senior travel advisor with Marlin Travel in Saskatoon, SK, notes that there is nothing like first-hand knowledge of a destination to help sell your clients the exact dream they are looking for.

“If we can offer insider information on must-see but often overlooked sites or restaurants that we have experienced, then this makes for very happy clients,” she adds. “I would highly recommend new agents do as many FAM trips as possible. The more knowledge you have, the better agent you will be.”

Finally, Alyssa McGee, manager, corporate and leisure travel consultant at FERNWEH TRAVEL in Vancouver, B.C., believes it’s all about finding the right fit when it comes to FAM trips for agents and their business.

“Look for those opportunities that truly resonate with your interests and selling goals – whether it’s a destination you already sell or one you’re eager to explore further,” she says. “Think about experiences that align with the type of travel you specialize in, whether it’s luxury, adventure, or something else entirely. While I have great confidence in my ability to sell any destination with the support of my trusted partners, there’s something truly special about firsthand experience. Being able to immerse yourself in a destination or stay at a property firsthand adds an extra layer of authenticity to our recommendations. Plus, it’s just plain fun to explore new places and bring that excitement back to our clients.”

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