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Participation payments and VR 'the future of fam trips'

Event Planners Talk debates the future of hosted buyer trips, with 85 per cent saying a change is needed

Pictured: the Event Planners Talk session took place at the Caledonian Club on Tuesday morning

Participation payments and virtual reality may become the future of hosted buyer and fam trips, a group of events professionals have suggested in an Event Planners Talk.

The panel and audience members agreed a nominal participation fee, or covering the cost of travel, could weed out any scammer attendees, while virtual reality tools would help enhance a fam trip or hosted buyer experience, but not replace it.

It comes off the back of an industry ‘blacklist’ of alleged bogus fam trip and event attendees, which has been doing the rounds among the UK events industry for the last few months.

The industry debate, entitled ‘Hosted Buyer and Fam Trips – is it time for a change?’, took place at the Caledonian Club in Belgravia on Tuesday morning, and was moderated by Martin Ellis of Team Umbrella. A quick poll before the debate found 85 per cent of the audience believed the traditional model of hosted buyer and fam trips needed a change.

Rachelle Valladares, of Dezika, said she didn’t mind being asked to pay USD$200 to cover her air fares for IC&TM India and China. “You pay a USD$200 payment and pay for your own airfare, and as long as you’ve done all your meetings, they’ll refund you in cash. I paid $200 quite happily because I was going to a tradeshow in a different part of the world, where I had access to people I wouldn’t have had access to.”

Another audience member said they had asked for contributions as a way of weeding out the scammers. She said bigger agencies usually refused to pay in order to attend, while smaller, independent agencies were often happy to.

Speaking on the use of virtual reality, one audience member said it would become an integral part of fam trips, but not replace them altogether. Caleb Parker of Future in 15 said: “I think if VR does advance to where it’s intended to, where you can taste and smell things, then perhaps it’s the way forward.”

Rebecca Duncan, of Virgin Atlantic, said researching attendees before inviting them on trips was the best way to ensure quality buyers. “We’d combine three lists together, ours and our two supplier partners. I’m more likely to invite people on a fam who I have no idea who they are or what agency they work for. It doesn’t make much sense for me to invite someone I know, whose agency already works with Virgin. I’m more likely to take a bit of a risk on a freelancer or someone from a smaller organisation. I also take a massive amount of input from what my partners are saying.”

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