Astonishing Aloha

Kenneth Shapiro As this issue was in production, I was fortunate enough to be in Hawaii for a few days, meeting with suppliers and discussing new developments and trends in the industry. While there, I had dinner with Joni Paahao, a senior vice president, and Donna Wheeler, assistant vice president marke

By: Kenneth Shapiro

As this issue was in production, I was fortunate enough to be in Hawaii for a few days, meeting with suppliers and discussing new developments and trends in the industry. While there, I had dinner with Joni Paahao, a senior vice president, and Donna Wheeler, assistant vice president marketing, for Aston Hotels.

Over pupus and drinks, Joni and Donna, who were both born on Oahu, shared with me their feelings about the importance of the spirit of aloha in the travel industry. The pride they have in their home and culture is obvious, as is the pride they have in Aston.

While you read about Aston’s name change in “Brand Quest” (page 12), I think it’s important to keep in mind one of the major challenges facing the company is keeping that sense of aloha and pride, even as Aston adjusts to a new corporate culture. The company’s strong commitment to Hawaiian culture whether it’s expressed through the one-page local history lesson delivered to guests with the morning paper or through the dedication of its employees is a strength of the Aston brand, and clearly a source of pride for its personnel. Hopefully, Aston’s parent company understands this and will give the quality the respect it deserves.

There are many challenges facing ResortQuest Hawaii, as Aston will soon be called. Staff on both sides of the marriage will need to adapt and be open to learning from each other. (Just ask Joni about the red cowboy hat she brought to Nashville where ResortQuest’s headquarters are located.) The essence of aloha, however, is pride, warmth and understanding, and I hope that if anyone can make the partnership work it is the homegrown, talented folks at Aston.

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