Wired Visitors

Online reservation operation, specializing in island attractions, sees sales continuing to grow.

By: Marty Wentzel

KAHULUI, Maui When the Activities and Attractions Association of Hawaii (A3H) launched its online booking engine in January, the Web site generated $79,000 in offshore advance reservations after one month. Five months later, in June, the site www.hawaiifun.org accounted for over $500,000 in Hawaii activities reservations.

The increase in monthly online bookings has A3H executive director Toni Marie Davis more than a little excited. Davis expressed confidence that interest in the Web site will continue to grow, and that online reservations will be a major contributor to the future of Hawaii’s attractions industry.

“The site is completely safe and secure for visitors planning their vacation, and for attractions offering their services,” said Davis, explaining its quick rise in popularity. “For visitors, it takes the mystery and hassle out of what to do once they arrive and provides the convenience of one-stop shopping. For attractions, it’s a sales and marketing resource that requires no additional staffing and only a minimal monthly fee to have customer funds placed directly into their accounts.”

While A3H’s new Web site has been a hit with potential travelers, it has been designed as a resource for travel agents as well, said Davis. Through A3H’s travel agent referral program, agents get 15 percent commission on every member booking they make for their clients. Agents pay $50 per year to participate.

A3H is the result of a merger between the Activity Owners Association of Hawaii, founded in 1987, and the Hawaii Attractions Association, founded in 1993. They merged their respective marketing and lobbying strengths in October 2002.

Another A3H innovation is its Gold Card, providing clients with discounts of 10 percent to 25 percent on activities and at restaurants statewide. Gold Card holders receive a personal identification number, A3H guidebooks, a list of A3H member activities and attractions and their discounts, and a roster of participating restaurants and their discounts.

“Gold Card discounts are made possible by facilitating a direct line of communication between the customer and vendor,” said Davis. “Visitors who use the card can save a lot of money during their vacation.” For instance, the regular price for a bicycle tour down Haleakala volcano on Maui is $120, she said. The Gold Card price is $90.

“The Gold Card is especially beneficial for families traveling on a budget,” Davis said. “It helps make Hawaii more affordable and attractive as a destination.” Valid for one year from the date of purchase, the Gold Card costs $30 and covers up to four people.

Based in Kahului, Maui, A3H currently lists more than 190 regular and associate members, from large corporate businesses to mom-and-pop operations around the state. To support its Web site efforts, A3H distributes 60,000 copies of its activities and attractions guidebooks twice a year to high-traffic, tourist-oriented locations around the islands.

Based on figures from A3H members for the first half of this year, Davis estimated that activities and attractions will generate $1.5 billion in gross revenues statewide in 2003. But beyond the economic benefits to the state, the variety of Hawaii’s attractions keeps the destination fresh, she said, especially for repeat visitors looking for new things to do.

“Attractions provide families and friends with fond memories and shared experiences that stay with them forever,” she said.

800-398-9698; www.hawaiifun. org. "