In Defense of the FAM Tour

by Dan Ward

I don’t work with or for Visit Florida, so I have no inside knowledge of the “secrecy” issues raised by the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer.

I can, however, comment at length about Rohrer’s mistaken definition of a “familiarization tour” as a “vacation.”

Having managed at least 20 FAM tours over my career, I can state with certainty that they are NOT vacations.  They are working trips, usually packed with nonstop site tours and presentations.  Most tour itineraries leave no more than a few hours of “free time” over several days.

Nearly every travel destination, hotel, park and attraction uses FAM tours to educate travel journalists in the hopes of generating coverage that promotes visitation.  It’s similar to when an automotive journalist drives a car for several days in order to review it.  Would Rohrer refer to this as a “vacation” for that journalist?  Travel destinations also conduct FAM’s for travel agents and meeting planners so that they can better understand the products they are selling.  Are these vacations, too?

Rohrer appears to suggest that the FAM tours paid for by Visit Florida were somehow inappropriate.  What would be inappropriate is to have a state tourism marketing agency that does NOT include such tours in its marketing toolbox.

Correction – an earlier version of this post identified Gray Rohrer as a reporter for the Associated Press.  Rohrer reports for the Orlando Sentinel.  I have corrected the post and regret the error.

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