The Adventure Connection team have been very busy planning, coordinating, running and following up on Familiarisation Trips. Over the last few months successful Fam Trips have taken place in Sri Lanka, the Azores Islands and Rwanda, and there are several more due to operate in 2019 in destinations as diverse as Lebanon, Nicaragua, Uganda, Madagascar, Peru, Ecuador, Nepal, Ethiopia...
But we keep hearing from tour operators that other Fam Trips they’ve travelled on have been poorly planned and communicated, badly organised and often with irrelevant trip elements included.
So please take note all Tourist Boards, DMCs and Representation companies! A bad Fam Trip can really damage your destination.
We are proud of the 100% feedback rating (five out of five on every trip we’ve organised) so we are sharing here our top tips. We don’t claim to be perfect; we try to make improvements after every trip we operate, always asking for honest feedback straight after returning home.
1. Plan 6-9 months ahead.
There are a great many reasons why the trip needs to be planned this far ahead. Probably most important is that you have a much higher chance of getting the tour operators and individuals who you most want to experience the destination to take part. Planning Heath also means that you will have more time to work on partnerships (e.g. airlines, tourist boards, transport providers, quality guides, lodges and hotels...).
2. Make sure you have a clear, measurable objective or desired outcome.
Make this as specific as possible. For instance, to attract eight tour operators on the trip, with at least 60% featuring your product within six months of the trip returning.
3. Select a variety of niche operators (ideally not directly competing with each other).
The U.K. outbound tourism market is large, very large, with over 15m overseas visits being taken each year. Think of this market like a giant cake and choose the thin slices that fit best with your destination or activities. Each slice could represent many thousands of future clients who have an interest in culture, wildlife, cycling, kayaking, bird-watching, discovery, winter activities, rainforests, deserts... It’s a multi-level cake too - with budget, mid-range and high end (plus a multitude of sub-strata in between). And of course, there are group operators and tailor-made companies all servicing these niches. So choose your niche and make sure your product fits those niches. Then choose the operators and agents you want to travel on the Fam.
4. Get the right people to come.
All members of The Adventure Connection team have worked in the travel industry for a long time and we know what can happen when an invitation for a Fam Trip arrives in the inbox of the tour operator. It is very easy for it to fall into the wrong hands (or worse still, unbelievably, it can be missed or ignored). Ideally you want a product manager, a product director or an MD to travel - someone who has direct purchasing power and the authority to make the decision about the product and the supplier. Going back to point one above, if you plan well ahead you are much more likely to attract the person you want (these people are offered countless Fam Trips from all around the world, your destination is not necessarily at the top of their list, but you can put it at the top if you create an enticing itinerary and then have face to face meetings, calls etc to make sure you are talking to the right people. We also ask for feedback on the itinerary planned - if done six months ahead, using the feedback can make sure the Fam is relevant to all parties attending.
5. Communicate beyond your key targets.
The benefit of offering a Fam Trip goes far beyond the trip itself. You can announce the trip to all of the trade and invite applications. Even if you have very specific operators you want to bring, keep at least two free places for those who make a particularly good application. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
6. Provide ‘experiences’, not just a series of hotels...
7. Communicate well before, during and after the trip.
Good communication will be highly appreciated. A clear itinerary and packing list. A list of the hotels to be used or visited. And while the trip is running, clear communication at the beginning of each day and about evening arrangements at every hotel check in (it’s very easy to lose the attention of a group when everyone is easy to get to their rooms after check in). It could be the most important trip you ever run. If one new operator could bring 25-50 additional passengers next year, multiply this eight and consider the returns. So plan your communications carefully to keep everyone fully informed.
7. Make sure you can provide costings quickly (once the itinerary is more or less agreed).
This goes for tailor-made elements and group tour costings. Find out how each operator wants to be supplied with costs.
8. Follow up very quickly and accurately before the end and after the end of the Fam Trip.
Within a couple of days of the trip running, you should try to send a unique itinerary to each operator (based on what you have learned throughout the trip and their background). Use this to get the ball rolling - showing you are in tune with their needs will mean a great deal, and might also lead to several itineraries being published.
9. Expect endless tweaking and a wide variety of speed to market.
Some operators will take months, others will have your product on sale within slower ones probably have other priorities to deal with (it’s not personal) and might need a regular nudge to progress things.
10. Measure results.
After three months and or six months, measure results versus the objectives you set above. If you achieved what you set out, consider when you’ll offer your next Fam (and how you’ll gear up for extra business).