As COVID-19 travel restrictions slowly begin to ease, agents are assessing fam options that will help boost their sales.
“I can definitely say that my business would not be where it is today if I did not have the support of vendors through fams and reduced rate travel. Full stop,” said Holly Lombardo of Classic Travel Advisors, an affiliate of Travel Experts.
“It’s important that agents anticipate where clients should think about traveling next,” she added. “Although I may have never sold a destination, if I think it is a place that if I were more knowledgeable [about] I could begin to introduce with confidence and enthusiasm to an interested clientele –it’s important [that I] seek those fams out.”
Going forward, Lombardo noted that she is interested in participating in a cruise fam. “I feel it is important to reassure the public that the sun did not fall from the sky because you sailed on a cruise ship,” she said.
Sandy Pappas of Sandy Pappas Travel, a Travel Experts affiliate, said she has “a 100 percent success rate in booking a destination within three months of visiting a destination,” adding that “many of my loyal clients [ask] me where I’ve been recently and where I’m going next when they are deciding where their next vacation will be.”
Pappas perpetually looks for fam trips to destinations she is less familiar with in order to broaden her selling reach.
“I want to go to Chile and Argentina when the borders open up as I have never been. There are lots of logistics involved in planning a Patagonia trip incorporated with Argentina and other parts of Chile,” she said. “It is extremely helpful when you can articulate the logistics with confidence to a client because you have experienced it yourself. “
Pappas knows whereof she speaks. “This is similar to Australia,” she said. “My sales increased drastically once I spent a month in Australia and could tell clients with confidence exactly what the inter-country flights, transfers, etc., entail.”
Once the pandemic subsides, Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning, a Travel Experts affiliate, would like to more deeply explore Africa. “It’s a destination I’m selling more and more, and I am highly interested in putting my boots on the ground to better understand the different areas and safari camps,” she said. “I’ve visited South Africa, but East Africa is of high importance to me.”
Typically, Lukovic prefers to set up her own educational trips.
“A well-crafted educational trip can have immeasurable value in that one gets to experience a vast number of cities, hotels and activities,” she said. “Many times, I want to take a deeper dive into the locations I visit to have a [fuller] experience, which is why I plan my own.”
Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel, a Signature Travel Network agency, is of a similar mind.
“Fams are beneficial, as I get experience with hotels and destinations – but only if [they] are small in size and focused on a small number of hotels/resorts. The least beneficial to me are fams where I see three hotels a day with no time to experience a property,” she said. “I am looking for the experience for my client, and that means time to really see a property – not just a quick run-through seeing some rooms and public spaces before heading on to the next stop.”
In the final analysis, knowledge is power. “Personal knowledge and familiarity with a destination and the whole travel experience – or any product one is marketing – are invaluable,” said Ben Gritzewsky of FROSCH.
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