Hawaiian destinations and suppliers, assisted by the travel trade press, often trumpet all the aid and education they send agents' way. But just how effective are all those specialist courses, fam rates and sales calls? To get the retailer perspective, Travel Weekly turned to Susan Tanzman, president of Martin's Travel and Tours in Los Angeles.
Tanzman, 2005 ASTA Travel Agent of the Year and a certified Oahu and Maui specialist, said that over the 37 years she's been in the business, she's found that "Hawaii does love travel agents."
In fact, Tanzman gives the individual island tourist boards in Hawaii -- in particular, Kauai, Maui and Oahu -- an "A+" for agent outreach efforts. "The visitors' bureau on each island has been very focused on educating agents and giving them the opportunity to enhance their ability to sell the islands more in depth," she said.
The Oahu Destination Specialist program is a particular standout, Tanzman said, because it still offers fam trips to the island.
"Online education is wonderful and gives you a basis, but what I like about the [Oahu] program is that it literally takes you to the island and gives you knowledge about places you didn't know anything about," she said.
Tanzman also applauded the specialist programs and agent fam rates of Hawaii-based hoteliers such as Aston and Outrigger, along with larger brands such as Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood. It all adds up
As a rule, Tanzman tries to enroll in two or three specialization programs and visit the Islands at least once each year.
Tanzman's average Hawaiian sale, once between $5,000 and $6,000 per couple, now averages $11,000 to $13,000. "I spent all of this time learning my expertise, and that experience is worth paying for," she said.