At Pearl Harbor, the bow of the Battleship Missouri Memorial points toward the Arizona Memorial. // © 2014 Battleship Missouri Memorial
On Dec. 7, 2013, the Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) hosted a group of travel agents at Pearl Harbor. The visit was timed with the 72nd anniversary commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“It was such a rare experience to be there with a few of the surviving veterans and members of their families,” recalled Marquetta Chambers of Hill Barrett Travel in Woodinville, Wash. “I saw a lot of pride and dignity on the veterans’ faces. Spending time at Pearl Harbor was like seeing a history lesson come to life.”
While the OVB fam took place on a special occasion, Pearl Harbor is a must-see landmark any day of the year. For the past decade, it has been Hawaii’s most visited attraction, and in 2013 it drew 1.8 million people to its memorials, memorabilia, exhibits and vintage battleships.
Today, Pearl Harbor’s partner organization — called Pearl Harbor Historic Sites — encompasses four key entities at the south Oahu cove: the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. All of those attractions are implementing new programs, tours and amenities to appeal to modern-day visitors.
“Pearl Harbor has so many fascinating stories of bravery and sacrifice,” said Michael Carr, president of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. “It’s vital to keep evolving how these are shared, both for the interest of repeat guests and to reach our younger generations.”
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites’ recent initiatives help clients explore its variety of offerings. Among them are a new narrated tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, three half-day Pearl Harbor tours and the full-day Passport to Pearl Harbor tour.
Another innovation is the Official Speaker Program, which takes place prior to guests visiting Pearl Harbor. An education director and an actual Pearl Harbor survivor or witness visit groups at their hotels and present a one-hour orientation.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial is doing its part to enhance the Pearl Harbor experience. It recently launched free Wi-Fi service throughout the historic vessel so guests can share their tour in real time. Clients are encouraged to snap selfies during their visit and post them on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #BattleshipSelfie.
Battleship Missouri tour guides are also challenging people to submit questions about the ship via Facebook, and a new website will allow travelers to learn more about the ship and make reservations.
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites’ website has added an option for clients to purchase tour packages online, making it a one-stop shop for travelers planning their visit.
Hotels are also stepping forward to promote Pearl Harbor. Now through Dec. 21, Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk is offering a Historic Pearl Harbor package that gives guests two full-day tour passes to see the attraction.
Since Pearl Harbor is so popular, Keiko Hatakeda of Altour in Fresno, Calif., advises her clients to pre-book a Pearl Harbor experience with a tour operator to guarantee that they will spend a day at the attraction.
“For people who prefer to go to Pearl Harbor on their own, I suggest that they buy their tickets online as early as six months in advance to get what they want,” said Hatakeda.
But she believes that, no matter how clients explore Pearl Harbor, they won’t be disappointed. Hatakeda experienced the site during the 2013 OVB fam.
“For all ages, I think it’s very educational to experience Pearl Harbor firsthand,” she said. “It’s part of our history and should not be forgotten.”