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The Truth About FAMs and Inaugurals

I know you’ve heard the whispers among the ranks.

Somewhere out there are free trips for travel agents; on new ships, to tropical destinations.   In fact anywhere a travel agent wants to go, they can go for free.

Those trips actually have a name in the industry: Familiarization trips (FAMs) and Inaugurals.  And it’s true –once upon a time (in the good old days) travel agents did receive a lot of perks, including free travel.  But times, they are a-changing, so let me give you the skinny on how FAMs and inaugurals are allotted by the vendors and how TPI disperses them.

  • There are two sources for FAMs:  TPI exclusive FAMs and general industry FAMs.  TPI will negotiate FAMs with specific vendors to popular destinations.  An example: last year we sponsored a FAM to Costa Rica with Vacation Express.  The thing about these trips is we have to use marketing funds to supplement the cost.  So, the vendor negotiates the price and we help fund it.  Sometimes the cost of the FAM is low enough where we can make it free.  However, most of the time the cost per person is significant, so we ask agents to pay a portion of the total cost.
  • Industry FAMs are hosted by a variety of vendors and are available to any travel agent.  Destinations’ tourist boards, tour operators showcasing a popular destination, even hotel brands wanting to present their properties will hold FAMs.  Sometimes we hear about these FAMs, sometimes we don’t.  When we do here about these FAMs we pass the information on to agents.
  • The main criteria we use to decide who we invite to FAMs is sales.  We invite agents who have booked with that vendor in the past.  We also may invite agents who have booked with a similar vendor.
  • Inaugurals are the first sailings of a cruise ship.  Sometimes we receive several cabins on these sailings, sometimes we receive only a few and sometimes we receive none.
  • We use sales to decide who receives cabins on inaugurals.
  • We’ve also been known to use inaugural cabins as agent incentives.
  • Sometimes an inaugural requires we send an agency owner/manager.  We will ask if an exception can be made but most of the time it cannot.

We try to be discerning as possible when it comes to giving FAMs and inaugural spots to agents because we understand wanting to receive those invites (watching the same people get FAMs and inaugural cabins is like being friends with the kid in class who always wins the science fair –eventually it feels rigged) so we’ve been known to make exceptions:

  • When the agent who earned the spot can’t or doesn’t want to go

This is particularly true with FAMs.  Once we have offered FAM spots to the agents who sell the FAM’s brand, we will open up that FAM to other agents.

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  • When we have no one agent who definitively earned the spot

This is usually when we give the spot away as an agent incentive to make it as fair as possible.

Hopefully this clears things up for you in regard to FAMs and inaugurals.  We wish we had FAMs and inaugurals for everyone!  But we don’t ☹. We do try to be as fair as possible and we do a pretty good job if I do say so myself (which I do).  Optimistically as we see an uptick in travel agent bookings we will see more FAM and inaugural opportunities.  So keep your fingers crossed!


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