One of the main perks of being a meetings and events planner is the opportunity to travel and experience alluring destinations that you may not otherwise ever have had the chance to visit. As tempting as it can be to respond with an enthusiastic “YES!” to every invitation to join a site tour, grand opening, and beloved FAM trip, it is important to always keep in mind the end goal for those get-togethers: Will my clients want to do business here? Unfortunately, the all-too-common reality is that the business objective of a FAM trip gets lost somewhere between the free meals, activities, and mingling, leaving the host disappointed in their return on investment.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the FAM trip process – from receiving the initial invite to securing the first business lead for the property:
• Understand Your Clients – As the saying goes, there is “no such thing as a free lunch.” Every invitation you receive for a FAM trip comes with the unspoken expectation that you will bring business to that venue. At first glance, ask yourself if this hotel or trip would appeal to your clients? Figure out who those clients are, what business it would be, and potential timelines for closing that sale.
• Do Your Homework: Research the property and its management team. Find out why you were invited and what the hotel wants out of bringing you for a visit. Always gather details such as the Average Daily Rate (ADR) and the destination’s high season. These factors will help you immediately hone in on which clients may be a good target.
• Leave No Question Left Unanswered: If there are still any unclear items after you conduct your own research – ASK! If you do not have a relationship with someone on property, then reach out to an NSO like the sales team at Preferred Hotels & Resorts, who have existing relationships and the ability to ask the questions you may feel awkward sending directly to the hotel.
• The Deal Breaker: Never accept an invitation to a FAM trip without first asking: How much will this cost me? Not all FAM trips are made equal. Some may cover all costs, while others may cover only room fees and require you to pay for your own meals. Asking these essential questions in advance will help you avoid a surprise bill at the end – which can ruin the entire experience.
To Keep in Mind During the Trip:
• Leave the Family (and Flip-Flops) at Home: This is not a personal vacation. Showing up to a hotel with your spouse, children, or anyone else you might typically vacation with gives the host the impression that you are more interested in a free trip than bringing them business. Following this theme, your suitcase should reflect that you are on a business trip, not a personal holiday. Sorry flip-flops and jean shorts - you must stay at home!
• Build Lasting Relationships: Take the time to get to know the hotel’s management team. If it is not already on the schedule, request to grab coffee or set aside individual time with their team to learn more about why they invited you, what their property needs, and their overall goals for having you visit.
• Get off the Property: While visiting a new hotel, dedicate time to leave the property and meet with the local DMC (Destination Management Company). This is a great way to gather ideas for off-property activities, learn about new destinations the city has to offer, and overall get inspired with the help of a local expert!
• Set Expectations: Upon arrival, be clear with the hotel team if you have any special requests. From food allergies to bed preferences, be vocal about what you prefer, giving the hotel a fair opportunity to give you the best impression of their property. Do not gather only the needs and wants the hotel has by having you visit, but rather be express your intentions and expectations for them throughout the entire trip. For example, if your clients expect complimentary high-speed WiFi during their stay, tell them this upfront so they have the chance to discuss the options with you in person, if this amenity is not already offered.
• Keep it “Old School”: A handwritten thank you note always goes a long way. I guarantee the majority of the other FAM trip attendees will only send an email. Stand out by taking the extra 10 minutes to show your genuine appreciation for their hospitality.
• Honesty is Key: In addition to a handwritten thank you note, also send an email that includes more detailed feedback and ideas for what business you predict will come from your visit. If you think it might not be a good fit for any of your clients after experiencing it firsthand, tell them this right away! It is better to be honest than to waste the hotelier’s time with months of follow-up on their end.
• Pay it Forward: If you know you cannot bring the hotel business, be sure to share all of the useful information and feedback on your experience with fellow colleagues who may find it useful. This is the best way to ensure your time and the hotel team’s time does not go to waste.
• Stay Connected: Whether it is a week, month, or year later, always mention in your RFPs that you attended that hotel’s FAM trip and that the RFP is a direct result of that experience. This personal connection is a great way to enhance your relationship with the hotel, and also to be considerate to their team by showing them the return on their investment in you was worth it.