Kauai Calling

The same elements that make Kauai a natural for honeymooners and for families make it a good choice for many of your other clients as well.

 Kayakers along Kauai's Na Pali Coast

"You can't beat Kauai for its beauty and natural surroundings," says Jack Perkins, co-owner of Travel Planners, an agency based in Birmingham, AL. "There are all sorts of things to do. Whether it's kayaking on the HanaleiRiver, mountain tubing or mountain biking, I'd feel very comfortable recommending activities to clients."

Perkins is among the more than 120 U.S. retailers who've graduated from the Kauai Visitors Bureau's destination-specialist program, which brings groups of agents to Kauai for training and to experience the island firsthand.

Although he was aware of the range of activities available on Kauai before his training, Perkins says, spending time on Kauai opened his eyes to how beautiful the island is and the quality of what's available to his Kauai-bound clients.

Adventure-seekers will want to try zip lining in Kauai

Although some activities like zip lining and hiking can be more rigorous, Perkins notes, Kauai has something for every age group, whether it's a sunset catamaran ride or a visit to one of the island's horticultural gardens.

Kauai is a good fit for families and for couples seeking a low-key honeymoon destination. "Kauai's laid back," he says. "It's easy to get around, easy to drive, and great for a peaceful week's vacation." It also works well for people making a repeat visit to Hawaii and those who want a two-island vacation—the caveat with the latter being that they stay in the islands at least seven nights, or even 10 nights or two weeks if their time and budget allow.

"Certainly Kauai has been changing in the area of upbranding," says Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. The upgrades themselves, plus the marketing by the properties, provide a synergy with the bureau's own marketing campaigns, she adds.

"Kauai's out there stronger than ever," Kanoho says. "The demand for what our island has to offer has increased." She notes that Kauai's diversity of activities, sights and lodging appeal to many segments of the travel market.

Indeed, many segments of Kauai's visitor industry have been burnishing their offerings. If it's been a while since you or your clients have been to Kauai, you'll notice that a lot of upgrading has been taking place.

Examples include the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, which is in the midst of a $10 million-plus doubling of its Anara Spa. When work wraps up by year end, the spa will have 45,000 square feet, including eight new treatment hale, two of them for couples; a Vichy treatment room, a relaxation hale, and a cardio hale for aerobics and yoga, says Katy Britzmann, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

Meanwhile, work is proceeding at the long-shuttered Poipu Beach Hotel, and it's expected to open within a year. Also, presales of villa residences have begun in the restoration of Coco Palms Resort. Plans call for a hotel component and a spa and the target completion date for the project is fall 2009.

More Developments

Also receiving an infusion of attention and capital in a project that will span several years is Kauai Lagoons in Lihue. Master developer Kauai Lagoons LLC in October unveiled plans for a number of vacation homes and condominiums across a range of Marriott brands, some of them likely to be available for travel agents to book for their clients. Also on tap are an extensive spa, a marina, a restaurant and modification of several holes at Kauai Lagoons' two championship 18-hole golf courses. At the heart of the project is a navigable freshwater 38-acre lagoon that was created when development of what was envisioned as a mixed-use destination began about two decades ago.

Starwood's two properties on Kauai, the Sheraton Kauai Resort and the Princeville Resort, also are in line for significant upgrades over the next couple of years. In fact, as part of its phased $24 million renovation, the Sheraton Kauai received the brand's first installation globally of the "tropical" design, one of the five new lifestyle guest room designs.

A visit to Kilauea Lighthouse is a great suggestion for unbeatable scenic views

Rising a notch last year was the oceanfront Kauai Beach Hotel, which was rebranded the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort in October following an $18 million upgrade. Work at the 350-room property spanned everything from refurbishment of rooms and public areas to the addition of such brand standard services and venues as a business center and executive club floor.

And brand-new on the Kauai scene is the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa. This upscale oceanfront condominium project, developed at a cost of $200 million, opened in December. It will add a 4,000-square-foot Aveda lifestyle spa in June; treatments already are available in-suite and at three poolside cabanas.

The property comprises 190 one- and two-bedroom suites and is geared to travelers looking for the experience and amenities found at an upscale resort in a low-key setting, says Tim Alex, director of sales and marketing for the Outrigger Condominium Collection. Thus, it's suited for independent travelers and repeaters, he notes.

As for Kauai's diversity of diversions, activity operators continue to expand the breadth and depth of choices available to travelers.

Debuting a few weeks ago at Princeville Ranch Stables was a custom, private version of the company's guided Jungle Valley Waterfall Adventure, which combines hiking, freshwater kayaking, swimming and zip lining.

New this year is the Kauai Plantation Railway through historic plantation grounds

Chugging into action at the end of January was the Kauai Plantation Railway. Years in the planning, this new ride takes travelers through the historic plantation grounds.

Clients can go horseback riding along the coast

There's been a continuing growth in interest among travelers for such perennials as heli-tours, hikes, horseback rides and cruises, but increasing numbers of visitors also are venturing farther afield with freshwater and sea kayaking, downhill bicycling and zip lining.

"If I were to identify a trend, it's been a growth in families looking for adventure," says Rick Haviland, owner of Outfitters Kauai. "There are fit, adventurous seniors seeking out activities and multigenerational family travelers." He says the company is working on new offerings, some in response to guest comments and requests.

A key point to remember when working with adventuresome clients is to book as many of their activities as possible in advance. The Kauai Visitors Bureau and activity providers note an increased awareness among travelers of the need to pre-book activities to avoid disappointment if no slots are available that mesh with clients' itineraries. "With the increase in cruise-ship presence, we are compelled to push for the pre-booking of activities and people are picking up on this," says Maile Horner, KVB travel industry sales manager.

More and more, say Haviland and other providers, it's become important to plan adventure activities ahead of time. That way, travelers don't miss out on their top choices; if they want to rearrange dates, they generally can do so with sufficient notice to the providers if space on the alternate date is available.

Agent Support

The Kauai Visitors Bureau provides both online and offline support to travel agents. Retailers can visit www.kauaidiscovery.com for Kauai information, and once there can navigate to a password-protected site specifically for travel agents; follow the "travel trade" link. There, they can order collateral materials and obtain specific island updates not provided on the general site. "It's designed to give the travel professional an extra edge to enhance the experience of their clients," Horner explains.

She adds that she herself is another tool available to retailers. "My position was designed specifically for our travel professionals," she continues. "I invite travel agents to e-mail me at mhorner@hvcb.org or call me at 808-245-3971."

Collateral agents can order includes the annual travel planner, pocket maps, itinerary maps, postcards and golf brochures, as well as posters and videos for the agency. The bureau also will continue to provide training in selected mainland cities this year, often in conjunction with trade shows.

The bureau is continuing with its on-island destination-specialist training for agents, and will operate four five-day sessions this year, Horner says. The bureau works with one wholesaler per trip; groups comprise up to 24 agents, accompanied by wholesaler staff. Another resource for agents is the Poipu Beach Resort Association. Agents can tap into specific information about the area at www.poipubeach.org; the agent section is devoted to preferred rates for retailers.

Useful Links

Kauai Visitors Bureau 800-262-1400 for general visitor information
Poipu Beach Resort Association 888-744-8888