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How would you describe a family on vacation? Whether it is one or two parents with their kids or grandparents spending time with their grandchildren, today’s definition runs the gamut. As this travel trend continues to grow, attractions and activities on Oahu are tweaking their offerings so that they can appeal to multiple generations.
All of which means one thing for travel agents: If agents don’t keep up to date with Oahu’s activity news, family clients will turn somewhere else for advice and bookings.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters recently began operating on Oahu.
"In this current climate, traveling families are looking for a balance between value and enrichment," said Oahu Visitors Bureau senior director of sales and marketing Noelani Schilling-Wheeler. "By keeping abreast of family-oriented activities, travel agents can better satisfy their customers with suggestions or a customized itinerary that best fits their client’s particular family dynamics."
Around the island, Oahu activities are creating new programs that focus on drawing a diversity of ages. One good example is the Honolulu Zoo, which has done very well over the years with its overnight stay program, Snooze in the Zoo. Now, on specific dates throughout the year, the Waikiki attraction is presenting a Dinner Safari activity. Better suited for visitors, it doesn’t require the overnight camping but provides all the benefits of visiting the zoo at night.
One of Oahu’s newest activities takes families to the filming sites of movies and television shows including "Lost," "Jurassic Park," "50 First Dates," "Godzilla" and "Pearl Harbor." As Oahu’s only Hummer off-road adventure, it is run by Kos Tours. Along the way, clients learn about some of Oahu’s most famous landmarks such as the Pali Lookout and Kualoa Ranch.
On Oahu’s North Shore, Waimea Valley reopened to the public on Jan. 19 following an extensive cleanup of the natural, historical and cultural attraction. Family-friendly activities at the valley now include crafts, music and storytelling with island kupuna (elders), a history walk, a native plant walk, Hawaiian games and hula lessons.
The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor has introduced new exhibits and aircraft, including the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle that protected the skies above the islands for 16 years after spending 15 years flying for the U.S. Air Force. Also added to the Honolulu-based museum is the Attack Wall, showing the intricate choreography of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Rounding out the new features at the museum are an aircraft engine design exhibit, second bombing display, 1940’s aircraft restoration shop, Aviator’s Tour and free combat flight simulator.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which recently began operations on Oahu, is offering three tours that help visiting families rise above it all. Waikiki by Starlight is a 15-minute night
excursion to Waikiki and Diamond Head. The Aloha Circle is a 30-minute tour that shares the best of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Kaneohe and Nuuanu Pali. The 45-minute Blue Skies of Oahu tour reveals Oahu’s rainforests, beaches, reefs and lush valleys, plus Sacred Falls, Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbor.
In examining activity trends on the island, Schilling-Wheeler said she has noticed more surfing lessons from high-caliber professionals. At the same time, she is seeing an explosion in the popularity of stand-up paddle boarding. Options include the Nancy Emerson School of Surfing, where world champion surfer Emerson and her team take families out to the safest surfing and paddle boarding spots on the island. The Hans Hedemann Surf School is now offering a new North Shore package with roundtrip transportation, a surf or bodyboard lesson, equipment and sightseeing, plus a stand-up paddle boarding tour. Elite Surf Lessons Hawaii, which is owned and operated by current world champs Kai Sallas, Randall Paulson and Jason Magellenes, runs surf and stand-up paddle boarding lessons at several different Oahu locations, with lessons customized to each family member’s interest and ability.
Travelers of all ages are having fun getting lost and found in Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Maze. Recently, the maze was expanded in an attempt to set a record with the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest maze. Made up of 14,000 colorful plants including hibiscus, heliconia, croton, panax and pineapple, the new and improved version of the pedestrian puzzler occupies an area of more than two acres, with the center in the shape of a huge pineapple. With the expansion, guests can now search for eight secret stations.
Throughout 2009, Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park is offering two special packages for families of four. The Splash Package includes roundtrip transportation from Waikiki, park admission, unlimited bodyboard rides on Da FlowRider — the park’s newest and largest ride — and unlimited soda ($225 per family or $69.99 per adult and $49.99 per child). Clients who upgrade to the park’s Big Splash package get everything in the Splash Package plus a barbecue lunch and a bodyboard lesson at Hurricane Bay ($310 per family or $89.99 per adult and $69.99 per child).
By staying on top of the many activities available, agents can sell Oahu again and again to family clients, said Schilling-Wheeler, who added that it is always a good idea to set up activities prior to the trip.
"By booking in advance, travel agents can lock in a commission, while the family usually ends up with a better vacation with at least a few planned activities," Schilling-Wheeler said. "When pre-booking activities, don’t forget to consider which members of the family are traveling in order to ensure that there is something to satisfy each person."