Click here for Contributing Editor Marty Wentzel's Fave Five aerial activities on the islands
When Hawaii officials claim that they have an activity for everyone, they mean it. The combination of the islands’ natural beauty, warm hospitality and rich cultural history turn every adventure — whether it’s by land, sea or air — into one that can only be experienced in the 50th state.
But the challenge for travel agents is to convince their clients to book their adventures prior to their trip.
Whale-watching excursions can often be booked in advance.
"Statistics show that more than 90 percent of visitors buy a tour and activity after they arrive," said Julie Zadeh, managing director of travel trade marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB). "The most popular tours and activities sell out, so it’s important for agents to work with their clients to plan ahead. You don’t want your best clients disappointed because they can’t do what they want to do on vacation."
Even better, pre-booking often translates into a commission for agents.
To help adventurous clients get the most out of their vacation, agents need to get proactive about helping them create an itinerary prior to their trip. They should tap all their resources, including products available through many of Hawaii’s top wholesalers.
At Pleasant Holidays, for instance, agents can book any of hundreds of island activities, all of which are commissionable. Pleasant recently redesigned its activity Web site to streamline online booking functionality with real-time pricing and inventory.
Blue Sky Tours serves as another valuable partner for travel agents who are looking to pre-book their clients’ Hawaii excursions, including off-the-beaten-path activities and hikes in areas off-limits to the public. The same goes for All About Hawaii, which pays agents 12 percent commission on many of the activities it lists.
Many of HVCB’s wholesale partners are offering clients an activity credit when they book through travel agents. Hawaii Connection currently lists a package that includes a $100 activity credit and complimentary Pineapple Plantation Tour, as well as room upgrades and free nights. Pleasant Holidays is offering a free activity on Maui and Oahu when at least five nights are booked at a participating hotel (through December). All About Hawaii is beefing up its activity offerings with new additions, such as Hawaii Forest and Trail on the Big Island, a leading ecotourism company in Hawaii. On Maui, one of All About Hawaii’s most popular adventures is Skyline Eco-Adventures, which runs zipline tours on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala and has recently introduced a zipline adventure above Kaanapali.
Another great resource for travel agents is the Activities & Attractions Association of Hawaii (A3H). By utilizing the group’s Travel Agent Referral Program, agents can book and pay for activities directly with the companies providing the experience, and they earn 15 percent commission. The organization is currently enhancing its Web site with video clips to assist travel agents with that process, and it’s adding more online videos from its members.
A3H offers a Gold Card, providing clients with discounts of 10-25 percent off retail rates for activities, shopping and restaurants. Sold only to pre-arriving visitors, the $30 card covers up to four people and expires one year from the date of purchase. Agents who sell them to their clients earn $7 per card.
While Hawaii is often thought of in terms of its great watersports, travel agents can help their adventure-seeking clients find paradise too.