Mainland company starts prepaid attractions card in Hawaii
Boston-based Smart Destinations Inc.
is selling a new "Go Hawaii Card" for people visiting the islands.
The card is a prepaid admission pass to more than 25 visitor attractions in the islands, including tours, art galleries, historical and cultural attractions and family, beach and ocean activities. The cost varies by the duration that the card is good for. A one-day card costs $59 for an adult and $39 for a child. A seven-day card normally costs $269 for an adult, but is available until Monday for $174.
A visitor can buy the pass before they leave home and it becomes active when the bearer "dunks" the card in a Smart Destinations card reader at the first attraction they visit, said Kathy Stafford, destination manager.
The first day that cardholders can start dunkin' is Tuesday.
"Ninety percent of all our card sales are done pre-arrival, which is great for the state," she said. The cards and 100-page companion guidebooks are marketed through online companies such as Orbitz.com, but the company also has sales representatives in eight cities around the world, "so we have lots of different arms out there, marketing and selling for us."
The card has to be used within 14 days, but needn't be used on consecutive days. "People don't want to run around three days straight out of a five-day trip," Stafford said. "It really gives our customer the flexibility to choose."
Participating attractions are paid overnight electronically through Smart Destinations' technology.
"It is completely paperless," she said. The company's terminal, installed at an attraction, reads the card and "about 1 a.m. it downloads through an 800 number in 30 seconds to a minute to our master server. It matches the 'dunk' at the attraction to a negotiated rate and that's how the attraction is paid."
Before joining the company, Stafford worked at a Seattle museum -- software pioneer Paul Allen's Experience Music Project -- that began using Smart Destinations to draw traffic. Stafford said she was approached by Cecilia Dahl, who co-founded the company two years ago,
"I negotiated with her and it was just kismet," Stafford said.
"What really set Smart Destinations apart in my mind is that the first month they launched ... they sent the most people through the museum."
The previous biggest-visitor-sender was Expedia.com, "until Smart Destinations opened up. In the first month, we got ten times as many (visitors)," said Stafford. The company offers Go Cards in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Orlando, Fla., and Miami and will expand to Los Angeles next month.
Stafford is a fifth-generation kamaaina but she had been working on the mainland for the last decade. She came home on vacation in June and received an e-mail from Dahl asking if she knew anyone who would be a good fit for the company in Hawaii, "and I said, 'Pick me! Pick me!', so she did," laughed Stafford.
Stafford started pitching local attractions that very month.
The operation became a two-person show recently when Smart Destinations hired Kathy Raymond as operations manager. "I call her K-2," Stafford said, and the company refers to its Hawaii contingent as, "The Kathys."
The company hopes to offer a kamaaina rate and neighbor island cards in the future.
On the Net: www.gooahucard.com.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org