Like many successful travel advisors, when the going gets tough, Lori Swinderman gets creative. This is exactly what she did during the pandemic, by creating Mexico FamTrips. Travel advisors know the best way to reinforce that travel is safe is by “walking the walk” so they can “talk the talk.” That is why Swinderman is facilitating travel advisor familiarization trips to her favorite destination: Mexico.
An eight-year veteran of the travel industry, Swinderman began her travel career as the co-owner of Upon a Star Travel based in Pittsburgh with her business partner. Together they currently have 28 ICs based across the United States.
New rules and regulations for Covid-19 travel mean that Mexico has emerged as one of the most popular and accessible getaway spots. Swinderman is seeing a substantial increase in the number of inquiries. Furthermore, these inquiries are not only from her clients but also from fellow advisors seeking her knowledge. “Mexico is my passion. It’s what I sell the most and what I truly believe in.”
Many of the travel advisors that reach out to her are solid veteran advisors who don’t traditionally sell very much Mexico travel. Newbies who are serious about learning about the destination form another strong contingent. However, they all share one common desire: They want to travel to Mexico to educate themselves so they may share their experiences with clients.
Mexico Famtrips are widely popular
Such is the popularity of Mexico Famtrips she currently has a waiting list for fam trips from April 2021 onwards. While she hopes to eventually have the capacity to host all of the applicants on her waiting list, for now, the selection process is based on specific criteria. This includes the percentage of sales to Mexico and a proven desire to learn about Mexico and sell the destination.
In addition to the individual advisor fams, Swinderman also hosts agency-exclusive fams. These are for companies looking to travel as a group on a more customized itinerary that includes specific properties and locales in Mexico. Swinderman coordinates all of the fams through long-standing partnerships she has formulated with Mexican resorts and transportation and excursion companies.
Her partners include Karisma Hotels and Resorts, Grupo Lomas, Fives Resorts, Hard Rock & Unico brands, Haven Resorts, Live Aqua, Catalonia Resorts, and Excellence Resorts. “Many more properties are coming on board and I will also work with other individual properties that an agency wants to visit for a site inspection,” she noted. Applications are currently being taken for general fams after March and agency fams after April.
In the midst of a pandemic, Swinderman has certainly found her silver lining. Fortunately for the travel industry and Mexico, it’s one that is far-reaching. “Something that will always be a part of any Mexico FamTrips fam is training and organized discussions on best practices,” says Swinderman. “James Berglie from Be All-Inclusive conducted an amazing, high-level training on social media. Vincent Wong from Chubbit Travel Wong used his knowledge of technology to provide a technology session on travel and tourism.”
“Right now we advertise our Fams through our website and Facebook page,” Swinderman says. “The other type of fam is an Agency Exclusive Fam. This is where agency owners come to us and we plan a custom fam for their entire agency. I work with them to create a schedule according to their needs.”
Cost and Duration
The cost for the fams varies but is based on the length of stay and resorts chosen. For example, a 4-night fam to an all-inclusive 3 ½-4 star property, including transfers, activities, and seminars provided by both technology and social media experts, might start at $350 per person. While dubbed Mexico FamTrips, Swinderman points out that her fams are not typical. “What we’re doing is much more custom and focused on culture and specialized education for what these agents need. Plus, I want people to see that it’s safe to come here.
You don’t need to be afraid to travel in Mexico and if clients see their agents going, they will change their perception. And of course, in the age of Covid-19, they can also come here, be socially distant, and have a safe and fun vacation at resorts that are taking every precaution. Many at their own expense.”
Giving back to the community
A shared purpose “One of the reasons why I’ve wanted to do this is because I want Mexico to thrive. I’ve seen what the pandemic has done to them. If they don’t work, they don’t eat and they are hard workers.” As part of the effort to give back, Mexico FamTrips is also adopting a local orphanage. Lori asks all of her fam participants to offer a small donation. “So, we are not only giving back with the donations but also by bringing people to Mexico so they can watch it flourish.”
Satisfying a need for advisors while hosting fam trips is hardly a new concept for the travel industry. Swinderman points out that particularly for advisors who are new and don’t have the volume with resorts and tour operators or the experience of working in Mexico, it can be very difficult and frustrating to try to plan a fam of your own. “Maybe you’re an advisor who started selling Mexico but you haven’t sold a ton yet. It can be hard to get a hold of people to plan a fam. Then you have to figure out the transfers of how to get from one resort to another.
Act Local, think global
I live here. Therefore I know the best routes to go in and out of these properties. I also know the people. I’m at these resorts at least once or twice a week, just visiting. I’m doing absolutely everything to coordinate the fams. I create the best possible schedule and educate the advisors. All they have to do is show up.”
Finally, Mexico FamTrips is partnering with a local school to help give back to the people of Mexico. “We want our fam attendees to see how vital the travel world is to Mexico,” says Swinderman. “Travel moves wealth all over the world, and when people don’t travel, people in destinations like Mexico suffer. We want to do our part to help with that.”