Monday,  December 16, 2019  6:30 am

The travel agent's survival guide to ACV's MegaFAMs


The travel agent's survival guide to ACV's MegaFAMs
Group A poses for a photo at Sandals Grande Antigua.
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

As something of an annual tradition, Air Canada Vacations’ MegaFAMs offer a select group of agents the incredible opportunity to see plenty of resorts in a short period of time.

READ MORE: PAX On Location: Exploring Antigua on ACV's second MegaFAM

The offer is a tempting one: the trip is usually only two days (this year ACV extended it to three), you get to see some of the most gorgeous properties you’re selling your clients (in real life!), and then you return home with a nice tan and a pretty solid Instagram feed that would make any cold Canadian jealous this time of year.

But upon obtaining that itinerary, it’s obvious from the get-go that the days are long, and plenty of activities, from site inspections to local experiences are added on, making for a morning-to-night experience, so to speak. 

So, how do you make the most of your time, and truly bring the knowledge and experience you learned abroad back home in order to translate it into everyday business conversations and relations?

PAX caught up with several agents—MegaFAM veterans and newbies alike—who took part in the Antigua MegaFAM, which ran from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22.

READ MORE: ACV's first MegaFAM wraps in Jamaica

The second of ACV’s three MegaFams this year, the third and final MegaFam just kicked off down in Curaçao this morning.

Agent to agent, here’s how to make the most of an ACV MegaFam!

Expect the unexpected, always

Sneakers? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Positive attitude? You better hope so!

There were more than 120 travel agents on this year’s Antigua MegaFam, divided into five groups. With so many different people and personalities, being out in the hot sun for long periods of time, moving from hotel to hotel can take its toll on even the healthiest, most energetic individuals.

“Bring a good attitude and leave the bad attitude at home; put your complaints in your pocket, so to speak, because you have to expect the unexpected,” said Lauretta Campbell, of Flight Centre, based in Burlington, ON. “This isn’t a vacation, you’re working hard. The Antigua MegaFAM was such a lovely experience because we had a like-minded group who all want to see and experience the best of what Antigua has to offer with ACV.”

“I absolutely loved the MegaFam and would for sure do one again,” added Nicole Blowes, of Blowes Travel, based in Stratford, ON. “This is a great way to see a bunch of different resorts in a short period of time; I really enjoyed my time in Antigua and I can’t wait to go back!”

Site inspection stuff aside, Blowes said one of the most crucial things agents who are considering doing a MegaFAM need to remember is to make time for themselves.

“Fuel up on a big breakfast everyday, and drink plenty of water,” Blowes advises.

Work hard, but don't forget to have fun along the way; it helps you learn even more about the destination you're visiting.

Take your shot—and then move on

For many agents, the site inspections included in the MegaFAM allow for an in-depth look at what your clients can truly expect once they arrive in destination. Because of that, everybody wants the best photo, because social media plays a crucial role in bookings these days.

"Thanks to all of the social media posts you all did using #ACVANUfam, we actually had a number of new bookings to Antigua that sprung up while the MegaFAM was running," said Judy Munden, area sales manager, Air Canada Vacations.

But, you can’t exactly put 25 travel agents in a 500 sq. ft. suite and expect to get Instagram-worthy results every time, so how do you manage to get what you need?

Heather Rother of SellOffVacations.com, based in Truro, N.S., has been on four ACV MegaFam’s including one in Costa Rica, and last year’s Puerto Plata/Samana trip through the Dominican Republic.

“These photos are essentially going to be your visual reminder for when you get back home, so if you have clients who are interested in the property, I can confidently show them these photos, because I took them,” Rother explained. “Good photos make the sale easier, but that being said, be courteous, take your photos, and then get out of the other person’s line of sight so they can have a turn too.”

Take your photos, and then make space for others, Heather Rother, of SellOffVacations.com advises.

Want a few tips from a photojournalist’s point of view?

  • Get down low—smaller spaces can be tricky to photograph, so don’t be afraid to play with angles
  • Put your iPhone on HDR mode—colours and lines are crisper and more vivid
  • Respect the ‘Rule of Thirds’; use the built-in grid on your camera to line up your shots
  • Bring a selfie stick or use a PopSocket (you’ll find one for free at many industry events!) for a more hands-free shot
  • Be courteous! Don't sit on the beds or move furniture around, as it affects photos for everyone else.

Ask questions! Your area sales manager is here to help. Pictured: Francine Allen and Judy Munden of ACV.

A basic survival guide

On average, an ACV MegaFam will include roughly 10 hotel site inspections, spread out over the course of two days. 

On the Antigua MegaFAM, we inspected 11 resorts, some very close together, and others about a 45-minute ride away.

The following tips were echoed by multiple agents, and should be something to keep in mind for anyone thinking of signing up next year:

  • Bring comfortable shoes—sneakers are best, because you’re doing a lot of walking—according to one agent, we logged 18,000 steps on the second day alone!
  • Even if you aren’t thirsty, keep drinking water—it’s easy to dehydrate faster when you’re constantly sweating, and heat stroke and headaches sneak up on you.
  • Pack a small bag of essentials: notepad, pen, phone, water bottle, etc. and keep it on you
  • Ask for and accept any flyers or brochures provided by resort staff during inspections
  • Turn on Location Services on your iPhone; when you take a photo, it will automatically tag the place you took it at (this helps when looking back and trying to remember which photo goes with which resort).
  • Ask lots of questions—you’ve got the opportunity to ask anything and everything you want, in person, so take advantage of the offer. Who are your biggest clients? What’s the best feature on the property? What are some value-added options I can propose?
  • Have fun! These are your industry peers, and MegaFAMs are an excellent way to meet like-minded people all across Canada.

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