Help for destinations with media, meeting planner and incentive buyers’ fam trips, messaging and positioning

Destination Halifax treats planners to a picnic at Peggy’s Cove.

Hello and welcome. I’m Allan Lynch. I’m a writer who, since 1992, has specialized in covering the meetings and incentive industry.

I want to help you maximize your investment in fam trips for meeting planners and/or media. Whether you represent a destination, hotel, resort or meeting and event venue, we all know familiarization trips are important to the success of your sales and marketing plan. It’s tire-kicking and relationship building in one. And regardless of all the wonderful things the press may have said about you, these trips are make-or-break opportunities.

That’s why it’s important to get it right. And 90 percent of the time hosts do get it right. BUT, how much does it cost you when everything doesn’t go as planned? Or you miss zeroing in on a key element which could close the deal?

The last thing you want is for a guest to return to the office thinking, “Nice place, but …”

I have been on site inspections where the person conducting it had no idea who their audience was, what their interests and needs are, or their hot-button issues. It’s shocking when a hotel rep doesn’t know their property’s room count or meeting capacities. Equally shocking is when they don’t know what’s beyond their venue’s walls and how to make it all work together.

Very often the fix required isn’t expensive or that time consuming. It’s usually a

The Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando shows meetings media how to do an off-site, on-site.

reworking of the materials and messaging to bring out the bigger positive or to refresh a message to make it more relevant to today’s audience. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help those on the ground see what is special about their destination. It’s usually something residents take for granted.

I’ve had 20 years covering the meetings and incentive travel sector for magazines in Canada and the United States. I have been on assignment in China, the Caribbean, across North America, South Africa, UK and Europe. I’ve written about destinations and a range of topics from the challenges of cruise meetings and how to organize a golf incentive or a golf program for the non-playing planner to organizing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics. My job is to properly interpret the place or idea for my readers, who are incentive house reps and meeting planners. I have traveled solo, I have traveled with my media colleagues and I have traveled with meeting planners.

Tourism Richmond drums up business by showing planners team-building through drumming.

As well as studying destinations, I interview planners about their needs, issues and industry trends.

I can help you hone your message and presentations to the buyers, and help you with your media relations. Ever wonder why some places get all the coverage?

I’m not trying to replace your marketing or public relations people. My intention is to work with them to bolster the message, experience and presentation. They come to the fam tip from the perspective of a host trying to do everything to satisfy the needs and answer the questions of their quests by presenting a WOW experience. I act like a secret shopper to rate how that WOW was received by the guest.

As one top Canadian tourism executive summarized Destination Doctor, “It’s a best practices audit.”

My goal is to ensure the best sales message and experience are provided and give feedback. I can help with aspects like guest follow-ups to dealing with media and  boosting media coverage of your destination/property/venue.

We’re all professionals, but things happen, even on the best-organized fam.

Here are just a few of my experiences:

*   Several times groups of planners on site inspections were locked out of venues on the itinerary and the host had no way of contacting anyone to let us in.

*   There have been dangerous drivers ranging from aggressive guides to drag-racing bellmen to a host who drank 10 glasses of wine at a wrap-up dinner then drove guests to their hotels.

*   A guide who traveled with a rattlesnake named Elizabeth.

*   A senior destination rep got drunk and acted inappropriately towards female guests.

*   A guest who behaved so badly she was sent home.

*   Another guest who was too important to send home stayed, but her continued disruptive presence made it an unproductive trip for everyone.

*   Last-minute replacement hosts who are not briefed on their audience, property or destination.

*   Hosts who didn’t accommodate special dietary needs.

*   Hosts who get lost.

*   And hosts, who when faced with airport closures and cancelled flights, walked away from departing guests saying, “You’re on your own”.

I’m not suggesting it’s all bad. But a small detail when dealing with a valued guest can turn them toward a competitor destination. And then there have been amazingly simple inexpensive, thoughtful touches that really WOW’ed experienced travelers. Things like embroidered pillow cases to take home or returning to the room after a long day to find a candle-lit bath drawn. I’ve been impressed by the inspired way a partner handled a bus breakdown.

Let me put my knowledge and experience to work for you.

Because of my travel schedule email: I will respond within 24 hours.

To paraphrase Joan Rivers, “Let’s talk.”

Beijing cooking class for travel media, courtesy of the Ritz Carlton Financial Street and Cathay Pacific Airways.

By allanlynch