Every convention and visitors bureau handles familiarization, or fam, tours differently. Some CVBs prefer to do group fam tours for travel writers, tour operators and meeting planners; other CVBs say individual tours, especially for meeting planners, allow the agency to tailor the trip to the planner and the event’s needs, and that often means a better chance of attracting the event to the community.
Cabarrus County, North Carolina
The Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau does a handful of fams each year, but the agency is working to bump that up this year in an effort to expose more people to the area, which is just about 15 minutes north of Charlotte.
The CVB typically does group fams for about a dozen planners, and the agency plans the trips around the county’s “bigger times of year,” said sales manager Selah Havard. The CVB’s most recent fam, for example, coincided with the Bank of America 500 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2013.
The agency mines prospects from trade shows and sales calls and invites meeting planners to visit, usually during the larger NASCAR races, Havard said. Individual planners also contact the CVB about visiting, which allows the CVB to customize the fam to the planner’s needs. In many ways, smaller fam trips are similar to a site visit, Havard said.
Generally, the CVB showcases the Great Wolf Lodge and the Embassy Suites Hotel Resort and Spa, both in Concord, for larger events, as well as the Hilton Garden Inn for smaller meetings, Havard said. The CVB also entertains planners at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where groups can have events. Hendrick Motorsports’ race shop is a state-of-the-art facility where visitors can watch crews build cars in a garage that’s so clean that it’s “almost surgical,” Havard said. Hendrick Motorsports also has event and meeting space, she said.
“Where we’re located and what our draw is, I think it’s important to be open-minded and to do something a little bit different,” she said.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Although the Las Cruces CVB does group fams, those are generally used more for the tourism side — travel writers and group tour operators — whereas the agency typically arranges meeting planner fams on an individual basis, said convention sales manager Rochelle Miller-Hernandez.
“Individual definitely works well for the meeting planner sides of things,” she said, because the CVB can tailor the trip to the planner’s needs.
Miller-Hernandez said planners get the most out of fams when they attend all the events during a trip.
“We really pack it in, but it’s worth it in the long run,” she said. “We try to show them things that the regular visitor, even residents in the area, might not be able to see.”
She also recommended that planners try to either come a day early or stay a day later. Doing so allows them to spend a day seeing and experiencing the area on their own, which gives them a better feel for the city, she said.
The CVB has “lengthy conversations” with planners before they arrive to tailor their fam tours, she said. Fams can include stops at full-service properties such as Hotel Encanto and the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, as well as at the Las Cruces Convention Center. The CVB also likes to showcase meeting and event space at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum or in the nearby historic town of Mesilla, where a downtown plaza and several restaurants are available to groups.