Familiarization Trips (Fam Trips, for short) for Tour Operators and Travel Agents are common practice for the travel industry. For the tourism provider it is probably by far the most cost-effective marketing tool they can invest in to gain greater market share and sales. The provider is able to appeal to the Agent’s five senses by providing culinary and cultural experiences. This kind of marketing activity aims to inspire the agent to design and develop new products using the destination and providers sponsoring the Fam Trip as well as of course helping to sell their product better.
With the dawn of the Internet, consumers are using search engines such as google as their sole source of information gathering. Traditionally, travel lovers went to the their local travel agent to choose their next holiday. Nowadays they are looking through blogs, social media sites, forums… for all sorts of information (hotels, restaurants, local transport, attractions…) on a holiday destination. FIT travellers are now able to tailor-make their own itineraries and of course book their flights directly with the airline company making the local travel agent void and useless. MICE travel is also jumping over the middle man often booking directly (and saving 15-20%) with the Hotel venue for their conferences and meetings.
Today’s Internet provides not only a wealth of information (much more than most travel agents currently provide) but also allows the user to dialogue with the blogger, asking questions, requesting further information, asking for clarification and so on. Blogging is changing the way we both find, and sift, through information about travel. With rapidly increasing numbers of travel blogs being created, people searching the net are bound to come up with a travel blog before any travel agent web site.
Wine Pleasures, over the last 7 years and now as part of it’s annual International Wine Tourism Conference has been organising Fam Trips for international tour operators and travel agents. For the 2011 Conference (Porto, Portugal) we have taken an innovative step forward and created an 8 day Fam Bloggers/Media Trip which will provide bloggers with an abundance of material on cultural, culinary and wine tourism.
Will Bloggers replace Travel Agents in the future? Well they could well do so if travel agents don’t get their act together. In our view and in order to avoid any declining travel sales the travel agent needs to become a Blogger and run an active blog producing interesting content (descriptive texts, testimonials, video, photographs….) 3-4 times a week in peak season. This way travel consumers will start to connect again with their travel agents and ultimately may trust you with their next holiday venture.