Thatched hale (hut) at Kona Village
The Kohala Coast has been promoting itself as a visitor mecca since
1965, yet for many travelers from the mainland, the Big Island
destination doesn’t hold the same cachet as other longtime Hawaii
getaways. Chalk it up to a need for greater awareness, said Kohala
Coast Resort Association (KCRA) officials, who are working hard to
help agents better sell the 20-mile stretch of beaches, golf
courses, spas, shops, restaurants and luxury accommodations.
KCRA members have been blitzing the mainland, meeting with
hundreds of travel agents and wholesalers. The group recently held
invitation-only events in Texas and Arizona, and it will tour the
Pacific Northwest in June. Additionally, when the Big Island
Visitors Bureau travels the mainland, it spreads the KCRA message
As KCRA shares insider information about the Kohala Coast with
agents, it tries to inject the destination with the kind of name
recognition enjoyed by Waikiki on Oahu or Maui’s Kaanapali.
“While our individual hotels are some of Hawaii’s most
desirable, they are not always identified with the Kohala Coast,”
said KCRA administrative director Sharon Sakai. “We haven’t had the
same level of exposure as other Hawaii destinations with larger
marketing budgets.” As agents learn about the Kohala Coast’s unique
aspects, Sakai suggests that they think about each of its resorts
as an oasis.
“The length of the coast and vastness of the Big Island has
allowed the resorts ample breathing space,” she said. “As clients
filter off Queen Kaahumanu Highway into one of the resorts, they
find each hotel to be its own special refuge, fairly secluded and
not visible to its neighbors. This feeling of privacy is very
important to certain types of clients. Nowhere else in Hawaii will
they find the concentration and consistency of luxury resorts as
they do here.”
Another key to selling the Kohala Coast is recognizing ideal
clientele. Along with the higher-end traveler, the Kohala Coast
calls to history buffs with its ancient sites and strong ties to
its host culture. It’s also a destination created for relaxation,
Great beaches like this one at the
Beach Resort are part of the Kohala
Coast’s brand message.
“Clients won’t find all-night bars and dance clubs here,” she said.
“Instead, the Kohala Coast appeals to visitors who enjoy the
peacefulness of a star-studded sky and the sound of the waves.
Early morning is the best time for snorkeling, diving, hiking,
golfing and other outdoor activities.”
Spending time with KCRA’s Web site and the sites of its
individual hotels can help agents who want to boost their bookings
to the Kohala Coast. However, firsthand visits are every bit as
important, said Sakai.
“When you consider that the coast offers everything from a
resort with 125 grass-thatched bungalows [Kona Village] to a
1,240-room resort complete with a tram and dolphin encounter
program [Hilton Waikoloa], it’s evident that agents must understand
the attractions of each property,” she said.
Agents should remember that the Kohala Coast is just one
destination on a vast and diverse island.
“Don’t underestimate the amount of time required to explore the
Big Island,” Sakai said. “As agents determine a recommended
vacation length, they should balance the active component with
resort relaxation time.”
Recent increases in domestic airlift have made it easier for
agents to sell the Kohala Coast. Direct flights to Kona
International Airport are now available from Chicago, Denver, Los
Angeles, Oakland, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco,
Seattle and Vancouver. KCRA and its visitor industry partners are
vying for additional airlift to the island, while BIVB has
contracted with Sabre Air Solutions to explore ways to increase
lift to Kona.
In order to spread awareness of the Kohala Coast, agents need to
tell their clients about the one-of-a-kind touches that make the
destination worth visiting. They should talk about what it’s like
to land at Kona in the middle of a centuries-old lava field and
step off the plane onto the tarmac, feeling the sunshine, smelling
the plumeria and buoyed by the ocean breezes. They should let
clients know that each hotel offers an airport greeter to assist
with directions and luggage, and that the two-lane highway that
leads to their accommodations is lined with white rock graffiti and
views of the ocean and mountains.
“If agents take the time to learn intimately about the coast,”
said Sakai, “and if they can make accurate recommendations for
their clients, it’s likely the clients will thoroughly enjoy their
vacation, becoming clients for life and guests of the Kohala Coast
Kohala Coast Resort Association
Hotels along the Kohala Coast include the Hapuna Beach Prince
Hotel, Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows,
Hilton Waikoloa Village, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa,
Kona Village Resort and Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and the Mauna
Kea Beach Hotel (closed until December 2008).