Conference & Meetings World Issue 91 - Page 17

In the Spotlight Buyers, beware? An anachronism open to abuse, or valuable business model, CMW asks whether it is time to change the Hosted buyers and fam trip model n overwhelming majority of eventprofs polled at a recent Event Planners Talk breakfast meeting in London thought it was time for a change in the traditional industry hosted buyer and fam trip models. The future model of fam trips and hosted buyer programmes was discussed during the discussion, held at The Caledonian Club in Belgravia. On the back of the recent emergence of a UK industry blacklist of alleged ‘bogus’ buyers, Team Umbrella agency’s MD Martin Ellis moderated a lively discussion under the heading: ‘Hosted buyer programmes and fam trips – is it time for change?’ A poll of those attending gave the unequivocal answer ‘Yes’ to the question, by 85%, with an even higher percentage – 96% – claiming to have experienced programmes where participants didn’t warrant a place. A panel, including Virgin Atlantic’s partnership development manager Rebecca Duncan, defended the general principle of familiarisation trips, however, explaining her company would typically work with stakeholders – usually a trinity of airline, DMC and hotels – to screen applicants. I’m more likely to take a risk with a freelancer or agent from a smaller company. They might just have that one client for us… But I’d rather have empty spaces on a fam trip than the wrong people,” Duncan said, adding that she Kit Kykketoft, Wonderful Copenhagen’s director of conventions, says: “More association hosted buyers could be attracted if they were allowed to have fewer mandatory meetings [at trade shows], as a number of destinations are of no relevance to them.” was wary of buyers who kept applying for the same experience. Rachelle Valladeres of Dezika suggested the practice of hosted buyers making some kind of refundable payment – to cover their airfare – conditional on attending meetings as one potential improvement to the old model. This had worked, she said, at IC&TM shows in Asia. However, one buyer pointed out that many large agencies simply refused to countenance paying to attend. Another problem identified was that invitations often gravitated to junior members of the agency, when a senior representative had been invited initially. There were problems on the other side of the fam fence too, with some agents ISSUE 91 / C o n f e r e n ce & M ee t i n g s W o r l d / 17