Vendor: Ticket reservation system for Arizona memorial favors big companies

( Image: Hawaii News Now )
( Image: Hawaii News Now )

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Carey Johnson owns a small tour company called Custom Island Tours LLC.

When he gets day-of requests from customers to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, he said, it's hard to get tickets.

"The tickets are selling out two months ahead of time to the big tour companies who are buying the tickets before they even have customers," Johnson said.

That can be as many as 50 tickets reserved per day per bus.

"We're working with the tour operators," park superintendent Jacqueline Ashwell said.

She said the system isn't perfect but is better than it used to be because tour companies can only pick up tickets on the day they're used and only for the exact number of people signed up for the tour. The rest are returned.

"We would then give the rest of those tickets to the public," Ashwell said. "That's resulted in a net return of between 200 and 400 tickets a day."

All the park's tickets are free, but tour companies include the tickets they reserve in tour packages that include the USS Arizona Memorial and other stops associated with the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

"For the tour we paid $49 per head for an adult and $32 for children," Australian visitor Carolyn Alonso said.

Visitor Ian Garbett said he thought about reserving tickets online, but decided to use a tour vendor instead.

"I wanted to ensure that we got good seats at a good price," he said.

Johnson contends that because big tour companies include the "free" tickets in tour packages it amounts to ticket scalping.

Ashwell disagrees, saying visitors don't pay for the tickets.

"They're paying for transportation," she said.

Johnson thinks tour companies shouldn't be able to reserve tickets at all.

"I believe the fairer way to do it is first come first serve, not to reserve specifically for tour companies but to make them all available to the general public," he said.

"I don't think that's practical," Ashwell countered.

She said if commercial operators were taken out of the equation there wouldn't be enough parking to accommodate people who now arrive on tour buses, plus the volume of visitors lining up at the memorial to get tickets would be unmanageable.

She hopes to tweak the reservation system to create a separate stock of tickets so small tour companies like Johnson's have their own supply to tap into that large tour operators can't touch.

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