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Canada experts on pros and cons of fam trips – 25 May 2007

So you want to sell Canada but you don’t know where to start. What’s the answer? Get on a fam. But it’s not always that simple.

A recent round table discussion with seven Canada experts confirmed that fam trips are still a sticking point for operators and the destinations themselves.

All agreed they were a useful part of an agent’s training, but only under the right conditions. Read what the panel had to say about fam trips, and enter our competition to win an educational holiday for yourself and a friend.

The panel

Peter Allen, product director, TravelpackPeter Allen, product director, TravelpackMaggie Davison, managing director, CTCMaggie Davison, managing director, CTC
Josephine Wiggall Lazarus, UK director, Destination QuebecJosephine Wiggall Lazarus, UK director, Destination QuebecDerek Coke Kerr, managing director, Travel AlbertaDerek Coke Kerr, managing director, Travel Alberta
Kathryn Munro, sales and marketing manager, Air Transat HolidaysKathryn Munro, sales and marketing manager, Air Transat HolidaysMartin Jenner, director, All America HolidaysMartin Jenner, director, All America Holidays
Paul Ryan, executive director, Fairmont Hotels and ResortsPaul Ryan, executive director, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts 

PA: Years ago, young people may have had family in Canada, whereras now that’s less common, so there’s no reason why they might know the country that well. As tour operators, we’ve got to find the reason to get them to know about it.

MD: As part of our training programme we do have allowances to support fam trips. We’ve just taken a mega fam out to Quebec.

But I’m a big believer in agents creating their own trips. Fams do have value, but in the past we’ve put our specialists on a plane, held their hand, taken them for the hotel inspection they don’t actually experience the country as you would if you were on holiday. The fam is a slightly artificial experience.

JWL: Ironically, it can be our own suppliers who aren’t that helpful when it comes to organising fams. They don’t understand why we want to send these agents over. But we know they work. We took a hundred agents out to Quebec on our last trip and we’re still getting enquiries coming back from agents.

We’ve seen sales come back from that as they were inspired and motivated – and most of all surprised. But the challenge for me is finding the $10,000 or so it costs to put together. Because unlike certain destinations, we do not get it for free. We certainly don’t get flights for nothing.

DC: We’re very much a partnership organisation. I can’t fund a fam on my own, so we have to get our partners involved. We’ve got a very good relationship with Fairmont Hotels for example, but it’s getting the destination marketing organisations involved – they just don’t see the value. Especially the big gateways, Calgary or Edmonton they’re hotels are full anyway.

KM: We partnered with Travel Alberta on a fam trip this year and I think it’s a sad state of affairs if you can’t get support for airlift. It’s not the job of the CTC to fund flights, but the provinces should be there to help with arrangements and work with operators to make fams happen.

MJ: We’re actually happy with the amount of support we get from everyone. But it would be nice sometimes if we didn’t have to fix it all up.

JWL: We’ll do it. Come to us with sufficient notice and we’ll put the itinerary together, we can even pay for the ground handling, but we can’t fund flights that’s where we come unstuck.

PR: With all we’ve heard I think it’s appropriate to stress to agents there is a huge cost associated with these trips. The fact that we do it shows our dedication to the market and to the trade because these things come with a very high ticket price. We’re delighted to support on accommodation but there is a cost associated even with that.

KM: Our staff are all made to write reports on their return and also made to sign a waiver that if they leave within three months of taking a fam then they will have to pay back the cost of that trip. That’s the only way we’ll do it. In the past we’ve sent staff and it’s been great fun for them but we need to get our investment back on it.

TW: So agents need to know what’s expected of them that a fam shouldn’t just be treated as a jolly?

JWL: Absolutely. Because in the past we have had complaints. It’s rare, but we’ve taken agents out for dinner in the past and shown them a good time, then the next day they’re totally incapable. That’s where our industry sometimes falls down when people forget they are supposed to be professionals.

MD: American Express has something called the Pacesetter Programme, which is a combination of reward for exceeding sales levels and also familiarisation for a new destination so they can continue to expand their destination knowledge.

TW: And is this the future for fam trips – something to be offered as an incentive for high achievers?

MD: These are certainly the kind of trips I want to embrace more of an incentive and not just a series of hotel site inspections.

PA: Another thing we’ve realised is if someone wants to win a trip to Canada, they want to win a holiday, not a place on a fam. They want to take a partner with them, so we’ve started to introduce that this year.

 

Canada my way

Fancy dreaming up an itinerary for your ultimate Canada fam?

Imagine going where you want to go and seeing what you want to see. And better still, taking a friend with you. This is your chance, thanks to Travel Weekly and the CTC.

Working with the CTC’s trade partners, one lucky winner and a friend will be able to tailor make an itinerary to remember. All you have to do is tell us where you would go and who you would take with you.

Mark your postcard ‘Canada my way’ and send it to Travel Weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5AS by June 29.

Terms and conditions apply. Note: Winner chosen at random.

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