Published on Friday, February 23, 2018

Familiarisation trips - work or play?

Paul Moran, managing director of jobs and review site, believes agent educationals shouldn't be treated like a holiday and shares some tips on fam trip etiquette.

"The coveted familiarisation trip or 'educational', as it is widely known, is often the subject of much debate. It's changed a lot over the past 20 years, with smaller trips and fewer invitations, but it's still very much alive and kicking. To your friends outside the industry - and perhaps some within - it's an all-expenses paid trip to the sun for several days of non-stop partying. But for those taking part, it can be an essential part of the job. After all, how can you really recommend somewhere that you haven't been to? And far from being a 24-hour party, it can be a slog around several hotels a day, taking notes, posting on social media as you go and following up with a detailed report to take back to the business.

Some travel agents I've spoken to have said they insist that employees take an educational as 50% holiday and 50% work. Although this may work in some agencies, I generally think it sends out the wrong message. You cannot have a call over what someone does on holiday, so they may choose to spend some of it by the pool or in the bar when the host wants to show them around properties. Not surprisingly, this can cause friction.

I've seen people the worse for wear after a heavy night's drinking on an educational, which looks unprofessional and can be disrespectful to the host. But when I talked to one person about it, their response was 'I've got to take this as holiday, so why shouldn't I drink all night if I want to?'
Earlier in the year, we ran a poll to gauge views from the agency community on educationals.

Of 368 responses, only three people said it was a 'right', with 112 feeling the educational was a 'privilege' and the vast majority, 253, a necessary part of the job.I agree with the majority and if it's part of someone's job, they need to behave accordingly. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who go on an educational do just that and are a credit to their company. But I have seen one or two who have, shall we say, not done themselves any favours, so here are my top tips for surviving and prospering on an educational:

Do your prep
Research the area, accommodation and any places you are due to visit before you go, so that you are not arriving cold. It will impress the host and make your life much easier if you know a bit about what you are doing.

Think about what you pack
Your favourite ripped jeans and tattered trainers might be great for your own private holiday, but remember you're representing your company. Hopefully you'll have some time to chill out by the pool, but make sure you pack some sensible and smart clothes - you're doing a job, after all.

Make notes and take pictures
You don't have to write down every cough and spit of the holiday, but make some notes on the important aspects of the trip and take photos, if only on a smartphone. You may be blogging and posting on social media while you are there and you should write a report for your company on your return.

Be on time
If there's an early start, you need to be there regardless of how late you went to bed, just as you would at work. I've been on educational where someone had to be dragged out of bed for a day trip, which held everyone up for around 20 minutes. The person wasn't popular with others waiting on the coach.

Stick with the itinerary
The host will often have worked hard to put together a suitable itinerary and also has to satisfy the demands of all those who, in return for providing free food and drink, want to show off their premises. You can request to see the itinerary before you go and raise any questions you might have before embarking on the trip. But once there, don't refuse to visit an attraction or tour a hotel.

Think of your host
As I've said, it's hard work being a host. Don't make their life any harder than it is. I have seen people on educationals ask the host lots of questions that they could easily find out themselves and expect the host to pay for everything throughout the entire trip. Buying the host an occasional drink or showing them they are appreciated will go a long way.

Have fun
You're allowed to have fun on an educational - just as you are allowed to have fun at work. And if you're in a beautiful part of the world, who wouldn't enjoy it? But remember that you're representing your company at all times. A few drinks in the evening chatting with other guests is great; lying on the floor being sick after too many cocktails isn't."

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  • Fam Trips

    I've found fam trips to be a huge step below a media invitation though some PR firms use fam trips when addressing the media. An invitation for the media means you must be on assignment, take notes, arrange for interviews, collect images, and return with editorial material that can be published. A fam trip invitation seems to be for a different sector of the travel industry.

    By Richard Carroll, Monday, February 26, 2018

  • Agreed

    I agree with all the points in this article but for a professional industry person being invited on a fam trip, isn't it all rather stating the obvious? And if the invited person was not aware of what's expected, what the trip is actually for and how to behave, then they should never be invited in the first place. As for having to take it as 50% holiday is unprofessional and insulting, I'd tell the boss where to shove his fam trip I think!

    By Keith Standen, Monday, February 26, 2018

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