April 12, 2012
Hawaii's Airfare Pricing Games Begin
As the East Coast gets ready for nonstop flights from New York and Washington, D.C. to Hawaii (courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines and United, respectively), other airlines are looking to remain major players in the game, increasing service from the West Coast to the islands. This week, Alaska Airlines announced new nonstop daily service between Oakland and San Jose and Hawaii. The airline operates flights from both cities to Kauai, Maui and Kona on Hawaii Island, with 35 flights a week from the Bay Area and Sacramento to Hawaii.
Allegiant Air, meanwhile, also announced flights from their Las Vegas base and Fresno to Honolulu. Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said that the addition of these flights will help to provide additional direct flight access to the state and is estimated to provide $29.8 million in visitor expenditures and $3.25 million in tax revenue.
Hawaiian Airlines, which won't begin flying to the East Coast until June, responded with a 36-hour flash sale—raising an interesting question: Allegiant's main appeal is in its low costs, but the airline charges for carry-on baggage and is decidedly no-frills, whereas Hawaiian promotes itself as the only domestic airline that still offers complimentary hot meals on flights to and from the mainland across all classes. Since the flight from California to Honolulu is not insignificant (approximately five to six hours), will visitors be willing to save money on their ticket only to make up for it in baggage and food fees onboard? And will the difference in fares be significant enough to convince East Coast travelers to fly from the West Coast rather than paying for a nonstop flight? The pricing games have begun—who will win? Sound off in the comments below.
December 22, 2011
Top Hawaii News from 2011
It’s been an exciting year for Hawaii, with some major developments and improvements pointing towards a promising 2012.
Late in 2010, Ian Schrager and Marriott opened the Waikiki Edition, which generated plenty of buzz thanks to the major names attached and the prime location. But the hotel didn’t thrive as expected, and by May, lawsuits were being filed between various parties. In late August, a midnight takeover gave the hotel a new name as an Aqua property. The lawsuits are ongoing, and time will tell who ultimately ends up owning the hotel, but it’s probably safe to say that Hawaii’s hotel scene hasn’t seen this much drama in years.
Another major development in the state’s hospitality scene was the opening of Disney’s Aulani in September. The resort offers something unique for families (and couples, and singles) in Oahu, and also presents a genuine Hawaiian experience for Disney fans. Perhaps best of all, the resort is a genuine luxury getaway, with understated top-tier service and rooms that will impress even the most discriminating guests.
Hawaii’s airlift scene got a major boost this year as well, with increased service from numerous airlines. In June, United Airlines announced direct flights from the mainland to Hilo on Hawaii Island, bypassing Honolulu and offering travelers an easier way to reach a less-explored part of the state. Around the same time, Alaska Air announced direct flights from San Diego to Honolulu and China Eastern Airlines launched nonstop service from Shanghai to Honolulu.
And then in fall, Hawaiian Airlines announced nonstop flights from New York to Honolulu, bringing Hawaii that much closer for East Coast travelers. Thanks to an increased fleet of wide-body, long-haul planes, the airline is also expanding its service to Los Angeles and to Sydney, making the islands much more accessible for both international and domestic travelers.
With all this happening in just 12 months, we can’t wait to see what happens in 2012!
September 23, 2011
On Location: A Visit to the Aulani Spa
Aulani celebrated its grand opening tonight with a beachfront ceremony that started off with a real rainbow stretching over the resort. I can only assume that Disney now controls the weather, too.
The day started out with more chances to talk with the Aulani team. Korri McFann is the worldwide marketing & business development director at Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons, and he is helping to create Aulani’s weddings and honeymoon packages. The first wedding at Aulani is scheduled for the first week in October, and four weddings are schedule for 11/11/11. Nice touch: For families who already have children, McFann says that her team is developing weddings that marry not just the couple, but combine two families into one. Naturally, the ceremonies include little Disney touches, like little Mickey Mouse crystals in the bouquets (below). While the resort doesn’t have any dedicated honeymoon packages set in stone yet, McFann believes a five-day honeymoon vacation should be around $2,000 per couple, and will probably include spa time, private beach cabanas, beverages and excursions.
Jeff Morosk is the director of landscape architecture for Disney, and he helped create the overall aesthetic of the resort. The finished product, he says, is “about the many facets of Hawaii—its history, its present and its future.” Native plants are featured throughout, little “menehune” (mythological Hawaiian characters) are hidden in the gardens, and animals are subtly carved into the rocks along the paths. Bo Bolanos, the principal concept designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, estimates that there are more than 300 of these hidden animals throughout the resort, and adds that even he’s not sure where they all are. “It’s a discovery for me, too.” One challenge Bolanos faced with designing Aulani was working on a significantly smaller scale than he might at any of the company’s other resorts. Instead of 300 feet of space to work with, he had to find ways to create the same effect in only 60 feet.
After chatting with the “Imagineers,” I headed over to Aunty’s Beach House, a dedicated children’s space at the resort. The house has many rooms with different kinds of activities for different ages and interests—board games, computer games, videos, toys, sports equipment…just about anything a kid could need to stay entertained while mom and dad unwind on the beach or in the spa. Coolest part: There's even a tool shed for arts and crafts. I get the feeling Aunty's will be a bit more inventive than macaroni pictures. (I didn't get to chat with Aunty, a new Disney character created for Aulani, but reportedly she and Uncle come by regularly to tell stories to the kids. Are grown-ups allowed to listen in?)
And then there's the spa. Laniwai (meaning “freshwater heaven”—water is a dominant theme) is fairly large as spas go, so there’s never a sense of over-crowding. Upon check-in, guests get a small stone with a word carved into it, and they are asked to meditate on that word during their stay. (Mine was “Balance.”) In the middle of the spa is a small pool, and guests can put their stones in the pool before heading off to their therapies. Design-wise, the real novelty at Laniwai is the co-ed hydrotherapy garden, which is included in all treatments but can be booked independently. The garden has six distinct motion-activated showers guests can wander through before jumping into either a warm Jacuzzi or a cold-water plunge pool (depending on preference), and several herbal soaking tubs. It’s a really lovely way to spend an hour or so before or after spa treatments, and guests should budget extra time to unwind outside. (Nice touch: Guests also get a custom-made scrub when they check in. I opted for a maile sugar scrub—it smells a little sweet, but not cloying. Quite nice.)
Inside, the sauna and steam room areas have little refrigerators filled with towels, making the heat much more bearable. And the main lounge has a full range of lotions and hairsprays and whatnot, so guests don’t have to leave the spa looking like they’ve just…well, left a spa.
Teenagers have their own dedicated spa at Laniwai. Painted Sky has special treatments just for younger guests, and kids can try their hand at making their own perfumes. (Be afraid. Be very afraid.)
I opted for a hot-stone massage, and largely passed out while my therapist did her work. Turns out, hot stones really are soothing. I can actually move my shoulders again.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more on the opening and the beach and the "Waikolohe Valley" pools tomorrow!
January 13, 2011
$25 Travel Agent Booking Bonus
Your clients will enjoy the extra space in our one- and two-bedroom suites at Embassy Suites – Waikiki Beach Walk.
They’ll enjoy a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast daily, a nightly Manager’s Reception, domestic long-distance calls and high speed Internet access.
• Each booking must be a minimum five consecutive nights
• $25 booking bonus is payable in U.S. dollars only
• Booking bonus will be paid directly to the travel agent within 45 days of guest check-out
• Booking bonus applies to new bookings only
• Combinable with other special offers and applies to all room categories
• Paid on wholesale packages and GDS, Internetordirect commissionable bookings.
• Valid for stays through June15, 2011
• Blackout dates: December 25, 2010 through January 2, 2011
• Not applicable to groups of 10 or more rooms
• Other restrictions may apply
January 12, 2011
$50 Booking Bonus at Outrigger
Clients will love the upscale amenities in a variety of accommodations – from cozy studios to spacious three-bedroom suites on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Island of Hawaii. And you’ll receive a $50 Booking Bonus for every five-night stay booked.
Good for packages and direct bookings. Valid for travel between 12/22/10 – 12/21/11.
Visit http://www.gogowwv.com/GenericImages/OutriggerIncentive.pdf for more information.
January 12, 2011
Earn a Free Night in Kapalua
Simply book five cumulative Suite or Club Level room nights at the newly transformed AAA Five-Diamond Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and you will receive one complimentary night in one of our luxurious Suites.
This offer applies to all new direct and wholesale bookings and is valid for published rates offered by The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
Visit http://www.gogowwv.com/GenericImages/RitzIncentive.pdf for more information.
July 23, 2010
Where Do You Send Eligible Clients or New Couples?
It's been a great year few months for Miami. In May, the city announced that international visitors to the area generated a record $11 billion in economic impact in 2009. Then Lebron James decided to join the Miami Heat, which could add about $500 to $600 million to the region. This week, Match.com, in a partnership with Southwest Airlines, named Miami the best destination for summer travelers seeking eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, receiving received more than 43 percent of the votes.
Good for Miami. We're happy for them. But what other destinations can agents suggest to their single clients? Not surprisingly, one of the most popular interests on Match.com's user profiles is traveling, with more than 80 percent of Match.com's single users listing travel as an interest. So let's give some other areas some attention.
A fair amount of those surveyed (40.5 percent) said Honolulu is the most romantic city in United States. Other popular singles summer beach destinations from the survey included Key West in Florida (17.2 percent); Manhattan Beach, in California (12.1 percent); South Padre Island of Texas (10.1 percent); Waikiki Beach in Hawaii (9.3 percent); and the Hamptons, NY (7.5 percent)
As much as this data may foster ideas as to where to send partner-less travelers, extra information hints agents should keep their eye on ideal couples destinations as well. More than 60 percent of singles surveyed would vacation with a partner after only three months of dating, and 67 percent say they would prefer to travel with someone they are dating versus family, friends or alone. Meanwhile, 12.5 percent of singles say they would share a hotel room after only one week of dating. Nothing heats a relationship up like travel, right?
Personally speaking, I can vouche for South Padre Island, TX after recently reuniting with a high school buddy who has lived near the area for years now. His girlfriend is gorgeous, sweet and down-to-earth (way to go Nick!). I've also had many friends say Austin, TX is a well-kept secret for single guys (sorry to let the cat out of the bag there fellas).
As for the Hamptons on Long Island in New York, I lived and worked there for a few years, and didn't have much success. It probably has to do something with the fact that I worked for a local magazine and couldn't afford much of the attractive singles scene, or so I tell myself. Still, it turned out to be a great vacation spot years later when I took my then-girlfriend (now wife) to the beaches of Montauk (which I think is better than Coopers Beach in Southampton, named the best beach in the United States by Dr. Beach). Thanks to that beach hamlet at the end of Long Island, she's now all mine.
We'd like agents to tell us the regions that have garnered the most interest among their eligble clients, where they would send said eligible clients, and where they would send those partaking in the blossoming stages of a relationship.
Share your thoughts by posting a comment below. Send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Join the discussion thread at AgentNation. Write us at our Facebook page. Not only will your feedback help other agents and clients, it just may contribute to more in depth coverage at Travel Agent.
At our Facebook page this Jaenine StHill commented on the best cities for singles, saying:
Las Vegas and Miami. I just back from Miami-South Beach. Great time to be had.
Of course on Las Vegas! What happens there, stays there right? In case something that does happen there (i.e. single traveler meets another single traveler) doesn't end there (as the relationship develops), other agents at our Facebook page have suggestions as to where they can go.
Mari Jo suggests:
Riviera Maya - beautiful beaches, jungle, cenotes, Mayan ruins, great restaurants - the perfect setting for adventure, fun and romance!
Grace DeVita added:
I'd recommend somewhere like The Resort at Paws Up...you can get romantic seclusion and adventure at the same time and really see what your better half is made of..
By: Kirk Cassels
June 01, 2009
Waipio Valley Rim Hike
The Waipio Valley was The Valley of the Kings for the ancient Hawaiians; before that, it was the Valley of the Gods. Lush and almost unbelievably green, the valley features significantly in Hawaiian history and mythology, and in modern times served as an agricultural center until the devastating tsunami of 1946. On the rim of the valley, streams lead to seven waterfalls that crash 2,000 feet to the valley floor below, providing an impressive display of nature's power.
Hawaii Forest & Trail is creating a new hike to introduce visitors to this quietly powerful wonderland, and our group was treated to a preview. With the soft-spoken and spiritual Matt as our guide, we set off on a misty morning to hike around the valley’s rim. After driving over unpaved roads to a just-cleared area in a eucalyptus forest, we were provided binoculars, hiking sticks, bottles of water, snacks and backpacks for anything we did not want to leave in the van.
We set off over terrain that quickly got our hearts pumping, stopping frequently to look at little streams (that, later in the trail, became big streams and even bigger waterfalls), and to look down from the cliffs into the valley. Because of the foggy weather, we would frequently only see mist when we looked down into the valley, but Matt passed the time by telling stories about each area we (theoretically) were viewing. Without fail, by the end of each story, the mist had parted to show us the spot that featured in each story. (Neat trick, that.) The stories made the vistas more than just views; they added history and depth to what could otherwise be merely a photo opportunity.
The hike also offered a different perspective of Hawaii from what people usually imagine. The Big Island could fit all of the other islands of the state twice over, and features 11 of the planet's 13 climates. As such, there is a wide variety of things to see and do here far beyond sitting on a beach and sipping mai tais (not that there's anything wrong with sipping mai tais, especially on a beach). Walking through dense groves of bushes and trees; fording streams; and seeking out historic sites lets visitors see another side of Hawaii that they could easily miss otherwise, and that can enrich their vacation in remarkable ways.
Photo by Paul Hirst
June 01, 2009
Visit to the Kohala Spa
True confession time: I’ve never actually been to a spa before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect for my appointment at the 25,000-square-foot Kohala Spa at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. I’d been encouraged to show up at least a half-hour earlier than my appointed time, so I checked in extra early and was escorted into the private women's locker room with its own steam room, sauna, outdoor garden Jacuzzi and lounge area.
The Kohala Spa
Since I’d spent the entire morning in water, I wasn’t too eager to soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi, although the group members who tried it sang its praises. Instead, I stepped into the steam room, hitting a button on the doorway as I entered. A large stone cauldron in the middle of the room began billowing lightly scented steam, and I leaned back and closed my eyes, breathing in deeply. When I opened my eyes again a few moments later, the entire room had become shrouded in mist. I could barely see a foot in front of my face. It was eerie and soothing at the same time, and the sounds of condensed steam dripping from the ceiling, the warmth, the enveloping mist, and the scent all combined for a wonderfully relaxing experience.
After enjoying the steam room for a while, and enjoying some fresh air by the Jacuzzi, I was taken to a private room by massage therapist Tonia Thomas, a specialist in Lomi Lomi massages, the spa’s most popular treatment. Using constant motion and gentle pressure, Tonia worked out a bunch of this perpetually tense New Yorker’s tight muscles, relaxing me to the point of nearly falling asleep. (I also have to praise her deft avoidance of my sunburn, which couldn’t have been easy.) Tonia has studied numerous massage techniques around the country, and is also an expert in sports massage and the spa's Kohala massage. (Although I promised not to reveal names, Tonia demurely acknowledged that she has treated celebrities and earned very favorable feedback from them.)
Feeling very chill and relaxed after the massage, I went
back to the steam
room to breathe in some more of that wonderful mist before rinsing off
five-head shower. Before returning to my room, I chatted with Michele
the director of Kohala Spa. The Lomi Lomi massage, she told me, is a
Hawaiian tradition taught by elders. Among the spa's more popular
offerings are mother/daughter treatments that, she says, encourage
bonding and teach the next generation to enjoy the spa experience. The
enormous facility has more 23 treatment rooms (three are for couples)
and employs a staff of between 50 and 55 among the spa, the cardio
room, weight room, yoga room and other areas. Wilkin said that no one
therapist was more requested than any of the others, but from my own
experience, I highly recommend Tonia Thomas.
May 28, 2009
Snorkeling, Swimming with Dolphins on The Big Island
An exterior shot of the Hilton Waikoloa Village
You remember that sappy poem that keeps coming back to how you should always wear sunscreen? Yeah, do that. Especially if you're going to be out in the sun all day. Especially if you're going to be in the sun and in the water all day. Apply sunscreen liberally, and keep re-applying. (But wait 15 minutes for your skin to soak it up before going into the water, or it'll just wash off. Yes, I learned this the hard way today, and yes, I do resemble a blond tomato.)
When I woke up this morning, the sun had just risen, and I heard weird noises coming from below my balcony. I walked out onto said balcony and looked down to see dolphins playing in the lagoon almost directly beneath me. Pretty cool way to start a day.
Had breakfast with the group on a patio by the lagoon and tried not to watch the animals playing while Adrea Gibbs, general manager of Dolphin Quest Hawaii (which has been part of the property since 1988), talked about the program and how it differs from others like it at other resorts. First of all, she emphasized, human beings can't swim 25 miles per hour, so it wouldn't be accurate to say that we'd be swimming with dolphins. "It's more like they're swimming with us," she said.
Look closely and you'll see dolphin fins making ripples
The program, she went on to explain, is as much about learning from and about the dolphins as it is letting people play with them. Riding the dolphins is not allowed (Gibbs compared holding a dolphin by its dorsal fin to a human carrying another person by their nose), and, she emphasized, the dolphins are never forced to do anything they don't want to.
We got in the water and the dolphins swam over, and we got to pet and feed them while they performed tricks for treats. If a dolphin wasn't interested in the assigned trick, another would quickly swim over to earn its fish. It was utterly adorable, and the dolphins seemed perfectly happy to play with one another and with us. (Gibbs pointed out that the dolphins have had ample opportunity to escape, but like to stay where they are—they don’t even like moving to the larger lagoon adjacent to their own.)
Still wet from the dolphin lagoon, we piled into a van and headed to a beach on the property, where we set off on a catamaran for a black sand beach on the other side of the bay. While we chugged along, the staff instructed us on the finer points of snorkeling and on the fish and coral life we could expect to see. (One of our guides was named Pepper, and Pepper is studying to be a biologist. When she gets her Ph.D, she will, indeed, be Dr. Pepper. I’m not making this up at all.) When the catamaran dropped anchor, we jumped into the water (well, some of us jumped; some of us inched in slowly) to look up close at the coral and sea life.
Our guide, Pepper, filling us in on coral and sea life
The further we got from the boat, the bolder the fish got, and the more we
could see. Both the coral and the fish were brightly colored and
exquisite—there really aren’t words to describe the beauty of these exotic
animals in their equally exotic environment. Someone caught a puffer fish and
brought it onboard in a bucket so that everyone could have a look, and even
hold the scared little fella before sending him back home where he belongs.
Far too soon, it was time to head back to the resort. (Well, maybe it wasn’t too soon at all. Did I mention the sunburn? It’s gotten worse since I started writing this. Owww.....)