Nancy Harkrider of ExploreAsia.net recommends how to have fun on culinary fam trips and bring back knowledge that builds your business.
I got a call the other day from a travel agent planning a fam trip to China. She wanted to get some ideas about how she could come back with strategies for selling culinary tours. Afterward, it occurred to me that these ideas might be helpful to Travel Agent readers. Think of it like this: It starts with appetizers and moves to the main courses before finally lingering over dessert and coffee.
Trip preparation is essential. I recommend you go about this systematically and creatively so you are ready to understand what you are experiencing.
o Do some self study— watch videos and review resources like Travel Agent.
o Visit the International Culinary Tourism Association website www.culinarytourism.org.
o Locate friends and associates who have been on a trip similar to the one you are taking and find out what surprised and excited them as well as what they didn’t like so you can go on the trip with ideas to use for your future culinary groups.
o Go to some local restaurants with the same cuisine you will be experiencing on your trip. Chat with your server and find out what people like about this particular type of food. Better yet, invite some of those veteran culinary travelers to join you for a meal.
o Take a book or audios about culinary travel or about the country you will be visiting. It’s amazing how much more exciting and relevant this is when I am actually airborne.
On the trip, the first recommendation is to relax and immerse yourself in the amazing experiences you will be having. I find that the better time I have, the more I can translate that passion to my customers.
o Keep something handy for recording the best bits from your tour leader, conversations with locals and to record your own reflections. I strongly recommend an audio recorder, one small enough to fit in your hand, with the power to record seven-eight hours before you need to upload to a computer. A small notebook works well too
o Take advantage of conversations with others on the fam trip. Exchange ideas for how what you are all experiencing can be translated to selling points for customers.
o Encourage your tour leader to talk about experiences with other travelers in terms of what they love, their questions as well as what they wanted more of about their culinary travel.
o Take pictures, concentrating on close ups of food and people since those types of pictures sell your story with customers. Make sure someone takes some pictures of you enjoying your culinary adventures.
o Make it a point to find at least one fellow traveler on your fam who is enthusiastic about staying in touch and sharing ideas.
When back home, reflect on what you learned.
o Organize your notes, images and audios in a way that you can really use when working with clients who are interested in culinary travel.
o Write about your experiences via your website, a blog or newsletters geared to potential customers.
o Stay in touch with that culinary travel “buddy” as each of you builds your culinary niche.
o When your customers go on a culinary journey, connect with them after the trip. They are your most valuable resource for revisions and modifications that will guarantee five-star recommendations from future culinary groups.
Food for thought!