Two years ago, SunTrips commercial director Nicola Balmain and
her family were swimming at a Maui beach when Balmain lost her
wedding ring. Her daughter got very upset, “This means you and
daddy won’t be married anymore.”
Her son quickly intervened. “Don’t worry, it isn’t the ring that
matters, but the kiss when they got married,” he said.
The ocean still has the ring, along with those of other
visitors. But the incident didn’t tarnish Balmain’s devotion to
Maui, and last December she and her family headed back for another
vacation in Wailea.
“At first, losing my ring was upsetting,” she said. “But then I
realized the memory that was created that day is far more valuable
than the ring itself. In fact, I still haven’t replaced the ring,
but I’m sure we’ll go back to Maui again and again.”
Indeed, there’s something particularly alluring about a Maui
vacation, even when it doesn’t completely go according to plan,
said SunTrips spokeswoman Helen Zimmermann. While the San Jose,
Calif.-based wholesaler promotes all of Hawaii’s islands with
enthusiasm, it’s marketing the mystique of a Valley Island vacation
through a variety of special initiatives.
“We’re designing new programs and packages to help all types of
clients keep going back to Maui to create memories of their own,”
Not that the Valley Isle needs help selling itself, admitted
“Maui represents 33 percent of our Hawaii business, second only to
Oahu in popularity but moving up steadily,” she said. “Maui’s
tourism industry has done a great job coming up with special
events, like art shows and food celebrations, which further
encourage travel to the island.”
SunTrips keeps its travel agent partners informed about Maui
specials through fax and e-mail blasts, a dedicated sales staff and
a round-the-clock booking engine so agents can book trips to Maui
when it’s most convenient for them.
In order to target the lucrative romance and honeymoon markets,
SunTrips recently introduced a program called the Prestige
Collection, made up of five-star hotels around the state. On Maui,
the program includes the Sheraton Maui, Westin Maui and Fairmont
Kea Lani Hotel and Resort. As part of the Prestige Collection
program, clients get priority check-in at the airports in Oakland,
Calif., and Hawaii; pre-boarding; priority seating and baggage
handling; a fun pack of beach and ocean amenities; in-flight
voucher for two free cocktails per person; and a headset.
“This program is proving to be very popular, so we are looking to
expand it,” said Zimmermann.
A seven-night package at the Marc Maui Vista, said Zimmermann,
represents the kind of value-added deal a family can find when
booking SunTrips to Maui. For a one-bedroom garden-view condominium
unit at the Kihei property, rates start at $689 per person for two
adults, including round-trip air from Oakland. Clients can add up
to two kids from $269 each.
At Aston Kaanapali Shores, a family-oriented resort in Northwest
Maui, a seven-night air-inclusive package costs $999 per adult and
$269 per child for accommodations in a large one-bedroom unit. The
deal also comes with a $100-per-room food and beverage credit. All
of SunTrips’ Maui vacation packages include use of an Alamo rental
For families heading to Hawaii, SunTrips makes the trip more fun
for the kids by serving them child-friendly meals on each
transpacific flight, including pancakes, sausage and fruit for
breakfast. Lunch and dinner fare for youngsters includes chicken
nuggets, macaroni and cheese, fruit, Oreos and M&Ms.
Meanwhile, SunTrips is tapping into the strong repeat market to
Maui by promoting pre-bookable, commissionable excursions.
“With so much to do on Maui, each vacation can become new and
unique,” said Zimmermann. “We just hope clients will schedule in
advance to make sure they don’t miss out on the more popular events
and activities, like the snorkel cruise to Molokini, adventure tour
to Hana, luaus, whale watching and helicopter rides.”
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For 2005, SunTrips has improved its longstanding Meet or Beat
program, which promises to undercut any competitor’s price by $10
per person on packages and air-only bookings.
“This year, we have simplified the process of quote verification by
doing it internally rather than making the client send over the
information,” said company spokeswoman Helen Zimmermann.
When booking a SunTrips vacation, advise the reservations agent
that you were quoted a lower price from another company. SunTrips
will do the legwork, making sure the flight route, accommodations,
room type, duration, departure date and meal plan are identical,
then call back to verify that it has reduced its rate by $10 per
“We are focusing on the message that nobody beats SunTrips, in
order to reassure travel agents that we give their clients the best
possible price for their vacation,” said Zimmermann.