Bringing Maui Into Focus

SunTrips puts emphasis on Maui with special promotions

By: Marty Wentzel

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,” she said.

Not that the Valley Isle needs help selling itself, admitted Zimmermann.

“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 car.

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.”


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 person.
“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.
800-786-8747 n