Joni Paahao, senior vice president of sales and marketing for
Aston Hotels & Resorts, has taken on a new role this year as
chairwoman of the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
“Joni truly understands the message OVB is communicating about
the diversity of Oahu,” said Les Enderton, the bureau’s
TravelAge West recently caught up with the Honolulu native for a
chat about what’s new on the island and how agents can sell it
Q: What do you see as Oahu’s greatest challenge these days as a
A: We are constantly competing with other sun and
family-friendly destinations for visitors, which is especially
challenging during the current downturn in the U.S. economy.
Q: Many travelers are bypassing Oahu for the neighbor islands
due to an increase in direct flights from the mainland. How can
A: While many mainland flights do head directly to the neighbor
islands, Oahu still welcomes the largest number of visitors.
(According to 2002 state tallies, Oahu had 4.2 million arrivals
followed by Maui with 2 million.) In addition, our Hawaii-based
airlines, Aloha and Hawaiian, are expanding into new markets with
non-stop flights to Oahu from cities such as Sacramento, Orange
County area, Burbank and Phoenix. Also, Delta launched direct
flights from Salt Lake City to Oahu last year.
Q: What trends are you seeing among Oahu visitors?
A: At Aston, we’re seeing more families traveling together to
Oahu. We’ve found that guests want to do more than sit on the
beach; they want to discover the treasures of the destination. And,
they’re looking for unique accommodations and experiences.
Q: What are some of the exciting things happening on Oahu?
A: The beautification projects and new programs in Waikiki have
created a buzz on Oahu. Our bus system has been named the best
public transportation in the nation. (2000-20001, by the American
Public Transit Association) And, our hotels, attractions and
experiences are relatively close to each other compared to other
destinations, so it’s easy to explore the incredible diversity of
Q: When you are host to visitors from the mainland, what do you
do with them on Oahu?
A: One of my favorite things to do is share the gift of food.
Oahu’s variety of culinary options reflects our diversity of
Q: What’s your advice to travel agents to help them sell
A: It’s critical that agents know the destination and all it
offers. OVB, Aston and other top Hawaii hospitality companies offer
training throughout the year with special on-site immersion
programs in Hawaii.
Agents who can’t take the time away from the office to learn
about Oahu can do so via online site inspections.
Aston, for instance, offers virtual tours of our properties on
our Web site, www.astonhotels.com