Published on Monday, July 29, 2019

Why fam trips aren't always the best way to get to know a destination


Can you really sell a destination without having been there? Homeworker Cathie O'Dea thinks visiting a destination helps agents considerably, but explains why fam trips aren't necessarily the answer.


"Obviously there are places I have never been to and successfully sold many times but I am much more confident in selling a destination I have experienced for myself.


If I haven't been to a destination, I find myself having to rely on the opinions of others and that's not a bad thing. After all, we cant all go everywhere, but it does help if you can speak to an expert that really does know the destination and can answer any destination specific questions


Without knowing the destination you can never fully understand scale, the logistics of getting from A to B, how walkable or how safe one feels in the destination or what things cost. It is important also to experience the feel of a destination. This is something that a brochure can never do. You have to be there and taste the food, feel the sun on your skin, interact with locals to sense how they welcome tourists, get used to their funny little ways, learn what is acceptable and what is expected of us, learn a little of the language. All these things help us to appreciate and sell the destination.


Even going on fam trips doesn't always give you the best picture of logistics and the cost of getting around a destination, because public transport is rarely used on fam trips and if paying for incidentals, these are usually within the confines of a hotel. Personally I find a holiday used partly as a business trip or a fam trip with free time is the most helpful way of getting to know a destination, so a combination of competitions won, good hotel discounts and the help of the tourist boards are the best ways to visit and truly understand a destination, particularly in cities where public transport is an essential part of the trip. 


In the past I have used the Visit Stockholm scheme and the Vienna scheme, both of which gave agents a reduced price on the hotel and a visit the city card. This gave me a brilliant insight into both cities and an example that other tourist boards could follow in order to help us sell their respective destinations. In a competition, Dusseldorf gave me a hop on hop off bus ticket, a Dusseldorf Card and a boat trip so I really got the best from Dusseldorf and I loved the city much better than last time and did things I wouldn't normally have considered. 


Las Vegas was never a place I had any desire to visit but having won a holiday at World Travel Market, I knew it would be incredibly useful to me as a sales tool. We used the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, which were amazing, and we bought tickets for Rod Stewart, but otherwise I spent the rest of the week visiting hotels and getting used to the geography of the Strip. This not only helped me, but I have also been able to assist a few of my colleagues in selling the right hotel to the right client. I can now give my clients a good insight of how to get around and what to see. 


Similarly, I took up an offer of Fly Free with Vietnam Airlines a couple of years ago and used this to create a very cheap itinerary to Vietnam. I now sell Vietnam confidently with an understanding of where to stay in Hanoi, the importance of booking an extra night from the night before, as flights on Vietnam Airlines arrive at 0430, and also advising an extra night in Hanoi in order to do the morning and afternoon tour without being hideously jet lagged. Having experienced all this myself it easy to recommend to clients and I answer queries frequently on our message board. 


Due to various family circumstances my opportunities to travel long haul are now limited, although there are still many areas that would be so useful to me in my work. Bangkok is one city I felt I really needed to visit so I went for few days with my daughter. Bangkok is a city she is very familiar with but I had never visited until recently. She was an excellent guide and now that I have experienced Bangkok myself, I feel much more confident in finding hotels that are well located and in being able to recommend suitable tours to my clients. I would also recommend the Grab app to my clients so they can get a taxi without being ripped off. 


Not only does experiencing a destination help us to actually sell it, but also it helps us sell it for a little longer, maybe 4 nights instead of 3, 10  nights instead of 7. Knowing how to get the best of a destination instead of just passing through is important not only to the customer but also the economy of the destination, so I think it is important for tourist boards and resorts to work with tour operators and travel agents to help us really know and understand the destination. 


Second best are roadshows and especially those that promote a single destination and therefore spend more quality time with us. If we win a trip that's obviously a bonus, but sometimes just a film, and a lot of passion and enthusiasm from someone who really knows and understands the destination works wonders. 


Occasionally roadshows have made such a good job of promoting themselves, it has tempted me to visit the destination and also to sell it. Valencia has been one such example and it is a city that is much easier to sell after having visited. Having sold Valencia before and after visiting, it is definitely easier to understand the very different aspects to Valencia and sell it accordingly, whether beach, old city or futuristic."


** What's your view? Do you think fam trips or personal trips are the best way to get to know a destination? Are roadshows helpful too? Tell us what you think by clicking on Post a Comment below.


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