Hawaii VCB launches wholesaler training program

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SAN FRANCISCO -- With a new North American marketing team in place, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau expanded its efforts to support the industry in selling Hawaii.

It is training wholesaler reservations staff using shorter versions of its seminars for Ke Kula 'O Hawaii (the School of Hawaii), its travel agent specialist program.

According to Brigid McDonnell, HVCB's director of travel trade marketing, North America, when wholesaler training in place, the team will seek partnership and training possibilities with agency consortia.

HVCB began training wholesaler staff in August, beginning at Mark Travel Corp. in Milwaukee, with almost 100 employees participating.

Since then it has taken its program to companies such as Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, Apple Vacations and All About Travel.

McDonnell said the program can be adapted to whatever time a wholesaler or consortium can devote to the employee training.

Although each Mark Travel employee attended a two-hour session; eight two-hour sessions held over two days, some wholesalers allot as little as 20 minutes for presentations (in comparison, the travel agent seminars are three hours).

In July, HVCB appointed two regional directors of travel trade marketing, new positions, one for the western states, the other for eastern states.

In addition to participating in trade events, their major responsibility is wholesaler and consortia training.

McDonnell said the team's responsibility is to train as many people as possible to help them better sell Hawaii and create demand.

She added, "We're closing the loop between the consumer, the agent, the wholesaler and Hawaii. We have this fabulous curriculum. Why not use it?"

Ke Kula 'O Hawaii was launched in April with 1,500 agents attending seminars in 20 midwestern and eastern cities. Another 1,500 are expected to qualify at seminars in 16 western cities, beginning in late October.

Participants, who must pass a test, are certified as Hawaii specialists, with benefits ranging from consumer leads to prizes for volume bookings and priority status for fam trips.

McDonnell, based in HVCB's San Francisco office, was appointed to the new position of director of travel trade marketing, North America, in April.

The regional directors of travel trade marketing are Jennifer Cabasag, for the eastern states, and Christina Aldanese, for western states.

Cabasag, based in New Jersey, was previously a district sales manager for Classic Hawaii; Seattle-based Aldanese was formerly in sales with the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Barbara Newton, who has headed bureau sales in Canada for four years, is regional director, travel trade marketing, Canada, based in Vancouver.

McDonnell can be reached at (415) 248-3800; Aldanese, (425) 788-6819; Cabasag, (201) 968-9392, and Newton, (604) 669-6691.

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