Event planners who handle international programs must be familiar with many different destinations around the world. Historically, destinations have offered fam trips to travel agents so that they may become more familiar with their regions, and agents will then promote the destinations to their clients.
What has traditionally been considered an incentive or award program for travel agents has been evolving into a sophisticated marketing initiative by tourist offices and their members to attract the lucrative group events market.
That is, international planners who organize trade shows, conferences, conventions and incentive programs will consider a range of experiences in different destinations as potential venues for their annual programs. And tourist offices are recognizing the financial impact of such event planner budgets.
To be sure, hosted tours differ from a site visit. When a planner schedules a site visit to a destination, he or she builds the agenda with the hotels, venues, DMCs and others being considered for a specific program.
What to Expect on a Trade Show Hosted Program
Approaches to hosted tours will differ depending on the objectives of the host. Nevertheless, it’s important to realize that this is a working trip. Although the planner will probably be visiting a pleasant vacation destination, he or she is invited because the ultimate objective is to hold an event there or to evaluate the viability of hosting an event there.
Tourism offices and others that organize these events are promoting a variety of competitive advantages to their markets, so expect an overview of hotels, conference facilities, convention centers, cultural sites, restaurants and more.
Of course, the transportation company that provides airport transfers and shuttle services during this time – not to mention the airlines used – are also subtly promoting its services during this time. And the good event planner understands this.
All of this means a very long, packed agenda (and quite exhausting when combined with long distance travel). What a planner may expect during a hosted trip:
- Complimentary accommodations and travel.
- Begin your days early in the morning.
- Visits to multiple hotels and conference centers.
- Brief visits to museums and other attractions.
- Guided bus tours of the destination.
- Dining experiences at the better restaurants in town.
- Limited or no breaks in the schedule.
- Concluding your days around midnight.
The drawback, however, is that the program is frequently general in nature, and many attendees may see places that may not likely be a good fit for every aspect of their program. It also means that some preferred venues may not also be on the itinerary during the visit.
When Are Hosted Tours Scheduled?
Some programs are combined with international trade shows in the industry, and planners can expect to visit an extensive list of venues and hotels, and the schedule is intense.
They are typically scheduled before and after these large conferences.
Most last two days in length, but attending a hosted tour prior to the conference usually allows the planner to have one day to adjust to the new time zones of a long distance trip. Those programs that are held immediately after a conference don’t allow any break in the work schedule.
Hosted Program Profile: FITUR Congresos 2008
FITUR Congresos is the specialized program organized by IFEMA, Madrid’s trade fair organization, and takes place prior to FITUR. It is a two day program targeted to the meeting professionals that includes scheduled appointments with hotels, venues and tourist offices throughout Spain. It also includes several pretour options of various destinations throughout Spain.
About 200 meeting professionals from 30 countries attended FITUR Congresos 2008.
FITUR is an international trade fair held annually in Madrid, and it primarily showcases Spain’s tourism products and services to domestic and international visitors. However, other international destinations also participate. In total, about 250,000 visitors from 170 countries and regions were estimated to attend FITUR 2008, including 13,300 companies.
FITUR Congresos Program
Held January 28-29, 2008, this meetings and incentives workshop brought together Spanish meeting suppliers with international planners. It is structured as a two day program, and participation is by invitation only.
Elements of the hosted program include the following:
- Work day
- Guided visit day
- Social events
- Complimentary travel
- Complimentary accommodations
- Optional visit to FITUR opening
- Optional hosted pretours
FITUR Congresos Work Day
Pre-arranged appointments were scheduled throughout the day. Planners submit requests of those venues and destinations that interest them, and organizers work to ensure that as many of the requested appointments are scheduled as possible.
Each appointment lasted 15 minutes to allow the maximum number of appointments between suppliers and planners. During this time, focused conversations are held to discuss how suppliers can help meet the business objectives of the planners. This allowed event planners to hold more in-depth discussions about potential programs.
FITUR Congresos Madrid Guided Visit Day
Planners participated in a full day tour of the city, familiarizing them with popular areas where meetings and events will be hosted. This included hotels, venues, restaurants and more.
FITUR Congresos Pretour Options
Pretours were offered to hosted buyers before the actual congress so that event and meeting planners may become more familiar with the destinations available in Spain for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
Nine different destinations throughout Spain were offered as pretours:
- Gran Canaria (Canary Islands)
- La Rioja
Other Organizations that Host Tours
Hosted programs are popular in countries outside of the U.S., including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. They are frequently tied to industry conferences, and each establishes its own criteria for participation (including pre-events and post-events). Three examples include: