Editor's Blog

The great fam debate

“The words fam trip have been banned in our company. We can’t use the word fam, we have to call them business development trips. We can’t say it, can’t write it.”

If this comment from the Site GB Incentives Summit is anything to go by, fam trips are undergoing a bit of an identity crisis. The panel discussion “Fam trips: is it time for a change?” was one of the highlights of an engaging day at the Four Seasons Hampshire.

On the panel (pictured), Jenny Jenkins of EVCOM confessed that she has become “a little allergic” to fams for a whole variety of reasons, not least the lack of senior figures in attendance.

“I think people organising fams are not pushing them to the right demographic”, she said. “They’re not the people who have the time to go on fams. I’m travelling about 40 per cent of my time. I’m offered a four day trip to Costa Rica but I can’t go. It’s a domestic issue. Fams have changed. The world of work has changed. The people selling destinations has changed. A lot of working mums are in senior positions.”

Jenkins then went on to reveal how Meeting Needs, which she chairs, is doing a lot of innovative work around fams working with charity partners to introduce a charity aspect to a fam – something we’ve written more about here

“You’re getting the senior audience you want to get,” said Jenkins. “It’s a donation to a charity, it’s something that’s very important. Your invitation is “Would you like to come and join us to support a charity partner” It’s a distinct difference. It’s with that person themselves, not the company.

“We have a huge regulatory environment that prevents people from accepting any invitation. If it’s a personal invitation you’re slightly changing that dynamic.”

Fellow panel member Kristel Fernandes of Inspirational Venues was open to the idea – to a point. She said: “It’s an interesting one – it’s a good idea. However, if I got two invites where one requires effort on my part and the other one doesn’t…”

Clarifying, Jenkins said: “Donations have an activity attached to them. You’re also appealing to an aspect of that person’s work life balance. You need some other way to get senior people to attend.”

She pointed to the M&I Forums Tour de MICE taking place in Tenerife in December.

“It’s a cycling event taking place in two five-star properties, cycling from one end of the island to another," she said. "The people attending are going because they’re cycling with people in their industry. The trip has a site product but you’re still getting them there.”

Mark Gorgon of ALHI, also on the panel, pointed out that senior people are crucial, “but there has to be a balance. It’s the duty of the senior person to let people develop.”

“Stream the groups a little bit more,” replied Jenkins. “There’s a few people I don’t want to spend four days with. If you know it’s your peer group, that’s a real pull.”

Lindsay Hyde, assistant sales director at Four Seasons, said that rather than having all senior people on a fam, it was important to have a mix.

“I want to learn from industry leaders and owners about how I can get to that point. This is why we go on fam trips and join associations,” she said. “I understand you want to talk to your counterparts, but I think in this industry we are responsible for bringing people together.”

An audience member addressed the charity aspect of Jenkins’ suggestion, saying: “I wouldn’t expect people to pay to go on fam trips and the business wouldn’t expect them to pay. There’s a cost to the business. It’s not free to the companies.”

Symran Lee of Grass Roots said: “This pre-occupation with getting high level people – I’m the one pitching to the clients, I’m giving up my free time. I know at Grass Roots every Monday we have a meeting I have to give a speech for half an hour on everything I’ve seen – My opinion does matter.

This view was echoed by an audience member who pitched in, saying: “Every company should be investing in teams to go on these fam trips. If we don’t have this generation of people learning, I don’t know how those companies are functioning. If you don’t have these people going we’re going to run very short very soon.”

An interesting discussion, then, but one which seemed to highlight the fact that across the industry people have very different ideas of what fams are and what they should be for. This debate, like a hotel site visit, could go on for some time…

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  • Anonymous User 03/10/2017

    This fam trip debate will go on for a while as every persons views are completely different. In my experience I apply to go on a fam trip to see a product or destination that I do not know well, that would be of interest to our clients. The location and content is what appeals to me, not necessarily if I am going to be sat next to a relative beginner learning the ropes or an industry stalwart.

    In many cases it can be the 'old industry friends' mentality that spoils a fam trip for newcomers, as it is often used as an excuse for a catch up or go off and do their own thing rather than integrate with the rest of the group. How often do we see on Facebook and other social media channels the same hosts taking their best mates on a 'mini holiday'?

    Similarly I have been away where several of the youngsters or big drinkers will arrange their own thing after dinner with whomever fits the 'cool' mode of the trip.

    In my mind the enjoyment of a fam trip should come down to a genuine desire to experience a destination or product for the benefit of increasing knowledge, a respect for the hosts and an appreciation of what we are able to experience in this industry in the name of work. And this can be accomplished by people with 4 months or 40 years experience in the industry if their intentions are correct.

  • Anonymous User 10/10/2017

    Brilliant response - "how oftEn do we see on facebook and oTher socIal media cHannels the same hosts taking their best mates on A mini holiDay"

    And flying them First Class.

  • Anonymous User 10/10/2017

    If the capital letters in the quote were supposed to spell out an airline you missed an I. And also a little disappointed you couldn’t spell out INDUSTRY ELITE. Idiots.

    But a wonderfully accurate post that sums up the piss take attitude by both suppliers and buyers.

  • Anonymous User 19/10/2017

    Fam trips or business development trips are great. That's how you showcase hotels and the destinations. That's how the agency can learn and get venue knowledge. I do blame some of the hotels and those forum organisers who invite random people on FAM trips that really do not have international business. Yes they do events in London or UK but why are you showing them Malta or Budapest etc. have a look on endole.co.uk and see how well some of these agencies really are doing. It's about quality not quantity. Take 5 good people on a FAM instead of 10 where half of them are only there to drink and eat and post pictures on facebook. And to be honest an agency that has time to go on every forum, every fam trip and every evening function - what kind of business do you think they have for you? And don't get me started on IMEX Vegas, really??? Let's spend 5 days there and speak to UK buyers in a pool with lots of beer. Quite frankly I wouldn't have the time.