Aston On The Islands
Aston Hotels & Resorts is comprised of 26 properties on four Hawaiian islands. Following are the official names of its rebranded resorts:
Aston at the Executive Centre Hotel
Aston at the Waikiki Banyan
Aston Pacific Monarch
Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
Aston Waikiki Beach Tower
Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel
Aston Waikiki Joy Hotel
Aston Waikiki Sunset
Aston at Papakea Resort
Aston at the Maui Banyan
Aston Kaanapali Shores
Aston Mahana at Kaanapali
Aston Maui Hill
Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas
Aston Maui Lu
Aston Paki Maui
The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach
HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND
Aston Kona by the Sea
Aston Shores at Waikoloa
Aston Waikoloa Colony Villas
Aston Aloha Beach Hotel
Aston at Poipu Kai
Aston Islander on the Beach
Aston Kauai Beach at Makaiwa
Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages
When ResortQuest Hawaii announced that it was rebranding itself as Aston Hotels & Resorts on Jan. 27, Pleasant Holidays president Jack Richards applauded the timing.
"Overall, it’s a great time to make this move," said Richards, referring to the current challenges facing the travel industry. "They are returning to a brand that has significant equity and is recognized, trusted and respected by travel professionals and consumers."
The Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel boasts views of Diamond Head.
The Hawaii-based management firm operated as Aston Hotels & Resorts from 1986 until 2005, when it became ResortQuest Hawaii. After an ownership change in 2007, company officials floated the idea of bringing the Aston name back to the islands.
Market analysis helped them make the decision, said Aston Hotels & Resorts president Kelvin Bloom.
"During our research, a majority of Hawaii travelers said they were familiar with the Aston brand even though it was on hiatus," said Bloom. "Its name recognition seemed as strong as ever. In fact, when guests referred to our resorts, many called them Aston even though they were officially ResortQuest Hawaii properties. In addition, we were getting a lot of Web site hits from people who were looking for Aston accommodations."
All of that information told Bloom and his team that, while people generally have difficulty embracing change, this was a whole different story.
"Returning to the Aston brand is like reuniting with a trusted friend," said Bloom. "In this challenging economic environment, it makes a lot of sense. In the context of 25 years, the Aston name has been around in the islands a lot longer than ResortQuest Hawaii, so this should be an easy transition for travel agents and their clients. The industry still knows Aston, and it has a special affinity in many travelers’ hearts. We’ve brought the brand out of retirement, so to speak."
The name change is the centerpiece of an overall marketing campaign, complete with a contemporary logo that promotes the destination of Hawaii in general and Aston’s properties in particular. While the Aston name is the same, the logo has been brought into the 21st century, Bloom said.
"With palm leaves in the background, the image shows that Aston is rooted in Hawaii and suggests a portal to paradise," he said. "Most of all, it’s an emblem of hospitality."
Aston’s new advertising campaign — themed Leaving Lasting Impressions — aims to build steadfast relationships, said Bloom.
"We want to reflect an innovative spirit, which is particularly needed in today’s economic climate," he said.
Under the Aston Hotels & Resorts moniker, the company will continue to promote the unique selling points of its 26 properties on four islands. The Aston line ranges from hotels, villas and suites to plantation cottages and condominium accommodations providing hotel services.
During the rebranding, Aston is rolling out a number of product enhancements, including changes of particular interest to travel agents. Along with its standard 10 percent commission, it traditionally has been rewarding agents with cashback bonuses of up to $50 in the spring and fall. Now, for bookings made through March 31, agents can get a double cashback bonus of up to $100 (good for travel from April 1-June 30).
Aston is also continuing its Stars Online incentive program, providing agents with points that can be earned and redeemed for free nights and merchant gift cards.
Throughout 2009, Aston is encouraging travel agents to visit its properties and experience them firsthand. With that in mind, Aston is continuing the EduVacations program that it launched in October 2008. Agents get reduced rates based on Aston’s tiered pricing structure called Palm Ratings. At two-palm resorts, they pay $79 per night; at three-palm properties, the agent rate is $89, and at four- and five-palm accommodations, it’s $99.
"Unlike some other companies, we derive approximately 80 percent of our business from retail travel agents," Bloom said. "They are our bread and butter. We’ll be relying on our great relationship with them to help spread the word about this exciting new chapter in our company’s history."
Meanwhile, Aston is considering acquiring new properties and looking at other ways to grow the company, a process that Bloom believes will be made easier by the rebranding. At the same time, Aston is test-driving additional changes and programs that it will introduce down the road.
"Stay tuned," said Bloom. "There’s more to come."