News Column

Website blamed for fewer visitors

May 12, 2014

By Leila Fujimori, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser



May 12--The head of the Pacific Aviation Museum is blaming an online ticket reservation system for a dramatic drop in sales this year.

Ticket sales were down by 20 percent for the first quarter of this year compared with last year at the Pacific Aviation Museum, one of three paid attractions at Pearl Harbor, resulting in reduced hours for workers there.

"That's costing us $150,000 a month," said Ken DeHoff Jr., the museum's executive director.

He's had to cut workers' hours but so far hasn't laid off anyone.

The museum, on Ford Island, depends largely on spillover traffic from the USS Arizona Memorial.

Admission to the Arizona is free, but visitors must have a ticket, which means reserving one online for $1.50 or standing in line. About 4,500 are issued every day, about half of them online.

The reservation system, recreation.gov, allows one to reserve up to 65 tickets at once up to six months in advance.

DeHoff suspects that tour companies are scooping up all the online tickets to be used as part of their own tours. So when individuals try to reserve them, all they see is "Sold Out" in red letters for whatever date they select.

The reservation system doesn't let people know that more tickets are available at the box office.

"What they don't know is another 2,200 tickets (a day) are available," he said. "We're finding people aren't coming."

Despite pleas to make changes to the website, altering the software is difficult and slow and must compete with requests for changes from other locations, he said.

The Arizona Memorial is operated by the National Park Service, but the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the Pacific Aviation Museum are operated by three separate nonprofit organizations.

About a year ago the three nonprofits began offering a joint ticket called the Passport to Pearl Harbor for all three sites in partnership with the national park.

All three paid attractions and an audio tour for the Arizona Memorial are offered for $65.

But when a would-be visitor tries to reserve the joint ticket on recreation.gov, the same problem crops up. On Sunday the website showed the next available USS Arizona ticket was at 1:30 p.m.July 28.

DeHoff said last year that 25,000 tickets were sold through the recreation.gov system, amounting to 10 percent of all tickets sold by the aviation museum. The aviation museum uses other websites as well.

And aviation museum personnel continue to work on getting the word out to concierge desks at hotels, through social media and up to a dozen different websites that walk-in tickets are available, especially in the afternoon.

"Those of us that participate in the Pearl Harbor historic sites are working together, trying to solve the problem, to get the message out there are tickets and encourage people to come to Pearl Harbor," he said.

DeHoff began cutting hours for staff members late last month. "I'm working tooth-and-nail that we cut everything else but the staffing," he said.

Paul DePrey, superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which comprises the Arizona, Utah and Okla­homa memorials as well as sites in Alaska and Cali­for­nia, said traffic at the Arizona dropped about 5 percent in the first three months of this year.

"Our visitation is strongly linked to the overall visitation to Oahu," he said.

Representatives of the Bowfin and the Missouri did not respond to calls on whether they have seen a downturn in ticket sales.

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(c)2014 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at www.staradvertiser.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)


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