Roberts teams up
with Gray Line

The local tour operator expects a boost from using the Gray Line name

By Russ Lynch

Roberts Tours & Transportation Co. is the new operator in Hawaii of the nationally known Gray Line tour business, defunct in the islands since its local operator closed down in March 1996.

Roberts has bought into Gray Line as a member independent operator and has the exclusive rights to the name in the islands, said Helene "Sam" Shenkus, Roberts vice president of marketing.

Robert Iwamoto Jr., president and chief executive of Roberts Tours & Transportation, said the company expects a significant boost in business with the Gray Line name.

"We believe visitors to Hawaii will rely on us for sightseeing tours and transportation services simply because we are a Gray Line operator," Iwamoto said in a press release.

Starting in a couple of weeks, the distinctive Gray Line blue diamond logo will be placed on all of the company's 1,000 Roberts vehicles, from motor coaches down to vans, Shenkus said yesterday.

But the company's well-known color scheme with the Roberts rabbit logo won't change. "The yellow bunnies aren't going anywhere," she said.

Already the biggest tour and transportation operator in Hawaii, Roberts gets a lot of business from tourists once they are here, she said. It handles about 5 million riders a year on its motor coaches, dinner-sail catamarans and other vehicles.

What it will get from the arrangement with Dallas-based Gray Line Worldwide is a way to attract many more mainlanders, before they leave home, Shenkus said. Gray Line is listed in many computerized reservations systems and is well known to travel agents.

Roberts runs sightseeing tours on the four main islands as Roberts Hawaii Tours, neighbor island overnight packages as Roberts Overnighters, catamaran dinner cruises, airport transfers and baggage handling.

Liz Smith, Gray Line Worldwide president, said in a press release that Roberts was the company's No. 1 choice to be its operator in Hawaii and that Gray Line "aggressively pursued" Roberts.

Gray Line Worldwide, founded in 1910, books travelers through more than 150 independent operators who use the Gray Line name.

Roberts, founded in 1941 as a one-man taxi business by Iwamoto's father, the late Robert Iwamoto, had Gray Line as a competitor in the local market until last year.

Gray Line Hawaii Inc. got its start in 1927 as Royal Hawaiian Transportation Co., which became a Gray Line operator in the 1950s.

At the time of its collapse last year, Gray Line Hawaii was owned by GM Company Inc. and CM Holding Corp. About 250 employees lost their jobs. Two affiliated Gray Line Hawaii companies, Central Transportation Co. and Laupahoehoe Transportation Co., were not included in the dissolution and were later taken over by Roberts.

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