What Group Travel Planners Can Learn from Ja Rule, Billy McFarland, and the So-called Fyre Festival

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What Group Travel Planners Can Learn from Ja Rule, Billy McFarland, and the So-called Fyre Festival

The so-called Fyre Festival was a music festival scheduled to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma over two weekends in April and May 2017. Organized by Fyre Media founder Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule as a luxury music festival to promote the Fyre music booking app, the event was promoted on Instagram by “social media influencers” like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Rataikowski, and other models.  Scheduled for two weekends in April and May, the event sold day tickets for $1,500, and VIP packages including airfare and luxury accommodations for $12,000. Customers were promised accommodations in “modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes” and meals from celebrity chefs.  Unfortunately, when travelers arrived, they arrived to tent accommodations and meals that included cheese sandwiches and a side salad. Needless to say, there is now a class-action lawsuit pending against the organizers.

As many of you know, before I started Caribbean Mastermind Retreats, my group travel business, On The Go, LLC, specialized in music festivals and sporting events such as this one. Not only did I take large groups of traveler to existing events, but I also chartered hotels, hired entertainment, and planned events of my own in the Caribbean. So, needless to say, I was shocked and appalled when I heard this story and couldn’t help to think about what I would have done if faced with this situation as a group travel planner.

So, what can we all learn from this disaster??? A LOT! But I will only mention this one thing since it is one rule that I NEVER break… “Go Before You Know!” Because this was the first time this festival was held, I would have never sent a group to the Bahamas for this disaster. Now… I might have gone myself to check it out for future years, but I would have never sent a group. And unfortunately, if you plan your own events, as I often do, this scenario is going to make it extra hard to build client trust. So what can you do to ensure your even’t success? First things first, make sure you have event protection insurance as well as errors and omissions insurance. Second, Get all of the testimonials from past clients that you can get. Videos work best because your clients will see the authenticity in your past clients’ faces when they speak of your well-oiled machine (a.k.a., your group travel business.) And finally, if you live in a state where it is permitted, automatically include travel insurance in the cost of your group trips as added protection for your clients. If you can’t include it automatically, be sure to get a signed statement acknowledging your offer of travel insurance as well as their decline of acceptance, if they choose to pass it up.

Update: In August 2019, CNBC aired American Greed: Fyre Fest, a documentary detailing the events of that led up to the downfall of the Fyre Fest. Check it out here

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