Marty Wentzel We’re back!” That’s how Oahu Visitors Bureau
executive director Les Enderton summed up the most recent industry
report on domestic arrivals to Oahu this year.
According to the state Department of Business, Economic
Development and Tourism, Oahu welcomed 1.85 million visitors from
the mainland from January through September, which is practically
even with arrivals during the same period in 2001. Considering the
impact of Sept. 11 on world travel, Enderton said he is very
positive about his destination’s outlook for the coming year.
“Although certain circumstances, like the economy and world
politics, are beyond our control, I believe that Oahu has bounced
back from 9/11 extremely well,” Enderton said. “Of course, Japanese
business is down, but that’s true everywhere.” OVB is addressing
the Japanese slump with a new series of marketing efforts.
Travelers from North America comprise two-thirds of Oahu’s
visitor counts. Enderton said OVB would continue addressing its key
West Coast markets next year. At the same time, it will branch out
to new destinations such as Phoenix, Sacramento, Orange County and
Denver, all of which are more accessible to Oahu, thanks to
increased service by such airlines as Hawaiian, Aloha and United.
Enderton points to the Oahu Destination Specialist program as an
integral piece of the island’s marketing plan.
Developed in conjunction with major Hawaii wholesalers, the
multitiered program starts with four-hour seminars on the mainland.
Each seminar brings in about 100 agents who have been invited by
wholesalers based on their production level.
After weighing each agent’s responses during the seminars, OVB
selects about half of the group to go to Oahu for one week of
in-depth familiarization. Back on the mainland, program graduates
become Oahu destination specialists and receive exclusive OVB sales
support, but they must maintain a high level of business for the
island in order to retain the specialist title.
According to OVB director of travel industry sales Stacey
Martin, the 2003 Oahu Destination Specialist seminars will revisit
California, working in conjunction with Hawaii World.
And, for the first time, OVB will present the specialist
programs to agents in the Pacific Northwest, partnering with All
“It’s very important for us to work with the wholesalers on this
program, because they really know who the top-producing agents
are,” Martin said. “The best way for agents to be selected for a
seminar is to prove themselves to the wholesalers.”
Meanwhile, Oahu stands to make great strides in the coming year
as a result of its recent stint as host of ASTA’s World Congress,
“The agents came here to learn, not just to have a vacation,” he
said. “This was by far our most significant effort with the travel
trade this year, and it will pay big dividends in the future.”
Martin said she was thrilled that well-qualified travel agents
saw firsthand the recent beautification of Waikiki and experienced
activities around Oahu.
“This is a key turning point for us as an island,” she said.
“Every attendee I spoke with said they took part in this ASTA event
because they want to be more successful as agents.”
“The entire industry in Hawaii appreciated and honored the
agents in a very personal way,” Enderton added.