The Royal Coconut Coast features hiking trails for the whole family. // © 2013 Gelston Dwight
Convenience. Uniqueness. Affordability. Those are three great selling points for Kauai’s east side, and now an organization called the Royal Coconut Coast Association (RCCA) is spreading that message to potential visitors and their travel agents.
Established in late 2012, the non-profit aims to broaden awareness of the stretch between the east Kauai towns of Wailua and Kapaa, distinguished by its acres of royal palms. Through its new website, RCCA is promoting the region’s reasonably-priced accommodations and its accessibility from anywhere on the island as well as its distinctive selling points including a coastal bike trail, river activities, historic sites, beach parks, dining, golf, hiking and visitor-oriented businesses.
According to RCCA president Troy Spalding, the idea for a Royal Coconut Coast marketing partnership emerged after the 2008-2009 recession that dealt a blow to tourism throughout Hawaii. While Kauai’s south, central and north shore resort areas eventually started to see improvements in visitor counts, it was clear that the east side needed a boost. With the endorsement of the Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB) and funding from a Kauai County economic stimulus grant, nine resort managers officially joined forces to collaborate on rebranding and touting the island’s east side, and soon three more resorts joined.
RCCA resort members currently include Aston Aloha Beach Hotel, Aston Islander on the Beach, Courtyard by Marriott Resort at Coconut Beach, Kaha Lani Resort, Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy, Kauai Sands Hotel, Kauai Kailani, Mokihana of Kauai, Outrigger at Lae Nani, Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort, Plantation Hale Suites and Pono Kai Resort. Another major contributor is the longtime attraction of Smith’s Tropical Paradise.
By spring 2013, RCCA membership grew to 46, including resorts, activities, restaurants, retail stores, transportation, services and other organizations. Marketing programs were expanded to include public relations, advertising, social media and member-to-member communication.
During the same time, accommodations in the Royal Coconut Coast region underwent significant upgrades. Over a two-year period, nine hotels and condominium resorts spent $20 million into renovations, including improvements to interiors, exteriors, landscaping, public areas and recreational facilities. The Wailua Golf Course spent another $500,000 on renovations, and a total overhaul of Kauai Kailani’s condominiums is scheduled to be completed by September. Sweetening the allure, beach park facilities have been expanded, and new restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and art galleries continue to crop up.
RCCA is working diligently to promote its one-of-a-kind activities awaiting visitors. The 3.8-mile Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal path is popular with bikers, joggers, walkers and skateboarders alike, and Kauai County is in the process of extending it several miles west toward Lihue.
The Wailua River, reaching three miles inland from Wailua Beach, has grown increasingly popular with kayakers and stand-up paddlers. And, RCCA is building awareness for historic sites along the Royal Coconut Coast, where ancient Hawaiians practiced important cultural customs. It’s easy for visitors to locate heiau (outdoor places of worship), petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) and other landmarks.
In addition, the organization is directing hikers to three trails in the area, each of which leads to a spectacular 360-degree view from the top of Sleeping Giant mountain. RCCA is also spotlighting the region’s special events like the upcoming Kauai Coconut Festival, scheduled this year for Oct. 5-6.
All of these assets combine to create a must-visit destination, said Spalding.
“The dedication, effort and commitment made over the past year by 12 different resorts, Kauai County and KVB have been a tremendous kick-start toward our end goal,” Spalding said. “Within just a short span of time, we’ve established an official organization, a brand and logo, good photography, a highly informative website updated weekly, a strong social media program, solid public relations activities and productive online advertising campaigns, and we have participated with KVB in media projects.”
RCCA hopes to take part in KVB travel agent initiatives such as the Kauai Master Specialist program and Hawaii Tourism Authority programs including Mahalo Month. Plans also call for agent outreach through quarterly updates about the destination.
Spalding said that his fellow resort managers in the area are all reporting improved occupancies and higher average room rates in 2013 compared to last year.
“While this has been an overall trend for Kauai, I suspect that the incremental increase for the east side is even higher thanks, in part, to the efforts of RCCA,” said Spalding. “The Royal Coconut Coast really has a strong destination story to tell. The timing couldn’t be better.”