Sample Web page from HVCB’s
Island Training Programs,
with Lanai page in foreground
When it comes to selling Hawaii, travel agents need more than just
an undergraduate degree in the destination. These days, they better
have a master’s. Tapping that trend and ever-ready to educate, the
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has released an
island-by-island online study program designed to take each agent’s
knowledge of Hawaii to its deepest level yet. Called the Island
Graduate, the advanced certification program complements HVCB’s
venerable Hawaii Destination Specialist initiative.
“Competition for the travel dollar is fierce,” said Julie Zadeh,
HVCB’s managing director of travel-trade marketing. “Our
travel-trade partners are constantly seeking new information about
Hawaii. So, we decided to go beyond our overall Hawaii training
program and develop certification courses for each of the islands.”
Zadeh likened the original Hawaii Destination Specialist program to
a 101 course, while the island-by-island classes are more akin to
“The new program is very in depth, with off-the-beaten-path
information and insider’s knowledge to help agents look like real
experts in their clients’ eyes,” she said. “It’s a way to meet
travel agents’ needs and help keep the destination fresh and
top-of-mind when selling trips to their clients.”
For agents who already know the specific islands well, the
graduate program can serve as a refresher, said Zadeh. Agents who
are relatively new to selling the individual islands can benefit
from it by learning how to connect clients with the vacation
experience best suited to them.
HVCB called on travel industry consultant Marc Mancini to create
the new Island Graduate program, which covers Kauai, Oahu, Molokai,
Lanai, Maui and Hawaii’s Big Island.
“There were two challenges,” Mancini said. “The first was to
take the training programs of HVCB’s island chapter bureaus all
very good but very diverse and make them consistent in style,
content, tone and structure. The second challenge was to do it all
in a very short timeframe. However, my project managers, Phil and
Doris Davidoff, are very efficient researchers and writers. We all
worked in tandem and, thanks to some great materials that the
island chapters and HVCB gave us, we pulled it off.”
Hiking Haleakala is a classic
activity for visitors.
While Mancini hasn’t received any agent feedback on the new
programs as yet, he said the island chapters are happy with the
“Considering how intimate they are with the material, that’s a
good sign,” he said.
One travel-trade professional who has already taken the new
online Maui, Molokai and Lanai programs is AAA Washington’s Ron
“The courses provide good information in an environment that
requires agents to be informed and up-to-date in order to
successfully market and sell the destination amid increasing
competition,” said Wigand. “This sort of in-depth knowledge gives
an additional edge in helping to qualify the client and make the
Wigand said he was very familiar with Hawaii to start with, so
when it came time for him to take the Maui, Molokai and Lanai
certification tests, he knew many of the answers already.
“However, as with any course, there are always additional pieces
of information that are either new to you or that you may have
forgotten,” he said.
At the beginning of each Island Graduate program, the material
reminds agents of five basic strategies necessary to maximize their
ability to sell a destination:
- Agents must know the island deeply, and each part
of that island.
- They should understand the types of travelers who
prefer that island.
- They need to understand the individual client
they’re dealing with.
- They need to address any misgivings their clients
- They must pursue ways to increase their profits
from each vacation they sell.
At the end of the Island Graduate program, the course promises
that agents will be able to:
- Satisfy client wants and needs using a newfound
knowledge of population, transportation opportunities and
- Recommend and, in some cases, pre-sell
attractions of interest to each client.
- Employ a knowledge of the island’s history and
culture to increase a client’s desire to visit that destination,
enhancing the agent’s credibility as a true professional.
- Match client preferences to Hawaii products and
- Identify the benefits of a Hawaii vacation, as
opposed to simply its assets and features.
- Convince clients to extend their stay for a
All six Island Graduate courses are free, and each can be
completed in three to four hours. Agents can conduct the coursework
at their own pace. Upon completion of each course and the passing
of a final exam, agents become HVCB-certified as Island Graduates,
qualifying them for continuing education credits from The Travel
Institute. Graduates also receive access to complimentary HVCB
sales and marketing tools like island maps, brochures, visitor
guides, scenic images and promotional DVDs, plus information about
trends research and product updates.
Zadeh believes the new Island Graduate course provides all the
tools necessary to help agents become bona fide Hawaii experts.
“These resources give the travel trade community even more of an
opportunity to sell Hawaii as a traveler’s first choice for an
unforgettable vacation experience,” she said.
Ke Kula O Hawaii (The School of Hawaii), the Hawaii Visitors and
Convention Bureau’s Hawaii Destination Specialist program, has
certified 10,059 travel agents since its 1999 beginnings. HVCB’s
Waikiki: Share the Experience training program, introduced in 2006,
has 652 graduates.
Its new Island Graduate course debuted online at the end of
2007, and HVCB recently spread the news during trade show events in
Washington, Colorado and California.
For more information on all of the bureau’s self-study training
courses, agents can call HVCB’s toll-free number or visit its Web
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau