Hawaiian, Aloha donating airfare to travel agents for interisland trips

Representatives of Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines continue to understand the importance of travel agents.

That’s why, probably without batting an eye, the two interisland carriers are offering some 1,500 complimentary, round-trip, interisland seats to agents attending the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) World Congress on O’ahu in early November.

The actual congress, which is expected to draw thousands of agents, plus vendors, media and other folks to the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki, is set for Sunday through Thursday, Nov. 3 to 7.

But many of the attendees plan to arrive before the start of the congress, and linger after.

Before and after the formal activities of one of the world’s largest annual gatherings of travel agents, the agents will basically be given the opportunity to pick an island they’d like to visit, be flown there for free, and be offered free and reduced-price admissions to various activities and attractions.

The familiarization trips for agents who form a critical link between travelers and destinations can only help the outer islands, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

“A lot of people book Kaua’i through travel agents,” and agents can close the Kaua’i sale, or defer it in some cases if they don’t know enough about the island and its offerings to comfortably sell it, she said.

The burden of the KVB is to educate agents about Kaua’i, and having them experience the island firsthand is a terrific opportunity, she continued.

Agents with a “comfort level” of what a destination has to offer are much more likely to book that destination, and the agent visits will likely yield tangible benefits to the island’s hotels, attractions, golf courses and other activities down the road, Kanoho commented.

The offer of free airfare from Aloha and Hawaiian is huge, and could conceivably allow visiting agents, mostly from the Mainland, to travel to three islands in addition to O’ahu, she said.

In other news, Kanoho said members of the Society of America Travel Writers have signed up to come to Kaua’i in search of story ideas before and after their annual gathering on O’ahu.

Nearly 40 have signed up to come to the island before the convention, and almost 30 after. This represents another opportunity to spread the word about Kaua’i in newspapers and magazines across the country, in a way that doesn’t necessarily cost thousands of dollars like paid advertisement does, she said.

Having “face time” with the writers, or spending time with them face to face, and bringing them to the island in hopes they’ll see or hear something they’ll turn into a story, is a terrific opportunity to promote the island, she said.

Also, on the heels of the seasonal end of the American Trans Air/Pleasant Hawaiian, once-a-week charter nonstop flight between Los Angeles and Lihu’e, Kanoho reported hosting a mind, body and spirit press trip, where writers were treated to the healers and healing qualities of Kaua’i.

And, finally, Kanoho was once again on the Travel Agent magazine list of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Travel.” The inclusion on the list marks the fourth time overall, and second consecutive year, Kanoho has been named to the list.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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