Hosting Guidelines and Tips

Few promotional tools are as successful, or as cost effective, as a well-executed familiarization (fam) tour. These tours allow writers, tour operators and travel agents to experience firsthand the sights, activities, and tastes of South Dakota which they will relay to the traveling public. Let us know if you are interested in hosting one of our fam tours (usually on a complimentary basis). If we know you are willing to participate, we will do our best to include you in an itinerary.

Properties that host rooms, meals, tours, etc. usually benefit greatly from either stories written, group tours booked or individual travel. You need to remember these benefits may not happen immediately, but your business will gain positive exposure for future marketing.

We do our best to schedule fam tours during the shoulder season (mid-August – November). However, visits from writers and foreign tour operators depend on a number of factors, so it is important to be flexible.

Every effort is made  to include as many cities and attractions as possible on any given tour/hosting and try to rotate itineraries as much as possible. For a journalist hosting, the location sites are often chosen by the journalist, whereas a group tour or travel agent fam is arranged entirely by Travel South Dakota.

If you host fam tours, be present to welcome your guests, give them your business card, answer questions, make suggestions, etc. This is an excellent opportunity to sell your city or business; take advantage of it!

Make sure you plan backup activities in case of inclement weather or other unforeseen complications.

Leave a lasting impression…a personal welcome, South Dakota keepsakes, gifts representative of the city, a note from the mayor, a complimentary bottle of wine or a banner welcoming them can make the difference.


  • The fam coordinator from Travel South Dakota will notify the city chamber of commerce/CVB of the dates and times the fam tour will be in their city and may ask for assistance in coordinating the lodging, meals, and attractions.
  • As fam tours are usually on a tight schedule, the tour cannot visit every attraction in each city. Pick one or two highlights, and have a city greeter discuss the other attractions available and how they might fit into an itinerary. Also, a city packet complete with suggested itineraries and brochures could be useful.
  • Another way to have business people in the tourism industry meet the fam participants is to have a reception or coordinate a meal where individual businesses “sponsor” individual fam participants’ meals. Another option would be to have hosts included on the fam that will help with the cost of the meal.


  • In a pre-trip letter to Travel South Dakota personnel, make suggestions for appropriate clothing and gear for planned activities.
  • Consider shooting needs of photographers while planning your schedule. Most prefer early morning and/or evening shoots.
  • Don’t over-schedule. Rushing gives writers a negative outlook. Generally, travel writers prefer tours beginning around 8 a.m. and enjoy free time in the evening. On the other hand, outdoor writers usually begin their day before sunrise and wind down after sunset.
  • Don’t overload writers with printed materials. Offer to ship press materials to them before or after their trip.
  • Hosts should not only be familiar with major regional attractions, but also with colorful sites and personalities off the beaten path.
  • Although writers enjoy the atmosphere of major hotels and restaurants, don’t overlook the appeal of local, smaller-scale establishments (i.e. guest ranches and bed and breakfasts).
  • Foreign journalists may be looking for a different angle---what we see as ordinary, they may find fascinating.


  • Most travel agencies work with individuals and families.
  • Know if your property gives a travel agent discount and the amount of the discount. An example would be the AAA discount.
  • Many travel agents use AAA approval when selecting locations, therefore, Travel South Dakota prefers to choose hosts (hotels, restaurants, and attractions) that are AAA rated when planning an itinerary.
  • Know your area. Travel agents will often ask for local opinions or options. If you cannot provide information, refer the travel agent to your local chamber/CVB.



  • It is best to place all participants in a single property (two at most)---one drop-off and pick-up allows more time for touring local attractions.
  • Generally, fam participants do not like to share rooms. We know this can be expensive, especially when you are hosting larger groups, but one investment can pay off many times over.
  • Front desk staff should be informed of the arrival date and time. They should have room keys ready and luggage service is a must with tour operators.
  • Tour operators are only interested in properties that can accommodate groups of 25 or more. Some foreign tour operators coordinate individual fly-drive vacations rather than group. In this case, smaller properties can be used.
  • If your property does not have elevators, tour operators (and their clients) like to be located on the ground floor.
  • If you have a restaurant, we may also ask you to provide breakfast, as many operators will include breakfast as part of their tour package.
  • Follow-up to make the sale! Those who have just seen your property and experienced your great service are your best prospects. Mailing your brochures to them following the tour is a good idea.


  • A greeter is important so operators can discuss rates—printed information is also helpful.
  • Tour operators usually prefer to order from the menu. If everyone is to be served the same thing, the fam coordinator from Travel South Dakota needs to be notified so duplication of food throughout the tour can be avoided. Also, a menu should be available.


  • Tour operators want to visit attractions that can accommodate groups, and information on group rates is very important.
  • In order to accommodate a busy itinerary, we may spend a limited amount of time at each attraction.



10. Be prompt and decisive in accepting or declining a hosting request.

9. Help us accommodate last-minute requests from writers, group tour operators or travel agents passing through South Dakota.

8. Be flexible as to arrival and departure times. The Travel South Dakota host will let you know if the tour is running behind or ahead of schedule if possible.

7. Know who you are hosting—travel writers, outdoor writers, travel agents or group tour operators. It does make a difference.

6. Do something special for the fam participants, so your business will stand out in their minds.

5. Leave them wanting more…don’t try to cover every inch of your business/town in one visit.

4. Offer printed materials on pertinent information such as rates, historical information and interesting facts. Offer to mail it if necessary.

3. Appoint a designated fam tour host/greeter. This person should be on hand to meet the tour group upon arrival.

2. Treat fam guests as you would your paying customers.

1. Remember… Fam tours are your most economical marketing tool with the greatest outreach potential.

Also, we always welcome your suggestions.


Global Public Relations & Content Services
Domestic and International Media and Travel Writers

Katlyn Svendsen
Global Public Relations & Content Services Senior Director,  605-773-3301
[email protected]

Ciara Forest
Global Media & Public Relations Representative, 605-773-3301
[email protected]

Stephanie Spronk
Social Media Manager & Global Media Representative, 605-773-3301
[email protected]

Global Travel & Trade
International and Domestic Travel Trade

Cole Irwin
Global Travel & Trade Senior Director, 605-773-3301
[email protected]

Kyler Flock
Global Travel & Trade Representative, 605-773-3301
[email protected]

Calley Geigle
Global Travel & Trade Representative, 605-773-3301
[email protected]