In the Know

A new course informs agents on the islands’ ins and outs

By: Marty Wentzel

When Hawaii Destination Specialists send their clients to Kauai, they know more than just the basic ins and outs of the island.

Thanks to Ke Kula O Hawaii, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s (HVCB) self-study program, they can customize an island visit precisely to each client’s interests, whether it’s telling them about the Kilauea farmer’s market or sharing the rich history and culture of the Wailua River.

Since HVCB launched Ke Kula in 1999, it has certified over 7,000 agents well versed not only in Kauai but all the Hawaiian islands. Now the bureau has debuted an improved version of the program based on travel agent feedback.

On April 10, HVCB travel trade partnerships managing director Elizabeth Johnsen previewed the product at Cruise3Sixty in Florida, with NCL sponsoring the seminar. In late April another 200 agents learned about Ke Kula’s upgrades at the Go Go Learning Conference on the Big Island.

As HVCB tweaked Ke Kula, it solicited suggestions at travel agent discussions and conducted an online survey, getting 546 responses from a combination of active HDS agents and non-HDS agents. Based on those comments, HVCB has taken the coursework to a new and more effective level, said Johnsen.

“Fifty percent of the work now focuses on Hawaii’s geography, history and culture,” she said. “And 50 percent focuses on selling Hawaii today, looking at the most profitable market segments, examining booking trends and offering tips on selling up, and using technology for research sales and marketing support.”

Along with a more relevant program of study, today’s HDS agents have access to a more personalized pre-arrival product and easier-to-navigate agent Web site. There, they can input bookings more easily and get improved sales and marketing tools and support.

The certification is available for free online, and HDS agents receive seven Continuing Education Credits. If agents took the HDS course over 12 months ago, they qualify to receive the seven CEUs when they retake it and pass certification.

What hasn’t changed are Ke Kula’s agent welcome packet; online consumer referral system via HVCB’s consumer Web site; sales and marketing tools available around-the-clock through the agents’ Web site; and rewards points accrual and redemption.

“No matter what island an agent is selling,” said Johnsen, “we consider Ke Kula O Hawaii to be the official word on the destination based on extensive research, fact-finding and marketing knowledge.”