Chinese Tourists in Hawai‘i
Dragon 'Em Around: We hopped on the bus with China’s pioneers of leisure travel to see Hawaii through their bleary eyes.
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Ricky handled the check-in and Lu announced he would meet everybody back in the lobby in three hours so they could walk together to the Chinese buffet at Hokele Restaurant for dinner. He would also show them how to get to the DFS Galleria, where foreign travelers can shop duty free.
It was important that everyone could find their way back to the duty-free shops after dinner. There’s no profit margin for Dragon Tours in selling cut-rate packages like these, which are known in the industry as “zero-dollar tours.” Instead, the money is in the commissions Dragon gets for selling add-ons, like submarine rides and sunset cruises, and for bringing business to restaurants and retailers, like the shops at DFS Galleria.
Purpose of Visit
Lu’s group was on the move again the next morning, seeing Waikiki Beach, the Diamond Head lookout, and luxurious Kahala homes through the motor coach’s darkly tinted windows. A few brand-new iPads, purchased the night before, came out to record the sights. After a 20-minute stop at Haunauma Bay, and another 20-minute stop at the Blow Hole, the motor coach barreled back into town and rolled to a stop on unglamorous Young Street, in front of a jewelry store called Keoni.
During the drive, Lu put in a few good words for black coral, red coral and black pearls, all of which are prominently featured in the Keoni collection. The group dutifully filed into the display room, where elegant young women stood behind glass counters, ready to deal. Johnnie Fong, Keoni’s owner, greeted Lu warmly and slipped him a crisp $20 bill for his trouble, then slipped the bus driver a $10.
Fong said he moved Keoni from Waikiki to Young Street specifically to accommodate bus tours like these. While this particular group didn’t show much interest in his jewelry, “it just takes one good customer,” as Fong put it, to make the whole thing worthwhile. When the group boarded the motor coach, 20 minutes later, only one piece of the Keoni collection went with it, a relatively inexpensive olivine stone.
As the motor coach headed back for Waikiki, Lu put in some good words for the healthful benefits of Hawaiian noni and an antioxidant product from the Big Island called BioAstin. Both of these could be found at the group’s next stop, AMW Wholesale, a vitamin and souvenir shop hidden away on the second floor of the Waikiki Trade Center. Lu’s shoppers were far more enthusiastic about this place than the jewelry store, and as they followed him to their next stop, lunch at China Garden Restaurant, they carried bags full of mac nuts, Hawaiian chocolate, BioAstin and noni in its capsule, tablet, soap, gel and body lotion forms.
After lunch Lu, turned the group loose in Waikiki for more shopping. He returned later that afternoon to take the 16 who had signed up for the sunset cruise to Pier 8, where they would board the Star of Honolulu. “Sixteen’s pretty good,” he said. “Not great, but pretty good.” The next morning, he would pick everyone up at 4 a.m. and take them back to the airport for their early morning flight to LAX and the beginning of the rest of their grand American tour.
“They will spend a lot of time on the bus,” Ricky said before taking back the reigns of the tour from Lu. “When they get home, they will show their family and their friends the pictures, and they can tell everybody that they have seen the United States.”