Industry Q&A: Robyn Basso, Hawaii Tourism United States

Industry Q&A: Robyn Basso, Hawaii Tourism United States

As Hawaii’s visitor demographics change, its marketing team is introducing new programs to help travel agents sell the destination

By: Marty Wentzel
<p>Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for Hawaii Tourism United States // © 2017 Hawaii Tourism United States</p><p>Feature...

Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for Hawaii Tourism United States // © 2017 Hawaii Tourism United States

Feature image (above): More millennials are putting Hawaii on their travel wish lists. // © 2017 HTA/Tor Johnson

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The Details

Hawaii Tourism USA

Hawaii’s visitor profile is shifting, according to Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for Hawaii Tourism United States (HTUSA).

“While travelers ages 60 and over have traditionally made up the larger part of the arrivals mix, a 2016 study found that 78 percent of millennials are interested in visiting Hawaii in the next 24 months, more than any other age group,” said Basso, whose organization markets Hawaii across the U.S. Now is the time to expose those travelers — and the travel agents who work with them — to the unique experiences offered around Hawaii, she says.

We chatted with Basso to find out how HTUSA is enhancing its support of travel agents in response to these and other trends.

This year’s Global Tourism Summit, presented by the Hawaii Tourism Authority in Honolulu from Sept. 19-21, will feature a new Millennial Summit. Can you tell us more about that?
As we look to develop the next generation of leisure travelers to Hawaii, we also need to engage the up-and-coming travel seller: the millennial travel professional. These travel agents are digitally connected in both their personal and professional lives, and those boundaries are increasingly blurred. We see this as a compelling opportunity to learn how we can offer innovative tools and programs to help them in their efforts to sell Hawaii.

The Millennial Summit will focus on hand-selected, leisure travel professionals and meeting planners. Attendees will be targeted and qualified based on their experience and potential to positively impact business and exposure for the Hawaiian Islands. We are looking to include seminars, interactive sessions and destination experiences. Topics will be specifically tailored to this audience and include unique activities, native Hawaiian culture, technology and innovation.    

Talk about your plans to upgrade HTUSA’s travel professional website,
We launched a revamped site in February 2015. Now that we have more than two years of valuable user data and feedback, it is the perfect time to look at what is working well and what can be improved. As technology quickly evolves, it also gives us the opportunity to incorporate innovative solutions and upgrades to help our front-line travel sellers become more efficient. 

We are in the process of evaluating agent feedback to prioritize the website enhancements. Agents can look forward to better navigation, more interactive elements and videos and expanded presentation pages in the online training programs. We anticipate launching the upgraded site this fall.

Are you making changes to the Hawaii Destination Specialist program?
Yes, we will be debuting the upgraded Hawaii Destination Specialist workshop this spring. We are streamlining content and making the sessions more succinct, relevant, visual and engaging to reignite agents’ passion for Hawaii. The course structure also allows agents to learn from one another in an interactive format. Our goal is that after completing the live workshop, agents will possess a true understanding of the uniqueness of each island and how to match the right client with the right island or island combination.

After we launch our statewide live workshop, we will take our learnings and incorporate them into the development of our island-specific workshops. These workshops take place at our Hawaiian Islands Blitz Events throughout the year, as well as select partner and industry events. HTUSA sends out workshop invitations to agents who are currently in our database as well as to our consortia partner members. If agents are interested in attending, they can also send an email to

HTUSA is creating a travel agent advisory board this year. Why?
We see travel professionals as a valued extension of our sales force. As front-line users of our resources, their feedback is crucial when considering enhancements to our travel professional website and sales, marketing and training programs. We rely on their direct feedback to help us prioritize the elements most used and most requested by our travel agent partners, and to ensure they have the tools needed to successfully sell inspired Hawaii vacations. 

We anticipate ongoing communication with the advisory board through calls and webinars throughout the year. We hope to have the board membership finalized this spring.

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