L.A. agency tops Oahu sales, takes award

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HONOLULU -- Simply put, Susan Tanzman loves Oahu.

That love of the destination is probably why Tanzman's agency, Martin's Travel & Tours in Los Angeles, was named the Oahu Travel Agency of the Year by the Oahu Visitors Bureau.

"It's my favorite place in the world," said Tanzman. "I've been there over 100 times and spent 12 consecutive New Year's there."

Martin's Travel was nominated for the award by Runaway Tours of San Francisco.

Runaway Tours' owner Ed Jackson said Martin's Travel won a booking contest held by Runaway and had "more bookings than any other agency by far, with 90% of its bookings on Oahu."

The bureau chose Martin's Travel in part because it had the highest percentage of Oahu sales compared with gross sales of the top five agencies nominated for the award.

And Tanzman said her Oahu bookings soared in 2000 over 1999, up 70% in terms of sales and passenger volume.

Oahu's natural beauty, attractions and the hotels outside of Waikiki are the top selling points for Martin's Travel, said Tanzman.

"The back side of that island is absolutely breathtaking," she said. "A lot of people have no clue how gorgeous it is there."

Waikiki has "something for everyone with all the restaurants and shopping," she said, but for her upscale clients, being away from the hubbub is important.

Martin's Travel had been selling Oahu successfully for years, but business fell off after one of her favorite hotels, the Kahala Hilton, closed in 1995.

The property reopened a year later, in March 1996, as the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, and Martin's Travel gradually started selling Oahu again in big numbers.

The posh hotel is located in an upscale neighborhood far away from Waikiki.

It is one of only three major hotels outside of Waikiki. The other two are the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa on the west side of the island and the Turtle Bay Hilton on the north shore.

"After the Kahala hotel re-opened, it was very hard to get people to stay there because it was new to them," said Tanzman.

Seeing that the new property was indeed a gem, Tanzman started a campaign to educate her agents on the property as well as Oahu.

"So I started to bring my office staff on fams -- we made a concerted effort that our agents know how special the island is," she said.

"We worked closely with the Oahu Visitors Bureau and told them, 'We don't want to show our agents just Waikiki,' so we took them to places where there are waterfalls, we took them to Kailua where we showed them that you can offer your clients a fully catered picnic on the beach, we took them to the art museum and to the Bishop Museum and to Iolani Palace."

Tanzman said about half of her staff of 35 agents are accredited Oahu specialists and the other half hold Hawaii specialist designations.

As part of the Oahu Visitors Bureau award, 22 agents from Martin's will go on a four-night luxury trip to Oahu, according to Stacey Martin, director of travel industry sales for the bureau.

Besides knowing the island and selling outside of Waikiki, Martin said the agency works hard to create an island feel when customers come in the door.

"Our agency is adorned with Oahu posters and logos, leis, custom Hawaiian arts and crafts, and we have a sandbox in the window display," said Tanzman.

The agency has Aloha Days every Friday, when the staff dresses in aloha attire and passes out macadamia nuts.

The award and the interest in travel agents are a relatively new step for the Oahu Visitors Bureau, said Martin.

"Up until the last year or so, we really had no relationship with travel agents," said Martin.

"Now, we're working with agents on a very different level. We genuinely care for their success."

Education, salesmanship agent's keys to success

HONOLULU -- Success at selling any destination comes down to two simple ideas that take a lot of hard work to achieve: education and salesmanship, according to Susan Tanzman, owner of Martin's Travel & Tours in Los Angeles.

  • Education means taking agents on fam trips, having representatives from destinations come into the office to give presentations and having agents take courses on a destination.
  • Salesmanship means "having salespeople be salespeople and not order-takers," said Tanzman.
  • "On Oahu, your agents have to know that some people want the hubbub of Waikiki but that the upscale market probably likes to be outside of Waikiki."

    Being a good salesperson means knowing that there is a difference in tastes and selling the client to the appropriate area, said Tanzman.

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