Could taking children on fam trips be a breakthrough for suppliers and agents? Charlotte Flach investigates the benefits of the family fam
Fam trips are one of the biggest and most celebrated perks of working in the travel industry, viewed as a reward or incentive for the long hours and hectic workload travel agents endure.
Being away from home for long periods on a trip can take its toll on family life, however. So would letting children attend fam trips ease the burden on parents?
Dani Thomas, a partner at 360 Private Travel in Sevenoaks, thinks so. She says she’s missed out on fams due to family commitments. “I’ve had to turn down several trips because of childcare issues.”
“I don’t tend to put my name forward unless it’s a destination I really want to visit or I have someone to look after my children,” agrees Paula Hardman, a homeworker for Travel Counsellors.
Allowing kids to go on fams would “enable people to go that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to because of family commitments,” says Kerry Kelly, travel specialist and office manager at Elite Voyages on the Isle of Man.
Companies including Classic Collection and GP Associates allow agents to bring their children on selected fam trips.
Thomas describes a recent fam she attended in May with a colleague and their four-year-old daughters. “We paid for our own flights and Elounda Gulf Villas in Crete hosted us for four nights. It was great – we saw hotels while the girls enjoyed the kids’ club together.
“Agents value the opportunity of being able to share their experience with loved ones. I don’t like to leave my family behind,” she adds.
Family trips are also important to help partners and children understand that fams are hard work. “I took my son on a trip to Sicily with Azure,” says Kelly. “We were with about 10 other agents andthey each had a child with them. We did the hotel tours and the kids tested out the kids’ clubs. My son got to see that when I go on a trip, I’m not just relaxing.”
“A lot of people think fam trips are a jolly,” agrees Hardman. “It’s not a holiday but sometimes family doesn’t understand that. It is great for them to experience how much hard work goes into them.”
It can also help family members feel included, says Sally Hislop, travel consultant and owner of Destination Anywhere in the Wirral. “I’ve done three trips with my seven-year-old son. We’ve been to La Manga with Classic Collection, Elounda Peninsula in Greece with GP Associates and Costa Navarino with Inspiring Travel Company [which was ITC at the time]. He loves coming away with me – it makes him feel like part of my work and the business.”
Several agents agree they would be happy to pay for their families if given the option. “If they charged extra for children and it wasn’t a crazy amount, I think most agents would pay,” says Hardman.
Children provide invaluable behind-the-scenes information and can test-drive family facilities, believes Kelly.
“My son was able to tell me what the facilities in the kids’ club were like, how the staff were and what sort of food was on offer. You also get to see if the hotel genuinely welcomes children and how well catered for they are,” she says.
It’s worth thinking about the suitability of the destination to the child, however, particularly if they are very young.
“There are a lot of excursions, site visits and other commitments on a trip, which is hard with a small child,” says Hardman. “You can’t give the trip your undivided attention. An older child or teenager would be fine, though.”
Gemma Lazenby, agency sales manager at Classic Collection, on the supplier’s family fam trips
How often do you run family fams?
We try to do one a year, starting a couple of years ago. Our first trip was to Tuscany and the Belmond Villa San Michele and the second to La Manga Club Hotel Principe Felipe. We pay for accommodation and transfers for everyone and flights for the agent, but the agent makes a contribution towards the cost of seats for their child.
What is the advantage of letting agents bring families?
It can be a solution for the childcare worries that sometimes prevent agents
from attending educational trips. It also really helps to highlight facilities for children, allowing first-hand experience and very honest feedback from them. Adults can then get on with assessing other areas of the hotel.
Should more suppliers offer these trips?
For many, the travel industry doesn’t offer the highest financial rewards, so a family educational can be seen as a great perk.
Do you have any upcoming family fams?
We are always keen to do more and we have approached a couple of hotels to see if we can plan further family educationals.
Attending a family fam trip also helps agents to sell a resort or destination. “I can 100% sell better to my clients through personal experience,” says Thomas. “I also ask my daughter what her highlights were, then use what she says to sell to family groups. Letting children come benefits everyone: agents, their families and suppliers.”
Suppliers can also use family fams to take feedback from children as well as their parents. Hislop believes having the personal experience and a child’s perspective from a family fam makes it easier to sell the product. “It helps to have had the family holiday experience there. Customers like the quirky angle of me having been there with my son.”
Hardman agrees that family fams are a no-brainer, helping clients to better understand the different aspects of family product. “A lot of families choose a holiday based on what activities there are for children and whether their kids will be entertained.
“If you took your family away with you, you can tell the client what your child loved. This sort of information is like gold dust to families.”
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