The word is out that Hawaii tourism is growing. Earlier this month, Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism projected that overall visitor arrivals will increase by 6.5 percent for 2012, which is 2.1 percentage points higher than its previous forecast. Similarly, total visitor spending is now projected to increase by 9 percent this year, which is 2.6 percentage points above previous expectations.
Indeed, TravelAge West’s group of Hawaii experts had plenty of positive news to share during the Hawaii for Every Interest panel at the 2012 ExecConnect Elite Agent Symposium. Julie Zadeh, managing director of travel trade marketing for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau (HVCB) brought agents up to speed on Hawaii’s increased airlift and the many distinctive experiences clients can have on each of the islands. Daniel Trankina, regional sales manager for Aston Hotels & Resorts, shared his firsthand knowledge of Aston’s upgrades and renovations across the islands as well as the tools available to help agents increase sales. Derek Lloyd, director of business development for Norwegian Cruise Line, updated agents on the line’s Partners First initiative and the overall value that an all-inclusive cruise in Hawaii provides to families, groups and couples. Lisa DeCambra, director of sales and marketing for The Modern Honolulu, reached out to agents, reintroducing her stylish, sophisticated Oahu property, which is currently under new management.
What factors are responsible for Hawaii’s recent spike in tourism?
-Hawaii is enjoying great air seat capacity and new air service, including Hawaiian Airlines (JFK to HNL) and United Airlines (DC to HNL).
-Airlines are now flying nonstop to neighbor islands. In fact, Alaska Airlines has just announced new service to Kauai (PDX to LIH).
-Budget carrier, Allegiant Airlines, is beginning service from Bellingham, Wash., to Maui as well as from Bellingham; Eugene, Ore.; Santa Maria, Stockton, and Fresno, Calif.; Denver; and Las Vegas to Honolulu.
-Hotels, resorts and condo accommodations are constantly being refreshed. Owners are investing in keeping their product up to date and adding value with complimentary breakfast and resort credits in order to offset the cost of airfare.
-Oahu’s historic properties, such as the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian, have reinvented themselves in recent years. And Oahu’s Waikiki Beach Walk is more sophisticated than it has ever been, with fewer ABC stores and more high-end shopping and restaurants.
Which other island hotels have recently reinvented themselves?
-The Modern originally opened last year as The Edition Waikiki, is reintroducing itself under the management of Modern Management Services, an independent management company.
-Hip and affluent clientele will be attracted to The Modern for its fine dining and nightlife. Morimoto Waikiki, of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto fame, is one of the best restaurants on Oahu and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
-At The Modern’s Addiction Nightclub, guests can lounge at VIP tables or dance to the music of live DJs. Addiction Beachclub takes place on Sunday afternoons at the Sunset Pool.
-On Kauai, the St. Regis Princeville completed an extensive $100 million renovation in 2009.
-Aston Hotels & Resorts has been busy doing significant upkeep with its properties, including its more established hotels.
-To complement the grounds enhancements of The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach on Maui, the resort has completed an exterior building renovation project that included repairs to exteriors, balconies and the re-painting of both towers.
-Maui’s Aston Kaanapali Shores completed a $15.5 million renovation, with refreshed guestrooms, common areas, pool area and the Beach Club Restaurant. It has been nominated for TravelAge West’s WAVE Award in the category: Best New Property or Major Renovation, Hawaii.
-Aston Waikiki Sunset and Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel have also been recently refreshed.
The rising cost of airfare is a major concern to travelers. How can agents help clients get the best fares?
-Travel agents need to sell the entire package (airfare, hotel accommodations, car rental and activities). When airfares increase, agents will often find that Hawaii’s hotels will extend great value add-ons to make the package price competitive.
-Free nights, food and beverage credits, free car rentals, upgrades, reduced rates and resort credits will often make the package competitive.
-Norwegian Cruise Line is a huge value for travelers, offering the only Hawaii cruise with seven days in port. Clients can visit Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui without worrying about intra-island airfare.
What options are there for clients who want an all-inclusive experience in Hawaii?
-While Hawaii hotels aren’t all-inclusive a cruise around the islands offers much of the same features. The ship acts as a base, much like a floating hotel, and allows plenty of time to explore the islands on foot and hit the beach. All meals are included, which can save families a significant amount.
-Clients on a Norwegian cruise typically stay an additional five days in Hawaii before or after the cruise, and the cruise line offers hotel packages that include first-class accommodations, luggage handling, transfers and local assistance.
What are some other ways that families and small groups can cut costs?
-Families can save big with Aston’s Aloha Deals, including the “Aston Kids Stay, Play & Eat for Free” promotion for children ages 12 and under. Children ages 17 and under can for free stay at participating Aston properties. Many of Aston properties offer condo accommodations with barbecue pits, full kitchens and multiple bedrooms.
-Clients can also save money on dining and more with Aston’s Island Grocery Service option, which delivers everything from baby formula and laundry detergent to personalized birthday cakes. Clients won’t have to waste time shopping when they arrive in the islands because all of their groceries will be in their condo upon arrival.
How is each panelist helping agents sell romance travel and destination weddings?
-Norwegian Cruise Line can arrange for weddings in multiple locations on any of the islands, whether the nuptials take place before, after or during the cruise.
-The HVCB Destination Specialist course, Ke Kula O Hawaii, covers selling and marketing to the romance and destination wedding markets. Also the HVCB’s membership listing provides contacts to wedding specialists and wedding coordinators.
-The Modern offers a dedicated wedding specialist and several distinctive locations to tie the knot, from a ballroom that can seat up to 920 guests to the outdoor Sunset Pool and bar. Each venue can be customized to meet the needs of the bride and groom.
-In addition, The Modern offers a selection of Waikiki wedding packages, starting at $2,500, as well as gourmet banquet menus.
-Aston is offering a complimentary five-night stay at Aston Kaanapali Shores to the bride and groom when booking a group wedding at its mainland properties in Lake Tahoe or Lake Las Vegas.
What agent-oriented sales tools or services do you have in the works for the future?
-Norwegian Cruise Line offers the Partners.NCL.com marketing headquarters with professionally designed flyers, emails, banner ads, co-op ads and social media tools. The company will introduce a performance survey soon to get feedback from agents about any new tools or changes that would enhance their experiences.
-Norwegian’s Partners First philosophy is a commitment to travel agents and to helping agents grow their businesses. Agents can also earn a Freestyle Certification online though NCL U.
-The HVCB Travel Trade website, Agents.Hawaii.com, offers everything travel professionals need to sell and market the Hawaiian Islands. The site features island maps, travel planners, great videos, an interactive calendar of events and the island diagnostic tool, among other features.
-Aston Hotels & Resorts offers a Stars Online program, which tracks bookings, even those made through wholesalers, and helps agents earn cash awards as well as award travel. Travel agent fam trips and complimentary nights also help agents learn about the product.
-The Modern offers booking bonuses, travel agent rates and fams. The hotel also works with wholesaler partners and piggybacks on the tools of the HVCVB.
What is a common misconception about Hawaii? And how can agents better inform clients?
-The HVCB recently completed a major rebranding study, which identified that most consumers are not aware of the diversity of the islands. According to the survey, once consumers understood that there are six unique and completely different island experiences, they were more interested in visiting Hawaii and in visiting more than one island.
-The study helped to develop sales and marketing tools that speak to the unique differences between the islands. One tool that is getting very good feedback is on the HVCB travel trade website, Agents.GoHawaii.com, under the Destination Information, What Island to Visit tabs.
-The tool is a one-page survey or diagnostic tool that travel professionals can share with clients. The survey helps the traveler identify what they are looking for in a vacation in order to help the agent fit the client to the right island experience. It also helps the traveler to understand how many different experiences are to be found in the Hawaiian Islands and helps set the tone for their next visit.