Fam trips: how to behave on travel industry educationals

Jackie David looks at the dos and don’ts of travel industry fam trips, and Phil Cornelius tells us about a fantastic fam with Ski Lagrange

Fams can be fun, educational and a valuable means of cementing supplier/agent partnerships.

But the blurring of lines between business needs and personal time can mean neither host nor guest gets the most out of the experience.

And, in the worst case scenarios, the result can damage those relationships, leaving agents feeling they have wasted their valuable time and suppliers feeling they have wasted a lot of money.

“Fam trips can be a huge investment,” said Peter Ducker, executive director at the Hotel Booking Agents Association.

“We know that venues and agencies are more concerned with measuring the return on investment of time and money they spend, and we want to encourage them to focus on what they hope to gain from the exercise,” he said.

With this in mind, the HBAA has produced Familiarisation Etiquette, a blueprint for professional behaviour when on, or hosting, an educational.

The paper includes dos and don’ts for both hoteliers and agents, with advice on everything from accepting invites, to who should be approached to go in the first place.

Of course, fams have existed as long as hotels and venues have wanted to showcase their facilities, so why is it now necessary to set out such protocols? Have agents and suppliers lost sight of the importance of business etiquette?

Ducker said: “No, not really. I think the shift has been in the professionalism both of agency businesses and of hotel sales people – and this is exactly why we produced the guide. The premise being that the HBAA is promoting professionalism and best practice in the industry.”

“It’s been widely welcomed and well received. Everyone knows this is not about being killjoys, but about making our industry a better and more productive sector.”

This year, Lagrange Holidays organised its first fam in nine years. Managing director Alison Willis said she managed to tick all the right boxes before seeing the guide, and said it would prove useful.

“Hopefully it will mean more operators will be confident in organising fam trips and more agents will be able to get the most out of the trips they go on. Maybe the etiquette guide could even be extended to cover general industry events in the UK, such as roadshows.”

Despite the need for prudence across the industry, the investment made in fams will continue to be worthwhile – if agents and hosts stick to the rules of engagement.

Organising a fam trip

Lagrange Holidays knows the benefits of a well-organised fam. Earlier this year it took six Advantage agents to French resort Champagny en Vanoise – its first educational from the UK for nine years.

“One of the reasons we decided to try this trip was that Lagrange’s range of accommodation has expanded dramatically over the past few years,” said managing director Alison Willis. “We felt we needed to show these off to agents and give them a taste of where Lagrange was heading in terms of its own upmarket self-catering accommodation.”

For Advantage agent Phil Cornelius of Ryedale Travel, it was an unforgettable trip. “I’m sure most of us who work in travel ask ourselves ‘why’ on occasions. Ungrateful clients, incompetent tour operators and mindless bureaucracy are all part of the daily grind for us poor agents.

“Then, all of a sudden a trip comes along and we remember why we still haven’t got around to applying for a proper job,” he said. “The first educational for UK agents organised by Ski Lagrange was one such occasion.”

Willis said: “Hopefully, the agents we took enjoyed the trip. As a positive experience it makes holidays much easier to sell. We enjoyed it and felt that we got to know everyone, their clientele and how they sell.”

Fam trip etiquette: top tips

For agents

  • Respond to invitations regardless of whether you accept.
  • Don’t accept invites that are not relevant to clients’ requirements.
  • Once you’ve accepted an invite, attendance is compulsory. If you can’t make it, give at least 48 hours’ notice and try to find a replacement guest.
  • Partners or immediate family are only allowed on trips by prior agreement with your host.
  • Get your manager’s permission before accepting a trip
  • Staff under 18 may attend mandatory fam trips at the discretion of the operations manager and hotel. Alcohol laws must be observed.
  • Make sure staff are insured for overseas trips and high-risk activities such as bungee jumping.

For hosts

  • Specify how many staff can attend, with or without partners.
  • Make clear what is included in the trip (eg drinks, travel).
  • Liaise with the agency to ensure you are inviting the person most relevant to your venue.
  • Advise on your policy on no-shows/late cancellations.
  • Ask about dietary requirments and be sure to observe them.
  • Provide a guest list beforehand if several agents are attending.
  • Give comprehensive instructions, including full itinerary/agenda, dress code, and directions.

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