I have friends in the Bay Area who don’t even know where Sacramento is. Ok, that’s a lie, I don’t have any friends, but if I did they very well might not know where Sacramento is. And if our fellow Californians don’t know where we are, then it’s hard to expect international visitors to know anything about us.
That’s why part of our job here at Visit Sacramento is to bring international travel professionals to town so they can learn what we are all about and share with potential visitors. These trips are called “familiarization tours” or simply “fam tours.” Sometimes industry folks will refer to them as “FAMs” as if it’s an acronym, but I’ve never understood that.
Anyhow, a fam tour will bring together tour operators, travel agents, travel writers, etc. for a short tour of a specific region with the hopes of increasing the exposure of that destination throughout the travel trade. That is the most professional sounding sentence on this whole blog.
We get a good number of tours like this coming through Sacramento throughout the year. They come from all over the world and for many participants it’s their first trip to the US, let alone California or Sacramento. Usually, the groups will spend about a week in California and we will have them for one of those nights.
We are currently on the cusp of a wave of these fam trips coming to town. Here’s a little inside glimpse of what we have going on and how we organize these tours.
These opportunities usually come to us through the international offices of Visit California. We’ll get the call that we have a chance to bring a group to town and then I’ll go begging for hotel rooms to accommodate them. Then there’s the begging for meals followed by the begging for activities. Eighty percent of my job is begging for favors.
After the begging is complete, we put together the itinerary. Usually, Sacramento is included on itineraries with San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Yosemite or Lake Tahoe. We try to find our niche in there. I mean, we aren’t going to compete with Napa’s luxury or SF’s big-city appeal, so we try to focus on what we do well.
For example, if my counterparts in Napa take them to a fancy winery and a 5-star restaurant, we’ll treat them to a dive bar and a bucket of fried chicken. Or we’ll put them in cowboy hats and take them to Sutter’s Fort:
You might be surprised how well this goes over.
Here is the all-important white board which helps us keep all our upcoming fam tours straight….we hope.
You’ll see a column labeled “pax” which is short for “Bill Paxton” the famous Hollywood actor. You can see we have 12 Bill Paxtons from Korea coming in on Sep. 24th. Ok, no, pax stands for “passengers” which isn’t really that much more accurate than calling them Bill Paxtons. Still, that’s how we count the number of people in a group.
So in the next couple months, we have industry fam tours from Korea(2), China and the United Kingdom (2) coming in to Sacramento. This is our time to shine. If you live in Sacramento, please be on your best behavior on those dates listed in the photo above.
If you can read the itinerary portion of the white board, you can see that we do a lot of the same things over and over again. I have literally been to the Railroad Museum 8,000 times. Ok, not literally. But I bet I’ve been 200 times…which is still a lot. The Railroad Museum, capitol and Old Sacramento appear on our itineraries pretty regularly…as they should.
I’ve taken the tour of the capitol tour so many times that one time – in a pinch – I actually acted as a tour guide for a busload of Bill Paxtons and made $19 in tips!
We do get to mix it up a bit though. You can see that Tank House, Midtown Farmers Market, Empress Tavern, Frank Fat’s, Sac Brew Bike, Ben-Ben’s Hidden Tea Room, South, Old Ironsides and more are included somewhere on the list. As I mentioned, there is a lot of eating.
Some of the groups get a chance to work off some of those calories on bikes (or beer bikes), rafting or even paddle-boarding at Lake Natoma like the first UK group on the list is doing.
Usually, the itineraries end up being a mix of the Sacramento classics and basically what I would do in a normal day. You’ll know I’m not really putting the effort in if one of these groups just spends all afternoon at Cheaters and then goes back to my house to watch The Great British Baking Show.
Anyhow, once we get people on the ground in Sacramento to see firsthand what our city has to offer it turns out that they REALLY like us. They go from having no idea we existed to absolutely loving us. This is probably the best way to get the word out to potential visitors.
So that’s a little peak about how we share Sacramento with the world. It seems to be working, but let me know if you think I’m doing this wrong.