An unthinkable scenario surrounding a Hawaiian travel company that scammed unsuspecting travelers to Hawaii has had its day in court. The whole event made us think about travel agents in Hawaii and their place in Hawaii vacation planning.
Wendy Wong, a virtual travel agent for the House of Aloha Hawaii, had been charged with 48 crimes, though strangely only 37 victims are said to have sought reimbursement. Individual and group vacation losses in Hawaii of up to $200,000 have been reported. And she may even have cheated her parents. Yesterday, Wong pleaded guilty to two felony counts at the time instead of the 50 the district attorney said she was facing. It happened in California, where the victims reside.
Wong must also return an amount of $155,000 to those who requested it.
If this is not paid by November 4, there will be serious repercussions. If restitution is not completed, she still faces a year in prison and a year of probation. If restitution is made, however, she will avoid a prison sentence but will still have two felonies and two years of probation.
“The consumers allege that the company failed to arrange, book and pay for their travel itineraries, including airline and hotel reservations, after paying the company for their trip to Hawaii. Additionally, consumers were given false itineraries for their trips, leading them to believe that travel arrangements had been made. – Better Business Bureau.
Wendy Wong and her company Ewa Beach House of Aloha Travel defrauded their customers. Even her father once said, “House of Aloha Hawaii is nothing more than a house of cards, a house of deception and lies.” Wong, charged in California, where her clients live, had previously pleaded not guilty and returned to court earlier this year.
When we first reported this in 2019, we found that Wong appeared to be a member of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). The since-deleted listing said it specialized in “all-inclusive, beach vacation, camping/hiking, corporate/government, Disney, family fun, group vacation, honeymoon, leisure travel, travel luxury…”
Business registration records in Hawaii indicate that Wong was not a licensed travel agent.
This raises the question of how to protect yourself when working with a travel agent you may not know. First, ask for proof that your agent is licensed before you exchange money. Then pay only with a credit card. Also consider travel insurance which can provide theft and cancellation protection. Finally, follow up to make sure your airline and hotel reservations are actually booked.
When does using a travel agency in Hawaii make sense?
1. For those with limited computing capabilities.
2. When you don’t have the time or interest to research Hawaii travel.
3. Planning a cruise. Here, travel agents can often find discounts and upgrades that you might otherwise struggle to get. The cruise industry is one of the last strongholds for travel agents and one in which they are still well paid.
4. Weddings and larger events. Here too, a travel agent can help with group bookings and discounts and coordinate multiple travel itineraries.
5. High-end traveler. Travel agents still have a valuable niche here and can render good service.
6. Complicated routes or special needs. Agencies here, especially those specializing in Hawaii, can be very helpful in making your travel plans.
7. Elderly people or people with physical or other difficulties can also benefit from the services of a travel agent.
Some thoughts on travel agents in Hawaii.
Travel agents in Hawaii can save some people valuable time when planning complex trips. On the other hand, if you don’t do at least some of your own corroborating research, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if you’re unhappy with the result. And when it comes to cruises, travel agencies often offer better deals than the cruise lines themselves. We found it to be true and wonder if you might have it too.
We have to admit that finding a good travel agent may not be as important today as it was in the past, especially for internet savvy people who think planning a Hawaii vacation is the only way to go. one of the most fun parts of the trip.
As with everything, shop around and compare the agencies, their intimate knowledge of Hawaii, their reputation, and their prices. We would like to hear about your experiences with travel agencies in Hawaii and the quality and objectivity of their advice.