Here’s how travel suppliers responded to agent feedback about fams
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Here’s how travel suppliers responded to agent feedback about fams

Jun 11, 2023

Post date: Jun 9 2023

By: Cindy Sosroutomo

TORONTO — Ask any travel supplier and they’ll tell you that familiarization trips, better known as fams, are a must for travel agents to attend.

Fun and informative, these comprehensive trips, often available at discounted prices or at no fee at all, provide first-hand knowledge of a supplier's products, whether it be flights, accommodations, cruises or tours, which agents can in turn relay to their clients. Plain and simple, they’re an invaluable resource for suppliers and agents.

So when we asked travel agents last week what they would change about fams, it's no surprise that suppliers took notice. From the cost of fams, to limited Canadian gateways, to the amount of leisure time built into the trip, agents touched on a wide range of improvements that they’d like to see from suppliers.

In part two of our fam series, we gave tour operators and destinations a chance to respond to agent feedback. Here's what they had to say:

AIR CANADA VACATIONS, Ana Paula De Souza, Director Sales

Why are fams important? "Air Canada Vacations understands the need for our travel partners to experience the product we offer firsthand. From the in-flight experience to the local transportation, available excursions and the hotels and resorts, this gives our partners the expert knowledge they need to ensure they are offering the best option for their clients to make their vacation dreams come true!"

What's typically included in your fams? "During an Air Canada Vacations fam, agents can expect to have their flights, hotel accommodations, local transportation, most meals and entertainment all included as part of our fam experiences."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "At Air Canada Vacations, we do our best to offer our fams at the best rate possible. It will vary depending on the destination and availability, but our goal is to offer flexible options."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? Air Canada Vacations fams allow for free time and always take into consideration the number of properties that are visited. We understand that to digest all the information and take in the sights of the destination, this needs to be included."

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? Air Canada Vacations offers fams for agents from multiple gateways. With Air Canada's extensive flying, we offer over 51 connectors from Canadian cities. Air Canada Vacations recently enhanced their winter lineup to include additional flights from select main gateways. We also offer special pricing on these connectors to make it even easier for agents to take advantage of our departures."

Any new fams on the horizon? "Yes, there are quite a few we’re working on. More details to come soon on these amazing opportunities!"

Air Canada Vacations

COLLETTE, Sam LaFrance, Public Relations Specialist

Why are fams important? "It's certainly important for us to offer fams to our advisors, however, we do not currently offer set fam trips. We do offer all advisors a 50% discount and a 25% discount for their companions. We stopped running set fam tours, mostly because advisors had already been to those places, so this is a more flexible method for us to do so."

What's typically included in your fams? "The itineraries are no different for the tours that our advisors elect to journey on. They’re enjoying the same product as our valued travellers."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "Yes. The 50% discount for advisors and 25% discount for their companions is something we’ve done to help our our advisors."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "Our flexibility allows advisors to embark on the actual tours that they’re offering to their travellers. Instead of packing in a pile of activities to a specific fam tour, we’re allowing them to get a true feel for the Collette experience."

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "Collette's tours allow the travellers, in this case, advisors, to embark from their home airport to the destination of the tour."

Any new fams on the horizon? "Not necessarily a fam, but our new ‘Spotlight on Northern Italy’ tour will certainly be an eye catcher when it launches next year!"

G ADVENTURES, David Green, Managing Director Canada

Why are fams important? "At G Adventures, we believe in supporting community tourism. We measure our impact via our RIPPLE score, and taking agents to the destination so that they can see this in action firsthand is always an eye opener for them."

What's typically included in your fams? "We run our fams exactly as per our tours. We want the agents to see exactly what happens on the particularly trip: where we stay, the transport we use, the places we visit and the places we eat. It gives them a very clear indication of what their clients will experience."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "I can't speak for other suppliers but at G Adventures we do not make profit from the fam trips that agents attend. They all cost us money but we hope that in the long run, those people attending will sell more G Adventures tours and that helps to cover our initial costs. Let's be honest, flight prices have gone up significantly and agents have to pay the cost of air to get on their fams so I suspect that where they see cost increases. Our fams are typically 7-9 days and are approximately $700-$900 on average, per person, so about $100 per day. We try and pick fams around those price points, which I think is very reasonable."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "Agents can, of course, travel pre- or post-fam so they have some additional leisure time. I’m probably speaking for most suppliers when I say that we don't run the fam trips as a leisure experience – we run them as an educational ‘familiarisation’ experience. All our trips have downtime to relax, but it's like everything in life – what you put in, you get back, and I know on the fam trips that I’ve led, the agents have been hungry to learn and explore."

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "We genuinely don't select fams based on the departure city. The starting destination on our fams is the arrival city – actually, it's the starting hotel. Agents book their own air on our fam trips, which allows us to attract agents from all across Canada."

Any new fams on the horizon? "South Africa in August, and hopefully we’re already working on some exclusive fams with some of our host agency partners for later this year and early next year."

G Adventures’ Change Makers fam in Peru, September 2019

JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD, Emma Madsen, Business Development Manager, Western Canada

Why are fams important? "The best way for agents to learn about Jamaica is to experience the island firsthand by exploring the destination. We have found that once an advisor experiences Jamaica firsthand, they are able to sell it with much more confidence and success."

What's typically included in your fams? "Our fams traditionally include airfare, all accommodations, transportation, meals and a JTB host representative."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "Post-pandemic revenge travel is still going strong and airfares have increased significantly. With strong load factors coming into Jamaica, we have seen an increase in the cost of a fam airfare seat. To combat this, we look to host fams in the off season when we can secure better rates on the airfare."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "Our fams are working trips and we want the advisors to see and experience as much of Jamaica as they can, in the short period they are on the island. We always try to provide a fulsome itinerary that includes a mix of site inspections, local attractions and a bit of leisure time. Advisors will typically get an afternoon or two of leisure on our trips. If advisors find a traditional fam to be too busy, they can always take advantage of the perks offered as part of the One Love Specialist program. If they are coming to Jamaica on vacation and would like to dedicate a day to site inspections, one of our local BDMs can take them so that they get the best of both worlds. Go to

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "We always try to appeal to advisors across Canada. All of Jamaica's fam trips are offered out of Toronto (YYZ) and we do typically offer good connector rates. This November, we’ll be offering a fam trip out of Calgary for advisors based in Western Canada, plus, we’re hosting some ‘Meet Me in Mo’Bay’ fams this fall. Advisors will need to find their own way to Jamaica and then we’ll provide a full three-day fam on the island."

Any new fams on the horizon? "Glad you asked! Jamaica has so many fams planned for this fall. Go to to view all the fam trips on offer.

Jamaica Tourist Board's Irie Hour fam at Moon Palace Jamaica

PLAYA RESORTS, Amanda Morris, Director of Sales, Canada

Why are fams important? "Fams have always been, and will continue to be very important to Playa Resorts. We find that once an advisor has personally stayed with us, they have a much better understanding of what we offer and what differentiates us from our competitors. And of course, this in turn provides them with more confidence when qualifying and selling our resorts to their clients."

What's typically included in your fams? "Our fams include either 3- or 4-night AI accommodations (depending on the destination). For the DR and Mexico, we usually split these nights between two different properties. Our fam itineraries always include site inspections as well as a detailed Playa Resorts training on all other resorts and programs."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "The cost for advisors to join a Playa fam has not changed. What we have seen change is the cost of the airfare, especially if agents wait until the last minute to book their flights. What we are trying to do is plan our fams farther in advance and doing our research on flight costs when selecting our dates."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "That has always been one of the areas where Playa fams are different! It has always been very important for us to incorporate time for advisors to relax and experience our properties during our fams. If this means we add an extra night then that is what we will do!"

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "We offer our fams to agents across Canada and allow them to book their own flights so there are certainly no limitations on a Playa fam."

Any new fams on the horizon? "We are working on finalizing our fall 2023 fams but yes, there will be at least 4-5 more Canadian Playa Resorts fams this year! We strongly recommend advisors to register all their Playa Resorts bookings on for their opportunity to apply for an upcoming fam."

Agents on a Playa Resorts fam at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya

ROYAL IRISH TOURS, Jonathan Sargeant, Director of Sales

Why are fams important? "It's a chance for us to show advisors what we sell and meet the wonderful people that make our tours what they are – the guides, the drivers and the local suppliers."

What's typically included in your fams? "We include accommodation, most meals and all experiences/attraction visits. We try to do something similar to one of our scheduled tours, but change it up a bit so advisors get a taste for the destination as well as our product."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "Fams have definitely increased in price but I wouldn't say they’re too expensive. It's a work expense – we find that advisors usually see a return in their investment fairly quickly. Clients will often book with an advisor because they know they’ve been somewhere or experienced a product themselves. For us, we subsidize the cost and work with our local suppliers to get discounted trade rates too. The cost is 60%-70% less than what the trip would sell for otherwise. I think educating advisors on the value operators are offering by running fams is important going forward. There is no better marketing for your travel business than experiencing the product/destination you hope to sell."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "We try to get the balance right. For example, we might visit a city or town where we use a number of hotels, but we can only stay in one! So we may visit another for lunch to see some rooms and meet the people. But I agree that more leisure time can be beneficial, especially for us, as we are trying to educate and showcase the destination as much as our own product."

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "We do land-only fams quite often as airfare can be a challenge. But most of the air access in the shoulder seasons to Ireland and the UK is from Toronto, so you would usually have to connect there anyway. That's unlikely to change any time soon for us."

Any new fams on the horizon? "Everyone knows we sell Ireland so we are focusing on developing our UK tours more this year. We are going to showcase some of our New England and Wales itineraries, which begin in May 2024, as well as our Scotland product. So we are running a northern England Wales and Scotland fam at the end of October this year. It will be our first UK fam since Wales in 2019! We will run an Ireland fam in spring 2024, too."

Royal Irish Tours fam with The Travel Agent Next Door agents, March 2022

TTC TOUR BRANDS, Guy Young, Chief Trade Engagement Officer, North America

TTC Tour Brands’ MAKE TRAVEL MATTER FAM, Petra, Jordan

Why are fams important? "There's no better tool than having an agent see, touch, taste and feel their way through one of our guided tours. It's a great way to generate sales and build brand loyalty so we try to organize several fams throughout the year."

What's typically included in your fams? "We want our fams to closely mirror what the agents’ clients would experience on a tour itinerary, so things like hotels, local ground transportation, the services of a Travel Director, sightseeing and local experiences plus breakfast and some lunches and dinners are included. Recently, we’ve become a bit more creative with our fams and have started to offer fams with experiences across our multiple brands. For instance, some nights the group will stay at a Trafalgar hotel while other nights will showcase a hotel partner with Insight Vacations. And of course, sustainability is such a core component to who we are at TTC Tour Brands and we’ve started to offer fams with a clear focus on it. Last year, we hosted our inaugural MAKE TRAVEL MATTER FAM to Jordan where agents were able to participate in these socially-conscious travel experiences."

Do you agree that fams have gotten too expensive? "We’re very price conscious when we develop our fam itineraries, especially knowing that some cost outside of our control have risen, such as flights and transfers. With this in mind, we try to select destinations that are relevant to the industry based on trends, and also work towards a price range that's not too substantial for an agent to participate. And since we’ve now started to offer some multi-branded fams, agents can experience our different tour brands on one single trip."

Do you agree that fams don't include enough leisure time? "Actually, we have not received those types of comments from agents on our fams. As leaders in the touring category and with years of experience and feedback, we believe that we’ve developed a nice balance between seeing all the key elements on a fam and allowing for free time for agents to enjoy the destination on their own."

Can you make fams more accessible to agents across Canada? "Generally, we offer our fam trips as land-only and we can help book our contracted airfare rates for participating agents. Sometimes though, we do have incentive fam trips where we will include airfare from the advisor's home city."

Any new fams on the horizon? "We’re weeks away from hosting our first-ever ‘Swisstainable’ global fam with our partners at Switzerland Tourism at the end of July. It's hard to believe that we’re mid-way through the year already, so we’re actually in the planning stages for 2024 fams. All I can say is stay tuned – we have some incredible opportunities coming up and I do hope that Canadian travel agents will join us."

Top photo: TTC Tour Brands MAKE TRAVEL MATTER FAM, Jordan, December 2022

Tags: Agent Feedback, Lead Story

By: Cindy Sosroutomo

Cindy is Deputy Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 2007. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Kenya, Morocco, Thailand and Turkey among her favourite destinations.