Travel Agent – Free Flights and Fams Unraveled
By Safari Kay
Years ago, travel agents and industry staff used to get a break in travel, by paying taxes only. There were some great trips way back when, but that was even before 1987 when I got in the business.
Now, when everyone thinks travel agents travel for free, and I’m flitting here and there around the world because I get free trips, I want to give you the ‘real’ scoop on what is a FAM and do travel agents really travel free to all these wonderful destinations you see advertised or all the trips they plan and escort.Two simple words ABSOLUTELY NOT, I don’t travel for free. The days of traveling for the cost of taxes only are long gone. You may be surprised to know that on some of my trips I pay exactly what you do. And that is because I recognize it as a great deal for you and for me too. But more often than not, it is not the case.
What is a fam? A fam is a trip designed for travel agents to become familiar and gain knowledge of a destination, resort, tour company and/or experience. Companies sometimes offer travel agents a trip at a reduced price in order for them to experience the services of their company.
The last time I remember when I had a really low priced flight was in 2006 and that was a single flight. Things have changed however, and it takes months of marketing, talking, sometimes prodding, networking, to get travelers and oftentimes, I don’t. And, if I don’t get travelers, there is no way I can get a break on my costs.
However, when I continue to support those companies that work with me, they continue to know that I will bring them business and they are more willing to offer me an industry discount. I never know if I will get even a little discount until I actually put the trip together and determine the particulars.
The airlines have ceased working with travel agents altogether, and to some extent tour companies. It is often difficult to get them to do the simplest little things. Normally I have to navigate through the maze of telephone prompts, just as you do. In the end, I pay the same as you do, no matter how much work I put into it.
Most of my travel planning begins the year prior to any advertised trip. Since I often do safari trips to Africa and long haul destinations, it can begin even before that. For me, it starts with a destination and then questions; what destination does everyone want to experience, what is an exotic destination that will offer a wonderful travel experience, how can I customize this trip for the maximum pleasure of my travelers.
I would say 75% of the destinations I sell are from my own travel experiences gained on a FAM, and at least 80% of my itineraries are CUSTOM itineraries. They are not from a brochure, they are a combination of what I know, have experienced, and what is feasible.
On fams I take notes; I ask questions, I notice what is to be done. It is a WORKING trip, and many times not for the faint-hearted.
While you see the ‘final’ result in most cases (though some trips are still in the planning stages as you get them), it has taken much time, effort and energy to help make your travel experience a perfect one.
The work of a good travel agent may start well before a trip is advertised or planned, and it continues until you arrive home with those memories of a lifetime, but your travel agent is already planning the next set of memories for that ultimate experience.
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About the Author
Kay Trotman AKA Safari Kay specializes in African Safaris. That’s just her specialty, but when not on safari she is globetrotting to other exotic destinations. Visit her http://destined-to-travel.com/ travel site for more info.