Travelers to Hawaii will find no shortage of deals.
At a time when some clients think Hawaii is too expensive, wholesalers are fighting back by rolling out value-added promotions and introducing new travel agent tools to keep Hawaii as front-of-mind as possible.
With consumer confidence down and wallets tightening, clients are hesitant to book travel in advance, said Gogo Worldwide Vacations spokesperson Melanie Lucardi. In recent weeks, however, many of her firm’s value-added promotions have prompted last minute vacationers to call their travel agents and book a package, in particular to the islands of Oahu and Kauai, she said.
"While to many travelers a vacation away may not be seen as the necessity it once was, we believe it’s important to remain proactive," said Lucardi. "We’re committed to communicating the best Hawaii travel values to our agent community."
Pleasant Holidays president Jack Richards expects his Hawaii bookings to remain flat for the rest of this year, consistent with the industry as a whole. To stimulate fall travel, Pleasant recently launched a nationwide campaign saving up to $500 for two people on packages to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii’s Big Island. Travelers from Los Angeles and San Francisco can save even more by taking advantage of Pleasant’s exclusive 50 Percent Off Companion Airfares initiative, good on flights to Oahu and Maui.
"We’re focusing on the great value of the Hawaiian Islands," said Richards.
Apple Vacations’ Hawaii bookings are also down this fall, according to Apple’s senior revenue manager Karen Valerio.
"Consumers are taking less expensive, shorter vacations, which has significantly impacted Hawaii travel," she said.
Still, Apple is expecting to see an increase in its own share of the market due to upcoming changes to its travel agent booking system. In early 2009, the site will feature significant functional upgrades and design improvements, said Valerio.
"The ease and speed of booking scheduled air and multi-island vacations will be drastically improved," she said. "Agents will find easy side-by-side pricing comparisons for hotel and air."
In addition, the revamped site will offer lucrative agent incentives, value-packed offers for consumers and targeted marketing aimed at potential Hawaii travelers.
United Vacations vice president Rick Karnes anticipates that 2009 will be as taxing for Hawaii tourism as 2008.
"This can be seen by all of the specials that have already come into play for 2009," Karnes said. "Business will definitely be challenging, but there will be opportunities as destinations and suppliers come together to create value and demand."
With that in mind, United is spreading the message that there has never been a more affordable time to travel to Hawaii than this fall.
"We are working on making Hawaii a valuable vacation option for customers by offering various specials like airfare sales, hotel discounts and free cars," said Karnes. "We will ensure that we support our travel agents with the most up-to-date offers. In challenging times like this, it is most important that we continue to work closely with our best suppliers and travel agents to drive business."