NorCal ASTA Hosts Hawaii Seminar; Don't Call it a Fam

At our recent Hawaii Roundtable, Wendy Goodenow, an agent from HNL Travel, mentioned NorCal ASTA and their annual Hawaii educational fam. “It’s the most intense four days I have ever seen,” she said. “They do site inspections for about three days in a row...It’s too bad there aren’t other chapters that could get on the bandwagon.” This sounded fascinating, so we contacted Scott Pinheiro, NorCal ASTA’s chapter president (and also of Santa Cruz Travel) to learn more.

First of all, Pinheiro said, the trip is not really a fam. “It’s called a product seminar,” he explained. “It’s generally for NorCal ASTA members, and every year we take a group of select agents to one of the islands, because so many of our clients vacation there annually, between the Big Island, Maui, Honolulu. This year, in October, it’s on Oahu. We have the new Sheraton Waikiki, which has been renovated and remodeled.”

Okay, so how is this product seminar different from a fam? “The difference from what would be a normal fam is probably the camaraderie, because it’s such a long-running event,” Pinheiro said (the trip is now in its 39th year). “Some agents have been coming for 30 years. As you can imagine, Hawaii morphs into different products. Agents haven’t seen the new Beachwalk or new Trump condo complex…People come back every year to get brushed up on what’s current in Hawaii, because now, with the Internet, we need to stay on top of things to consult our clientele.”

The trip, which is kept to a small group (as many as can fit on a bus for easy transportation), still has a few seats left, and has been opened up to other ASTA chapters. But “we’re not in a position where we let just anybody go,” Pinheiro said. (As evidence of this, they ask for a 1099 form to verify that the applicant is a full-time agent.) The reason for the tight security, he explained, is because the trip is supported by a professional group of hoteliers and tourism boards in Hawaii, many of whom meet with the agents in a day-long trade show that ends the trip. “It’s not free for them to be at our trade show, and we expect—as they do—to give them quality travel professionals who will come and speak with them and send their clients. This is a working educational product seminar.”

The trade show is also a place to branch out and create new business. For example, several years back, a couple struck up a relationship with a Maui hotel they discovered at the show. The husband, Pinheiro remembered, had noticed that none of the Hawaii hotels they had seen offered any kind of all-inclusive program, and mentioned this to the hotelier. Together, they created a unique five-night all-inclusive program unlike anything else on the islands, offering their clients something they couldn’t find at any other hotel or any other agency.

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