Ten ways to be a good guest on a travel media famil

Travel trade famil group hosted by Qantas (source: etbnews)
Let’s face it. It’s all about the travel. Why else would we work for pittance (or less) if it weren’t for the degustation menus and limousine transfers? But don’t blow it by being the [undesirable person]. You want to be invited again, right?

I feel completely qualified to write this article based on the fact that I have committed almost every travesty on this list or seen it done at close quarters. Of course, there will be many more items you can think of, so feel free to comment.

Famils (familiarisation trips) come in all shapes and sizes from simple twos and threes to massive ‘megafams’ where guests arrive in waves by coach. Even when you are travelling solo and being ‘comped’ (receiving complimentary services) - it counts.

Firstly, always remember that you are there, not because you are the coolest, but because your host(s) expect ROI (return on investment). I have written a separate item on delivering ROI here.
  1. Be on time. Whether you are in a group of journalists or grafted into a regular group trip, don’t be the one everyone is always waiting for. We all know these people and we don’t like them.
  2. Don’t be pushy. Don’t throw your weight around trying to get an upgrade or gain extra favours. Usually the host has already comped you to the extent of their budget, so grinding your chaperone will only make them want to leave you at the next gas station.
  3. Dress nicely. Dress appropriately. Please don’t turn up at Business Class check-in in last night’s T-shirt and flip-flop sandals. Brush your hair even if you don’t have any. Same for dinners and inspections. Look sharp.
  4. Don’t be a smartarse or loudmouth. I’ve caught myself out here more than once. Don’t turn your hotel review into a Shakespearean soliloquy or try to one-up the next writer with your better-than-heaven spa experience. It’s okay to share notes and experiences, encouraged even, but don’t try and make yourself out to be the expert on everything. Please tell me if I am.
  5. Be nice. Cab drivers, check-in staff and waiters don’t care who you are even if you think you’re someone. Be gracious, patient, clear and a little bit forgiving. Tip. Don’t ever (EVER) dress down staff or hosts in front of the group. If you have a genuine issue, wait for (or make) a private moment to discuss with your host. Be objective and don’t make it all about you.
  6. Give your colleagues some space. If someone wants to chase a unique angle, photograph or side-story, let them. Don’t read notes over their shoulder, photo-bomb their subject or ask them about their idea. It’s our personal take on things that give us our commercial edge. Go find your own ideas.
  7. Don’t stalk editors. Oh my, I see this all the time. If one of the guests is a commissioning editor for a magazine or newspaper, don’t latch onto them like a limpet, hounding them with pitches. Be subtle and intelligent with your strategy. Sure, you want them to remember you, but not as ‘that jerk’.
  8. Behave. We’ve all seen it. Sometimes there’s a bit of chemistry between travellers and romance is one of the joys of travel, but don’t force unwanted advances onto someone. Usually this is men, but I’ve seen some ladies get a bit forward too, especially after a couple of gins. Don’t be ‘the creep’.
  9. Thank people. Don’t get all gushy, but make sure your hosts know you are grateful for the opportunity and respect the work they have done to put the whole thing together. Sure they get paid to do it, but big trips are often a lot of work and sleepless nights. Sound familiar? Empathise.
  10. When you get home, send clippings and web links to your host. This is the best ‘thank you’ ever.
More from the ASTW: Guidelines for hosted media


  1. Good tips Rod - and yes, I'm pretty sure I've witnessed all of these crimes! I could add one: Don't whinge or complain that you're used to more luxurious accommodation, better coffee, cooler temperatures, etc, etc. Nobody cares. And your host is ALWAYS trying his or her best.

  2. Mind if I share this on the Ultimate Travel Journalism Course page, Rod?

  3. These extra tips for travel agents has come in via Ian McIntosh. Many of these codes overlap with media.

    “Being offered and accepting an educational is not a right. It is a privilege.”
    - Max Najar.
    * Invited travel, tourism and hospitality staff have a ethical commitment to uphold via courtesy, manners and respect as they not only represent their employer, but also the supplier.
    * You should be a ghost. You should be able to walk in, inspect, walk out of a room, cabin, seated area or whatever and NOT adjust, abuse, dirty, mess, steal, loan or in any way disrupt what is already there.
    * It costs hotel staff and others to have to resend cleaning staff, room housekeeping or others to fix the mess you made, or replace items you took (even if the staff were far too courteous to say “NO” to you when they should have!).
    * Read the proposed Itinerary and see what room/time you have to do other things in FREE time periods to extract the most from this Educational. Always inform tour escort(s) if you head off on your own.
    * `Read destination/product data before arrival.
    Only accept an educational offer if you should attend. There may be another staff member who may be better suited.
    * Remember that the style, travel class, Itinerary or standards may not be what you prefer -but we all sell a myriad of products to a myriad of pax, so an unbiased, open-mind approach is needed.
    * Bring enough business cards with a highlighter pen and pen with small notepad or Ipad/PDA .
    * Know the products before you depart and the suppliers so you can compare what they say with what you experience.
    * Provide a written office report within 10 days of your return to base
    * No loud talk or laughter whilst inspecting. Be a ghost but ask appropriate questions where necessary.
    * Never boast to the public that you are “doing it all free” or “the trip has been hugely discounted.” This is stupid and embarrassing.
    * Consider zero alcohol. In fact drink less when away if you need to-at all.
    * Do not over indulge with menu items or courtesies when taken out.
    * Do not use any inspected room toilets or bathrooms. Do not open cupboards or drawers unless invited to do so. Work on assumption that drawers and units actually do work and do open properly!
    * Do not carry any drinks or food whilst inspecting.
    * No smoking. No food. No Drinks. No chewing whilst being talked to. No mobile phones ON when inspecting. No high volume chatter between room inspections or cabin inspections or entering lifts, staircases, rooms or any public areas.
    * Do not steal (it is not called “borrowing”) any items from trolleys.
    * Do not touch glassware, windows, Bathroom doors, chromes, steel etc and leave finger marks.
    * No sitting on beds or couches or jumping up and down on them or messing the layout of sheets or covers.
    * No taking photos without an OK, especially in deluxe hotels that may have strict security policies.
    * Think constructively about what you are seeing and how best you can market the product and and deliver what you have learned to other staff and pax .
    * When you get back Thank your manager and any supporting staff (who covered your files when away).
    * Complete any reports and also send an email or card or Phone call of thanks to all relevant suppliers.
    * Be honest, constructive and (hopefully) positive about your experience as it is via hands-on attendance that we move forward and improve the Industry.


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