A familiarization trip, or FAM for short, is a trip designed for travel advisors to learn about a destination, a partner travel company, or an airline, and sometimes, all of the above.
While I can discuss unique experiences, boutique hotels, and level of service with our partners over the phone, on webinars, and at trade shows, nothing compares to experiencing firsthand both a destination and the level of service offered by a specific partner.
In the last year, I have accepted opportunities to travel to Jordan with G Adventures, to the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer, and to Bora Bora with Marriott’s Luxury Hotels. Next Spring, I will travel to Colombia with Big 5 Tours & Expeditions.
Experiencing travel with a specific travel partner is important because, with every destination, we as travel advisors usually have multiple options as to who we can work with. Each partner offers unique experiences, a variety of hotel partnerships, and different areas of specialization. Some partners focus solely on one region of the world while others operate around the world in many countries and come with a very recognizable brand. Some partners specialize in active and adventure travel whereas others might cater more towards families with young children. Finally, each travel partner works within a different budget range. Some partners are best suited toward high-end luxury travel while other partners are able to cater to a variety of travel budgets.
I often talk about the 1-million piece puzzle that we as travel advisors assemble when crafting each unique itinerary. Matching a client and their preferences to a specific travel partner that caters to both their style of travel and their budget expectations is one of the biggest pieces of this puzzle.
So, what do travel advisors do on these FAMs?
A large focus of the FAM is to experience a destination or a product just as our clients would. That means that we visit the sites, we meet the guides, we ride the buses, and we stay in the hotel rooms, just as our clients will when they book that particular trip. This is important because it enables us to then return home and talk to our clients about our trip and to help manage expectations.
These opportunities enable us to return home to tell some clients "You will love this!" while we tell others "You know, maybe this isn't right for the trip you're envisioning, and this is why....Let's try this instead." Each trip you go on comes with a large investment, both in your time and money. These FAM opportunities aid us immensely to make sure we're utilizing your investment in the best way possible.
Throughout each trip, we also visit hotels to see the properties and to meet the General Manager and the sales team with whom we’ll be in contact prior to a client's arrival. They take us around the entire property to see different room categories, the restaurants, the spa, and all unique features. We'll also dine in one of the hotel's restaurants whenever possible. When client's ask what the difference is between one room category and an upgraded option and if they should have dinner in the hotel or not, we can advise from personal experience. More often than not, we’ll visit a variety of hotels throughout our trip so that we have some points of comparison.
The most important aspect in each familiarization trip is to build and maintain connections with our partners. This helps tremendously when we have special requests or unexpected challenges.
Each FAM opportunity offers travel advisors insights into:
Travel with a specific partner and which type of client will be best suited to their services
Travel to a specific destination and which type of client will be best suited to the experiences offered
Budget expectations for a specific destination
Which elements need to be considered when planning an overall budget
Returning home from each FAM experience, we are better able to identify the type of traveler that a specific travel partner’s service and expertise is best suited for. After traveling with G Adventures, I now have a great appreciation for how they are able to create small group itineraries around the world and how they make such an effort to immerse their travelers in each destination by employing local guides and including unique experiences and destinations.
As much as I love G Adventures, their offering is not suitable for all travelers.
Personal travel experience in a specific destination offers insights into what type of clients will be interested to visit this destination. I was astounded at how fascinating Jordan was and how it offers such a rich and diverse cultural experience. Jordan is at the top of my list of favorite countries to which I’ve traveled.
But as much as I love Jordan, this destination is not suitable for all travelers.
FAM trips enable travel advisors to gain a deeper understanding of the tourism infrastructure in each destination. Is it possible to work with a wide range of budgets? What does a 5* hotel look like in this destination and how does this compare to standards in the US or Europe? What type of budget should be allocated for activities, souvenirs, and taxis?
Bora Bora is absolutely one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but it just won’t be possible to design an experience there with a small budget.
Finally, FAM trips enable us to better understand the logistics of each destination. Will a rental car be necessary? Will private guides enhance the experience or can independent exploration be a suitable option? What budget should be allocated on a daily basis for meals?
We enjoyed spectacular meals throughout our journey in the Canadian Rockies. While less expensive meals can surely be found, it’s definitely worth considering a larger budget per day for top notch meals in Western Canada.
All these insights and more come with each opportunity to join a FAM. Ask your travel advisor if they've traveled on a familiarization trip lately and what their thoughts were!
Never worked with a travel advisor before? To give you a little sneak peak into our world, we travel as often as possible to build relationships with travel professionals around the world. That way, when you tell us where you'd like to travel, we know exactly who we can work with to design a trip that is personal and unique to you!
Whitney’s love of experiential travel began when she studied abroad in New Zealand. Upon returning home, this seemingly small decision led her on an unpredictable path to do everything in her power to continue exploring the world. Within one year, she headed to Africa for one month to visit a friend who was volunteering with animals in need of rehabilitation support, and upon graduating only 6 months later, she moved to France for no other reason than the study the language and experience the culture firsthand. Fast forward 8 years, 2 languages, and 20 countries later, Whitney has successfully combined her passion for foreign languages and experiential travel with her professional experiences and launched Undiscovered Sunsets, a bespoke, experiential travel agency.