HONOLULU -- "Knowledge is power." It's an old saying, but for
travel agents selling Hawaii, nothing sums things up better.
Education programs are one of the most important elements for
increasing sales, according to suppliers at the 2002 Hawaii
Leadership Forum here.
Panelists from hotel and wholesale sectors agreed that agent
education programs are key, but there were differing opinions as to
what kinds of education programs work best.
In addition to hoteliers and wholesalers, agents think education
programs are important to increasing sales, according to a Travel
Weekly e-mail poll presented at the forum.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they could increase
Hawaii sales by being part of an education program where the
destination or Hawaii resorts or packagers refer interested clients
to the agent; while 22% said they need to learn more about the
destination through an agent-specialist training program, product
seminars or fam trips.
Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president of product development for
Edina, Minn.-based MLT Vacations/Northwest Airlines World
Vacations, said one of the ways her company likes to educate agents
is through a yearly, two-day "university."
"Our program is very effective," Moriarty said. "Travel agents
have to pay to attend, and bookings made by them later are deducted
from their tuition."
Rick Garrett, president of Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Happy
Vacations, said fam trips are the most effective means of education
for his company.
"People who go on fams -- you can look down the list and see
their names on Hawaii bookings years, decades afterward," Garrett
Ed Jackson, president of Runaway Tours in San Francisco, said
his fams focus on the destination as well as hotels, and that
seminars held inside travel agencies after business hours are "the
Still another way to empower agents through education is the
regionalized trade show, according to Bob Kaufman, vice president
of sales at Newton Square, Pa.-based Apple Vacations.
The Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) received praise from several
panelists, including Cheryl Williams, director of leisure sales and
marketing at Starwood Hotels, and Dave Herren, executive vice
president of Milwaukee-based Mark Travel.
"By far, the most successful travel agent program being done is
by the OVB," said Williams. "It is a total destination immersion. I
have not seen anything like it in the last two years. The way they
change the perception of Oahu in agents' minds is amazing."
Herren added that with an "intensive" program such as the OVB's,
agents should count on concentrating on that one island alone. "To
try to add another island is totally impractical," he said.
In addition to trade shows, fam trips and destination immersion
programs, self-study programs also are important, panelists
Many of those programs include books agents study from, but
panelists hope that those programs can involve more technology in
"We provided a CD [for a self-study program], but we found a lot
of the agents don't even have the equipment to play a CD," said
Kaufman said he would like to see the Hawaii Visitors and
Convention Bureau come up with an Internet-based education
The HVCB's Ke Kula 'O Hawaii program does include a CD that
contains supplemental information to its study book, but it does
not have an Internet component.
"It would be really wonderful to use the Web to have something
done on line for training, something developed by the HVCB," said
Kaufman. "I think it would have to be very broad-based because you
have to take into account that some agents' knowledge of the
destination is very rudimentary.
"We're talking about educating agents on the breadth of the