Connecting With Condo Connection

Spotting a need, this family-owned company continues to grow

By: By Marty Wentzel

Connecting with Condo Connection // (c) 2009

Joseph Fienberg, president
of Condominium Connection

In 1976, Stephen and Elinor Fienberg and their 12-year-old son Joseph were trying to plan a Hawaii vacation when they ran into a major roadblock. They found it was nearly impossible to locate a condominium for rent. There were no travel agents to help, no guides to consult and no inventory directories.

Taking matters into their own hands, the Fienbergs decided to search the islands themselves and produce their own condominium directory, which they began selling to mainland travel agents in 1977. The following year they created Condominium Connection, the first wholesaler to market condominium vacation rentals in the Islands.

Initially, their primary travel agent target was in Canada, since Canadians most often took extended warm-weather vacations and condominium accommodations were a perfect match for them. However, since the sale of condominium rentals was foreign to the travel agents, many asked the Fienbergs to make bookings for them. Condominium Connection — the wholesaler — was born. To better serve their Canadian clientele, the company provided the first toll-free telephone service to connect with its California operations.

As business volume increased and more properties were added, the Fienbergs realized that they needed to speed up reservation and inventory processing. Still in high school, son Joseph began teaching himself computer programming and quickly became the company’s IT expert.

In 1978, Condominium Connection became one of the first wholesalers to automate, as a mainframe computer was installed to print documents and manage inventory. By 1998, with the Internet making its impact, the company was offering the first online booking engine for travel agents.

Stephen and Elinor retired in 1994, turning over the operations to Joseph. In 1998, Joseph bought out his parents and began a major expansion program. Today, Condominium Connection offers 135 properties throughout Hawaii that include small, boutique-style condominiums, family-style units and moderate to first-class hotels.

Travel agents can search the company’s inventory online by property name, room rate, location and amenities. Condominium Connection’s system also considers currently available specials and multi-tiered room categories to ensure the best possible comparisons.

After more than 30 years selling Hawaii, Joseph Fienberg said there have been many milestones that have affected the business. In 1994, when United Air Lines cut travel agency commissions, many travel agents went out of business, a number of agencies consolidated and became larger, and the home-based travel agent emerged as a new market. Condominium Connection became a key resource for the home-based agent and a good contact for their Hawaii business.

“These home-based agents are difficult to find, but good customers to have,” said Fienberg.

Another milestone in the development of Hawaii’s travel product came about in the 1990s, when the “big box” home-improvement stores came to the Islands. No longer having to wait weeks or months for mainland or Asian shipments of equipment and products, condominium owners could more easily keep their rental properties fresh and updated. Formica countertops and white porcelain gave way to granite and stainless steel. At the same time, property services and amenities grew to include hotel-style facilities, daily maid service, restaurants, lounges and daycare. With all of that, rates have remained lower than or comparable to hotels, but with normally larger rooms and cooking and laundry facilities.

So what’s coming? Fienberg said the breadth of the company’s inventory, advanced technology and personalized service have set Condominium Connection apart for the past 30 years and will sustain the business into its fourth decade. He added that the company prides itself in ensuring its clients that every property offered is personally inspected by its management and reservations sales specialists.

“Our only business is selling condominiums and hotels in our inventory, which keeps us very focused and customer-oriented,” said Fienberg. “We don’t offer airfare, just quality accommodations and personal attention to all of the details. We live by our motto: We look out for you, so you don’t have to.”

Condominium Connection also pays travel agents 13 percent commission.

“Particularly in this tight market that is seeing cruise lines, airlines and wholesalers reducing commissions, Condominium Connection continues to reward its travel agent partners for their hard work and loyalty,” he said.