Familiarization Trips

Ah yes, the notorious “FAM” tour.  This is one part of my enterprise that is difficult to explain to those outside the industry.  It’s hard to describe the events of one of these trips without it sounding like a boondoggle in the minds of family and friends. 

Even on the hotel and convention bureau side, FAM tours are being rebranded to a large extend.  I don’t remember the last time I was invited on one per se.  I’ve been invited on Client Appreciation events, Educational Experiences, Summits, Client Feedback Events, etc. and less for FAMs in recent days.  The truth is, if used correctly, these events, regardless of their name, can be invaluable in my work.

FAM tours can take a variety of shapes and sizes.  I’ve been on events from as few as single digit attendees, to groups of more than 200 persons.  Some are orchestrated by solitary hotels and others by the city’s convention bureau itself.  The one thing they have in common is that I leave the event knowing far more about a destination than I had in the past.  These are often very fast paced, action packed, weekends that involve luxurious accommodations, gifts, exceptional cuisine, entertainment, and the utmost in networking opportunities.  But all the while, we as clients are being educated. Some of these events involve all-day general session where we have an opportunity to learn about the brand, their focus, their direction, new property openings, expansions, renovations, and all the tidbits a company would want their clients knowing before they leave.

That is the very responsibility of the party who makes the event – make sure the clients leave with increased knowledge.  But it’s packaged in a very enjoyable, often times lavish, amenity-laden, experience that leaves the client feeling a sense of obligation to bring a positive return for the hotel or CVB. 

And that’s why we as customers need to heed our own responsibility.  I personally cannot accept an invitation from a destination or venue that my client’s can’t consider.  I pick and choose these events wisely.  If my clients aren’t going to give a second look to a particular area, it damages my own reputation in the hospitality community to accept freebies from hotels I can’t use.  Our responsibility goes further however.  I believe it is our responsibility to our own clients to accept these invitations when they make sense.  Is it not in my client’s interest for me to fully see a property or a city before I make recommendations?  It is my duty to memorize my experience so I can make an accurate assessment for my client. 

This two way street has a lot more business ramifications than it would appear to the outside observer.  It may look like a thoroughfare, adorned in bright lights, parties in the street, and a lot of wasteful spending.  But in truth, the street may look extravagant, but this street is one of the best ways to direct the flow of business.

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