Having just returned from Hawaii a few weeks ago, I am moved to share some of my observations. This trip was a wonderful mix of professional and personal. Our publishing company was an official sponsor of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority's Hawaiian Tourism Conference, and it was my wedding anniversary. I addressed 600 tourism suppliers and took surfing lessons (anniversary gift...cool, huh?). We held a tremendously informative editorial roundtable event with Hawaiian tourism leaders and spent a day at the USS Missouri and Pearl Harbor memorials.
What I was most struck with was the Hawaiian tourism community's phenomenally successful effort to maintain its cultural heritage and weave it into all of their initiatives. And what I found so unique about this thing called "Aloha" is how genuine it is. This is not just a marketing theme or a tagline on a brochure. This is how they live. It's actually part of their state laws! Aloha is the sending and receiving of positive energy and living in harmony. It is a way of life—treating each other with love and respect. You really do feel that spirit from virtually everyone you cross paths with on the islands.
Authenticity is a hot topic in tourism these days: Your clients are looking for genuine, unique experiences. Fewer and fewer travelers want to simply go and flop on a beach for a week. Of course they want to relax, but they also want to immerse themselves in a destination and feel enlightened by it—baby boomers especially.
Authenticity also translates into real dollars for you as a home-based travel agent. Clients are looking to you, and are willing to pay for access to the genuine article. In Hawaii, it could be a surfing lesson with a pro (like I did), or a private tour of the battleship USS Missouri (did that, too), or it could be a private Hawaiian slack-string guitar or ukulele lessons with a talented local, like a gentleman I met at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki by the name of Ray Sowder (OK, didn't do that one, but only because I ran out of time and didn't have my guitar). These things cost more, but are infinitely worth it, and are often commissionable to you.
Most of your clients will do research on the Internet themselves; however, they may be totally oblivious to hidden gems that will offer the authenticity they crave. The editors of Home-Based Travel Agent work hard to uncover unique travel products, experiences and add-ons for you in every article. The dual format of each article ("for my clients/for me") offers you a perspective you can share with your clients and insight into how to earn more commission.
Kerry J. Cannon, Jr. Group Publisher [email protected] 212-895-8247