My first visit to Germany is a bit of a blur. I traveled there on a “fam trip.” That’s a euphemism for “bribe.” A familiarization tour is a means by which the hospitality industry attempts to bribe people with the power to select meeting sites to select a specific city or venue. The all-expenses-paid trip initially was offered to my boss, who was executive director of the association for which I worked. But he was out of commission, recovering from a medical procedure; heart surgery, I think. I am embarrassed to recall that I responded on his behalf, saying I would be willing to make the trip in his stead. The association had no plans to meet in Germany, but my response suggested there was such a possibility.  So, I flew first-class from Houston to New York and from New York to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Berlin. I remember getting to the airport in Houston, dressed casually for travel, only to be told at the check-in counter that I could not travel as I was dressed and that I would have to change into a business suit in order to board. I think the ticket was the sort that, at the time, generally was available only to airline employees but, because the airline was a sponsor of the fam trip, it provided that class of ticket to the tour organizers. I changed into a business suit in the men’s room, checked my bags, and away I went. The group of people on the fam trip represented a broad cross-section of association executives and meeting planners. I would lay odds that the majority of us had neither any plans nor any authority to select Berlin as the site for future events. We were a bunch of freeloaders willing to bend the truth to get a free trip to Germany. I remember my rationale for accepting the offer. The association for which I worked had begun an international outreach in Europe; I reasoned that, as an outgrowth of that initiative, we might one day organize a meeting in Berlin, so it would be best for me to know something of the city in advance. I think lied to myself. I think knew better and that, if we ever were to arrange to meet in Berlin, it would be years away. But I wanted to go on that trip. Ever since then, I’ve condemned fam trips, because I proved to myself that they constitute bribery. If an organization wants to plan a meeting someplace, regardless of where, it should invest then necessary resources to send its  staff to do the groundwork; it should not rely on hospitality industry bribery. I was bribed. I accepted a bribe. The bribe didn’t do the trip organizers any good because I didn’t take business to Berlin. But, to this day, almost forty years later, I have a bad taste in my mouth about how I made my first trip to Berlin. Subsequent trips were on the up-and-up. I later attended meetings in Berlin and around Germany. But that one trip branded me as someone who would take a bribe. That blur of a trip was enjoyable, I think, but I spent the entire time feeling more than a little guilty for being there. I remember wondering whether my rationale for the trip was legitimate. I’ve long since answered with a firm “no.” And ever since, my moral indignation at fam trips, though admittedly hypocritical, has remained steadfast. My decision to take that trip has had a lifelong impact on my self-esteem; I wonder if I’ll ever get over the feeling that I am not the kind of guy I can trust.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Please, comment on this post. Your response? First, you remain silent and then you abandon me.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.