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travel tips


FAM Tours…Great Time Savers T


BY KATHLEEN SOMERS


he travel industry is fun. Oh sure, there is hard work too, but lets face it…it’s all about creating fun and memorable experiences for people, and that means knowing how to have fun. What a great profession! And one of the best tools for doing just that is the familiarization tour, or FAM. I’ve been asked surprisingly frequently “what is a FAM?” So for those of you who haven’t thought about it for a while, and for those who need to know, lets take a closer look.


The Basics Familiarization tours, or FAMs, offer a method for Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus (CVB) to showcase and highlight what they have to offer. It is an event planned and designed to attract tourism and to help you plan and sell your tours. The best part is, it offers you a personal experience before bringing your group. You would not buy a pair of shoes before trying them on if you did not have to!


FAMs can be organized for either group or individual trips. Typically the one sponsoring the event arranges the itinerary, including meals, lodging and schedules, in advance. Participants are escorted around to the attractions in a time frame designed to get as much information in as possible. The FAM experience offers a taste of what lies in store for your actual group tour. You will learn about the city, attraction, or area, in a more condensed manner and it helps you to build important relationships that makes your tours such a success. For instance, while you might bring your group to an amusement park for a day, on a FAM it is possible you might only drive into the park but never actually get off the bus. Still your host will see to it that you have all the necessary information to return home and sell that


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particular attraction to a group. Also, it is likely you will be privileged to the full experience in some of the other stops. FAMs are not just drive-bys. CVB’s offer planners a wealth of information on a destination, especially since they can introduce their partners within the community. It’s a chance to experience those unique and less advertised options for your groups.


Who should attend? FAMs are by invitation only; in that event, CVB’s are looking for those with the best record of booking a group tour. Some are open to the industry, and a great opportunity to scout out possible new trips. Tour operators, Bank Club Directors, group planners, travel writers, and other group leaders are all good choices. It is also appropriate to include the person in your company who books such outings, but may not actually go on them. In other words, anyone who can benefit from attending is a likely candidate.


Advantages of attending a FAM When you visit a FAM destination you have the advantage of meeting with the CVB representative first hand and getting their input on what works or doesn’t for groups. Plus they are a valuable resource for recommending group-friendly restaurants and hotels. You’ll gain


a better feel for what your group will experience and the challenges or obstacles you may need to overcome prior to arriving with your own group. You’ll also get a better sense of timing for the tour, and may even find new ideas you never would have considered prior to the visit. Your host might also offer wonderful marketing collateral to entice people to go on the tour. This is a great partnership to form. It’s always easier to sell a destination when you know the little inside extras that can personalize your tours. Tours sell out more quickly, run more smoothly and word of mouth will help sell a repeat. All great time savers.


FAM Tour Etiquette Guidelines


While it may seem obvious, guidelines can serve as a good reminder, since a FAM is not the same as a vacation. Participants are there to collect material, find ideas and form contacts. On a FAM you will be on the go from early to late in the day. You will likely be taking notes and hitting many highlights. The pace is fast and participants can feel harried. Of course, there’s a bright side not to be ignored. Someone else is handling all the details. This offers those attending a good opportunity to experience what it might be like for their groups, when under their care. It is also a chance to network and socialize. With this in mind, participants will always want to be on time for meetings since organized FAMs run on a tight schedule. And here is a tip on tipping. Carry the right sort of cash for


tipping chambermaids, drivers and others as appropriate. FAMs are work, but they can also be a lot of fun, so compliments and appreciation also fall into the good guidelines category. Thank- you notes to sponsors are not necessary, but always greatly appreciated.


Looking to attend a FAM?


Itineraries Minnesota will again be doing a trade show in the fall, this time with a two-day FAM. Tour Operators, Bank Club Directors and qualified Group Leaders will interact face to face with destination representatives on Monday October 27, 2008 followed by a FAMon the 28-29th of new and never before seen attractions. Participants will be treated to the brand new Hormel Institute, a world-class scientific research center, opening soon and offering tours to groups. The Itasca Rock Garden; a privately owned grotto near Albert Lea will also be included, as well as other attractions guaranteed to help you see Austin/Albert Lea like you have never seen them before.


May you enjoy some great FAM experiences, form valuable partnerships, have tons of fun, increase business, and all the while saving precious time.





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