As tourism numbers continue to rebound in Hawaii, visitors to the Islands will have a brand new option for getting around. And given the current rental car shortage, the timing couldn't be better.
Holoholo, a locally owned rideshare company, launched in May with service on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii Island and Lanai.
Holoholo founder and owner Cecil Morton brings more than two decades of transportation industry experience to the new venture; he currently serves as the CEO of SpeediShuttle. Morton said he does not see Holoholo as a direct competitor of rideshare giants Uber and Lyft but rather another option in an industry with plenty of demand, and one where all of the revenue stays in the Aloha State.
"[At SpeediShuttle] I do shared shuttles, black car service, and I also do tours, and this was just a natural for me as a business," said Morton. "I've been thinking about this for a few years, but the technology was a barrier to entry, and it took some time to get everything ready."
Holoholo works much like other rideshare services, connecting drivers with riders via a smartphone app. Holoholo will not make real-time adjustments to fares based on demand, also known in the industry as "surge pricing."
"There's always a balance in business and providing services, and I try to look at life as if I'm on the other side, no matter what the relationship is, consumer or vendor," Morton said. "In this case, I never liked the surge pricing when it happened to me. It felt like I was being taken advantage of."
Holoholo will also offer a handful of ride categories. Among them:
• Military, for riders who need a driver preapproved to enter U.S. military bases.
• Assist, for riders with mobility issues who need more help.
• XL, for vehicles than can accommodate up to five passengers.
• Luxury, for premium vehicles with highly-rated drivers.
• Green, an option for riders who prefer a hybrid or electric vehicle.
"We fully understand how fragile our ecosystem is living on an island, and reducing fossil fuel use is not only an issue for Hawaii but really one of global survival," said Morton, who has lived in Hawaii for more than two decades.
Drivers will get a 5% bonus for operating a hybrid or electric vehicle, and fares will be calculated up front based on distance traveled. Drivers can also get fuel discounts and will be able to access information on the busiest pick-up spots.
"We focused on providing great service to both audiences, the riders and the drivers," Morton said. "Drivers are very important to us, and with things opening back up, we've seen the pace of downloads for drivers picking up recently compared to when we started recruiting drivers four weeks ago."
The app also allows users to schedule a ride ahead of time; for example, for an early-morning ride to the airport or pick-up from the shopping center. Morton also said he wants Holoholo to promote Hawaiian values and culture and support community initiatives, including programs for children and the elderly.
"We also want Holoholo to be a way for people to get more of the Hawaiian experience, and we have a strong cultural side to our mission," Morton said. "We want to share the Hawaiian sense of hookipa, hospitality, and I hope in a few years we can say 1 million people a year are using our services, both locals and visitors, and that converts to a lot of revenue, a lot of tax dollars for Hawaii."
Holoholo is busy recruiting more drivers, especially those who meet the criteria for the specialty categories, and the process involves background checks and vehicle inspections.
The Holoholo app is available to download in both the Google Play Store and Apple Store, and a valid credit card is needed to sign up for the service. Users can also go to the Holoholo website and enter a mobile phone number, email and valid credit card, but some features available in the app, like driver tracking, are unavailable when booking online.