Happy Vacationing

A tour operator markets the ‘real Oahu’

By: Marty Wentzel

During a recent trip to Oahu, Bobbi Huber rediscovered what she calls the “real Oahu.” Huber, who serves as director of business development for the tour wholesaler Happy Vacations, traveled to the island just before the year-end holidays.

“While there, I encountered the wonderful sense of neighborhood,” she said. “Every little town had a parade or community festival that intertwined the rich diversity of cultures and sense of family. I felt like I had encountered a slice of small-town America, Polynesian-style.”

Huber believes that agents can do their clients a great service by telling them about the “real Oahu,” which keeps the tried-and-true destination fresh and interesting for repeat guests.
Agents can remind clients that Oahu is the U.S. crossroads of the Pacific, with international shopping, multiethnic dining and historical treasures found on no other island, Huber said. Oahu offers an easily explored patchwork of cultures.

“When people think of Oahu, many don’t expect to see renowned museums,” Huber explained. “But attractions like Oahu’s Mission Houses, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Contemporary Mu-seum and Bishop Museum are vi-brant links not only to Hawaii’s past, but part of the fabric of our country.

To help clients discover the lesser-known joys of Oahu, Happy Tours trains its reservation agents to listen and ask questions in order to pinpoint travelers’ specific interests.

“Whether clients want the excitement of staying in Waikiki or prefer the less touristy side of life in Hawaii, there is no better island to explore than Oahu,” Huber said. “Our concierge program can help tailor sightseeing to suit any interest. From nature and history to dining and fashion, it’s all on Oahu.”

Encouraging clients to explore the island on many levels, Happy Vacations is presenting several optional activities. Among the companies it added for 2006 is Wild Side Specialty Tours, an eco-friendly cruise firm charting the island’s Western shores. During intimate wildlife adventures, clients can encounter whales, dolphins and turtles while learning about marine conservation.

Other Oahu activities available through Happy Vacations include Atlantis Adventures, Bike Hawaii, Germaine’s Luau, Hawaii Food Tours, Kualoa Ranch and Makani Kai Helicopters.

Meanwhile, for 2006, Happy Vacations has rolled out its inaugural golf brochure, featuring top courses on Oahu and throughout Hawaii.

“Just as each island has its unique charm, each presents a special golf experience unrivaled in the world,” said Huber. “Golf vacations are one of the most enduring niche markets. Our new brochure takes the guesswork out of it for travel agents.”

Among the Oahu courses available to Happy Vacations clients are Ko Olina, Coral Creek, Hawaii Prince, Luana Hills, Turtle Bay Resort and Koolau Golf Club.

For Oahu accommodations, the wholesaler is listing properties at all price levels, from such high-end hotels as the Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian to more moderately-priced digs like the Miramar and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. For 2006, it has added the Ohana Waikiki Beach-comber, a 35-year-old Wai-kiki landmark which was recently re-branded by its new owner, Outrigger Ho-tels and Resorts.

Western travel agents can learn more about Happy Vacations’ Oahu program on the agent-only section of the company’s Web site.

“In addition, our brochures and newsletters provide agents with up-to-the-minute news about everything Oahu has to offer,” Huber said. “Our dedicated field sales personnel present in-house training and sales tools geared for the front-line agent, with fast facts and tips on how to help clients make the most of their Oahu vacation.”

This year, Happy Vacations has launched a travel agent incentive program called Perk, allowing booking agents to earn points good for travel to Oahu or any destination that Happy Vacations promotes. Agents can also apply the points to education classes.

“Travel agents are our resource,” said Huber. “We want to help them expand their knowledge, and the best way to do that is to offer them hands-on destination experience.”


Happy Vacations

Clients heading to Oahu can book a Happy Vacations package from San Francisco for $746 per person, including roundtrip travel on United Airlines, ground transfers and five nights at the ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Hotel.
Another Happy Vacations package out of San Francisco, priced at $924 per person, features accommodations for five nights at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.