Adventure awaits with diversified tour company

Polynesian Adventure Tours driver Pookela Hightower stands ready to greet passengers for what is sure to be an epic ride. PHOTOS COURTESY OF TONY GRILLO

By Karen Iwamoto

In today’s world of revealing guide books, online reviews and endless travel apps, Polynesian Adventure Tours stands out for its exceptional customer service and dedication to ensuring guests leave with a positive, stress-free and memorable experience.

“Our service levels are what sets us apart,” said Sandra Weir, the company’s president. “From the first time one of our employees makes contact with a client until the last drop off, we want to make sure everything goes well.”

Weir continued, “And the reason our customer service is outstanding is because of our employees. They enjoy their jobs, they have a positive outlook and energy, and they care about the kind of tour experience our customers receive.”

Polynesian Adventure Tours, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, began in 1977 when Bob George and Don Brown had the idea to take four vans and launch an innovative Waikiki tour experience with drivers narrating and highlighting the area’s prominent history and landmarks. It has since grown into the state’s largest tour-coach company, with offices on every major Hawaiian Island, including two on the Big Island — one in Hilo and another in Kona.

Lead reservation agent Nikki Belrose helps customers plan their activities with Polynesian Adventure Tours, which range from sightseeing to helicopter rides.

The company’s tour packages include, among other options, visits to the World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument sites at Pearl Harbor; circle-the-island sightseeing trips of the Big Island; sunrise and sunset tours of Haleakala on Maui; and a movie-adventure tour on Kauai that takes guests to the locations where various movies have been filmed over the years.

In 2005, Polynesian Adventure Tours was acquired by Norwegian Cruise Lines and expanded its services to include shore excursions, which entails picking up cruise-ship passengers, taking them on trips and giving them a more in-depth look at the islands. The tour company now offers shore excursions not just for Norwegian Cruise Lines, but also for most of the major cruise lines that port in Hawaii.

Weir estimated that there are about 22,000 passengers coming and going on the various cruise lines that stop in Hawaii, and that overall adds up to the company transporting at least half-a-million customers per year.

Also in 2005, Polynesian Adventure Tours entered into a licensing agreement with Gray Line World Wide, which catapulted the company into a global tour and transportation business. It also has a partnership with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters on the Big Island, offering customers a tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the sky.

With this growth came a continued need for energetic and passionate employees. Although the company is perhaps still best known for its guided-tour services, it also employs reservation agents, mechanics, coach washers, bag handlers and non-tour drivers at its locations statewide.

“We’re looking at personality; people with a high level of customer-service skills; people who are high energy, passionate about education and tourism,” Weir said.

Being a tour driver, specifically, requires a more outgoing personality.

“We can all drive on the roads, but tour drivers can make a drive exceptional,” Weir explained. “Whenever I look at online reviews, I’m pleased with what our clients have said about our drivers.”

Still, she said, she is confident that even those who are more reserved easily can find a place within the longstanding company, as long as they are willing to do their part to support its mission of providing outstanding customer care.

Contact Patrick Klein at pklein@staradvertiser.com if you desire to have your company featured in this section.

THE 411

COMPANY: Polynesian Adventure Tours

PHONE: 833-3000

WEBSITE: polyadhawaiitours.com

PRESIDENT: Sandra Weir

EMPLOYEES: Approximately 200

BENEFITS: Paid vacation, 401(K), membership in Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union and training

NOTEWORTHY: Polynesian Adventure Tours was one of only four companies awarded a concession contract — which began Jan. 1 — to conduct guided-vehicle tours of Haleakala on Maui for the next 10 years.