Have you heard the latest about Aqua Hotels and Resorts?” That’s
the big question in Hawaii travel industry circles these days, and
it’s the savvy travel agent who can answer yes. While high-profile
Waikiki renovations and upgrades are taking turns in the headlines,
insiders are buzzing about Aqua, whose growing presence in South
Oahu can’t be overlooked.
A maverick among Hawaii hotel chains, Aqua has been steadily
adding properties to its Honolulu inventory.
“Our focus is completely on Waikiki, which is undergoing a
rebirth right now,” said Aqua Hotels and Resorts marketing and
guest services vice president Elizabeth Churchill, in an exclusive
In part, Aqua’s name keeps circulating because of the people
affiliated with it. Owner and CEO Mike Paulin, the hotelier who
made Marc Hotels and Resorts a success, came up with the idea of
Aqua and launched it in 2001. In September of this year, Aqua
welcomed the Hawaii Polo Inn, owned by Hawaii Polo Club president
Mike Dailey. In October 2006, the chain designated its flagship
property as Aqua Wave Waikiki Hotel, owned by Aston Hotels and
Resorts founder Andre Tatibouet.
Clever marketing has injected additional pizzazz to the chain’s
profile. It has divided its inventory into two brands: Aqua
Boutique Hotels, a group of properties targeting Generation-X
clients and younger baby boomers; and Aqua Lite, representing the
company’s value accommodations.
“We have young talent on staff, creative ideas, an environment
where all team members are empowered and a visionary leader in Mike
Paulin, who knows all about redefining a product,” Churchill said.
“We would definitely like to be considered a rising star.”
But as Aqua grows, its officials are making a big point of
maintaining its personal service, as exemplified by Paulin’s
trademark round-the-clock availability to guests.
“Our Aqua Ten team meets twice each month to understand what is
going on in the minds of our guests, so we can constantly upgrade
our services,” Churchill said. “The Aqua Ten initiatives allow all
team members to fulfill client requests.”
Aqua further distinguishes itself with a concept called the
Seven Pillars of the Aqua Brand, which Churchill dubbed, “the
foundation of our commitment to excellence, by offering distinct
services and amenities unlike other Hawaii hotel operators.”
In other words, the chain promises that every guest gets
accommodations that have been either renovated or refurbished;
access to spa facilities, either on-site or nearby; fitness
facilities; in-room mini-refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker;
free high-speed Internet access or Wi-Fi; daily continental
breakfast; and the Paulin hotline.
According to Churchill, Aqua is taking cues from successful
boutique chains on the mainland.
“We are the new kid on the Waikiki block, and our accommodations
have a look and feel appealing to today’s savvy and adventurous
travelers,” Churchill said. “Aqua understands consumers are looking
for experiential-based travel, and we are here to fill that
A work in progress, Aqua is renovating several Lite properties,
then repositioning them to Boutique status. Aqua Hawaii Polo Inn
will become Hotel Equus on Dec. 20 after a $2 million upgrade, and
Aqua Continental will be renamed Aqua Essence on Sept. 1. So,
agents should stay on top of rate changes for 2007, said Aqua vice
president of sales and revenue management Cara Okawa.
“The Lite properties will average a 5-10 percent rate increase
next year, and the Boutique rates are rising an average of 25
percent, but the repositioned properties will see 80-90 percent
rate increases,” she said.
As part of its outreach to travel agents, Aqua has initiated its
Get the Point agent rewards program and a travel specialists
section on its Web site. Aqua Waikiki Wave Hotel is offering agents
a Get Acquainted rate of $79 per night through 2006. “We encourage
all travel agents to visit our properties, and we offer them 50
percent off rack rates with upgrades when available,” said
Other travel-trade efforts include news releases, advertising,
e-mail newsletters, GDS visibility and direct sales calls.
Which clients are best suited for an Aqua booking? The ideal
candidates, said Churchill, are those looking for a distinctive
Waikiki experience without the luxury price tag.
“We appeal to clients who want choice, control and flexibility
at a great rate,” she said. “Basically, that means clients who want
to feel unique, empowered and
Aqua Hotels and Resorts
1860 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96815
Commission: 10 percent
Aqua Boutique 2007 rates:
Aqua Waikiki Wave, 2299 Kuhio Ave., from $200 per night
Aqua Aloha Surf, 444 Kanekapolei St., from $187
Aqua Bamboo & Spa, 2425 Kuhio Ave., from $195
Aqua Palms & Spa, 1850 Ala Moana Blvd., from $220
Aqua Lite 2007 rates:
*Aqua Continental, 2426 Kuhio Ave., from $115 through Aug.
*Aqua Hawaii Polo Inn (Hotel Equus as of Dec. 20), 1696 Ala Moana
Blvd., from $187
Aqua Island Colony, 445 Seaside Ave., from $195
Aqua Kuhio Village, 2463 Kuhio Ave., from $127 (Aqua management
ends Dec. 31)
Aqua Marina, 1700 Ala Moana Blvd., from $187
*Ocean Tower Hotel at Waikiki Beach, 129 Paokalani Ave., from $160
through May 31
*Once renovations are completed, these hotels will transition to
Aqua Boutique status.