Richard John draws on an example of fam trip best practice from his latest travels
Industry fam trips are an essential part of our existence. Yet, they can be tedious and exhausting, despite the envious glances from desk-bound colleagues.
So, huge praise for Erika Pater and the Groningen Congres Bureau who put on a splendid trip to promote the delights of Groningen and Friesland. I would like to share some of the clever ways they showed off their fabulous region.
Firstly, the arrivals evening was relaxed, a wise move for guests arriving at various times. A welcome reception with nibbles and a stroll through a cold but clear night to a quiet restaurant.
And in the morning a walk through Groningen, the largest city in the northern part of the Netherlands. It’s a picturesque, walkable city with a rich history. This is clearly visible in the centre where the city walls jostle with the ancient harbours.
Of course, most cities have meeting facilities, so how do you chose the right ones to show? Here they’d excelled again; a trip to the Watertoren, a converted water tower, ideal for meetings with a difference, was followed by the Infoversum. Opened in 2014, this is a 3D Dome theatre.
And 40 minutes up the road is Leeuwarden, the European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Seeing two cities in two days can be a challenge but, again, our hosts had been inventive. Of course, it helps when one of the venues, the World Trade Centre, has a Michelin star restaurant, the Eleve. And how do you deal with all the local suppliers keen to meet these fam trippers? Why, a mini exhibition at the central theatre. And follow that with a comedian who entertains the crowd with fun anecdotes of the region and its people. That offered a whole new insight. (Comedy is a valuable tool to getting messages out there).
And, while choosing venues to showcase for such a disparate group is certainly no laughing matter and bound to be a challenge, I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone not blown away by the industrial cathedral that is the Woudagemaal, the 1920s pumping station now listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site.
The machinery is as perfect as it was the day it was installed, and the thought of receptions in that beautiful industrial cathedral got me quite misty-eyed. And the faint smells of engine oil; forget Chanel No. 5, this is the real aphrodisiac.
So congrats to our Dutch friends for showing off their beautiful region with such a creative flair. And did you know, next year it will be 140 years since Mata Hari was born in Leeuwarden? Secret meetings anyone?