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The Top Travel Stories of 2014: Hawaii

January 7, 2015 By: Joe Pike

2014 was all about luxury in Hawaii. A two-month-old rumor that a Four Seasons Resort was coming to Oahu became fact in October while Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui, Hawaii’s first Montage resort, is finally here following a $15 million renovation of the former Residences at Kapalua Bay. Travel Agent breaks down these stories and more as agent’s prepare to sell the Aloha State in 2015.

Travel Agent wishes a happy, healthy and very lucrative year to all Hawaii specialists. Happy New Year.

Report: Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Is Officially Expanding to Oahu, Hawaii


It was rumored for two months or so that Oahu was set to get its first Four Seasons Resort at the site of the existing JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort. 

In October,it was finally confirmed that the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort, about half-a-mile from Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu, would be rebranded as a Four Seasons.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts plans to offer privately owned residences alongside hotel rooms at its new acquisition. Four Seasons also promises a redesign of the property, which will be called the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.


The addition of a Four Seasons really upgrades Oahu's luxury product. As is in the case with other tourism destinations around the world, the Four Seasons name alone usually creates buzz for the destination among all luxury travelers. There are a lot of great hotels in Oahu, but not necessarily at the same level of a Four Seasons, so this really gives Oahu the much-needed product that it was missing. Also, Halekulani and The Kahala, currently Oahu's two best luxury resorts, will be forced to step up their game and remain fresh in order to meet the standard that will be set when the Four Seasons finally opens its doors.


Same-Sex Marriages Are Booming in Hawaii


Travel Agent recently spoke to several notable Hawaii tour operators who felt that Hawaii’s same-sex marriage market was not doing as well as some predicted it would since Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect on December 2, 2013.

But after reviewing some detailed statistics recently provided to us by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), we can attest that same sex marriages in Hawaii are alive and well, and they are actually performing ahead of what most experts predicted in 2013.

The University of Hawaii published a report, also known as the LaCroix report, that attempted to ascertain the effect of same-sex marriage on visitor spending. It is important to note, however, that the LaCroix best-case scenario of $217 million in spending was not confined to same-sex marriage spending, but included spending for same-sex honeymoons. 

The spending for same-sex honeymoons in Hawaii was not linked to same-sex marriages in Hawaii, and the honeymoon spending is therefore not a result of the legalization of same-sex marriages in Hawaii. In any event, there is no data source to calculate actual same-sex honeymoons to Hawaii.

According to the State Department of Health, since the effective date of Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect December 2, 2013, 1,086 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued to out-of-state couples (one or both are non-residents), which accounted for 12 percent (1,086 out of 8,759) of all out-of-state marriage licenses.

According to the HVCB, in the best case scenario the LaCroix study projected 1,831 same sex marriages to visitors over the first three years of Hawaii’s law. After seven months, Hawaii has issued 1,086 marriage licenses to out-of-state same sex couples. Hawaii is on pace to meet or exceed the best case, three-year scenario set forth by the LaCroix study within the first year 12 months and certainly by the end of 2014 (13 months since the legalization), according to the HVCB.

According to the HVCB, it is also important to note that one of the LaCroix assumptions was that 13 states plus the District of Columbia would have legalized same-sex marriages. The report underestimated this number significantly as today there are 31 states plus the District of Columbia who have legalized same-sex marriages.

Using the LaCroix method for same-sex wedding spending (exclusive of same-sex honeymoons) the total direct visitor spending is calculated as the sum of spending by the couple ($9.8 million) plus the guests at the wedding ($28.7 million) equaling $38.5 million in total.

This total direct visitor spending ($38.5 million) is then multiplied by a multiplier of 1.94 to represent the total economic impact of the direct visitor spending as the dollars spent with wedding suppliers, hotels, etc. continue to trickle through the economy. This multiplier adds $74.6 million to the $38.5 million in direct spending to bring the total economic impact of same-sex weddings to $113.1 million. 


It was perhaps the biggest news of 2013 when Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect December 2 of that year. Essentially, a new market was created and the growth of this market doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but up. 

This law was also essential for Hawaii since it would have been losing arrivals to places like New York City

Assuming that the LaCroix spending assumptions are correct and the fact that Hawaii is on track to achieve the three-year 1,831 same-sex marriage projection in the first year after the legalization, the state should also achieve the three-year spending projection in the first year.

NYC & Co. commissioned a comprehensive study of the impact of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York after its first year.The study estimated that in the first year of marriage equality 12 percent of all marriage licenses issued by NYC went to same-sex couples (both resident and non-resident). In Hawaii, 14 percent of all marriage licenses went to same-sex couples (in the first seven months of the law).

The Multigenerational Market is Looking to Splurge


Back in October, Travel Agent spoke to some notable tourism industry representatives and learned the latest trends and insights coming out of the Aloha State this year and heading into 2015.

Perhaps the best trend we uncovered was that the Hawaii’s longstanding multigenerational clientele is beginning to go the luxury route. 

Hawaii has basically been a multigenerational hotspot for a long time but what many operators are beginning to see for the first time is this segment’s desire for all things luxury. And they are sparing no expense.

“Multigenerational travel is one the clearest trends in Hawaii and has been for a long time,” says Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays, “but multigenerational travelers are beginning to move upscale. We don’t see a lot of sales in the lower category hotels. We are seeing huge clusters in sales of four- and five-star resorts.”


Ok, this one is obvious. We now have arguably Hawaii’s two most lucrative markets – luxury and multigenerational – fully converging. If this trend continues, it’s going to make upselling to multigenerational clients a piece of cake. 

And Hawaii will have the properties to accommodate such clients.

Montage Hotels & Resorts announced in 2013 an expansion of its luxury hotel collection with the addition of Montage Kapalua Bay. Andaz Maui at Wailea resort, a five-star resort, officially opened its doors in July of 2013 in the Wailea section of Maui.

“Hawaii is looking great for 2015 because the economy is improving and when the economy improves, people tend to travel a bit more upscale,” says Richards.


Behind Outrigger’s Rebranding Strategy


Travel Agent chatted in October with Sean Dee, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Outrigger Enterprises Group, and got the skinny on Outrigger’s new beachfront resort brand.

Outrigger Enterprises Group launched its new beachfront resort brand – Outrigger Resorts. Set in locations on some of the world’s most incredible beaches, each Outrigger Resorts property will focus on culturally authentic client experiences and signature amenities. Amenities include beachfront bars, impressive spas and Voyager 47 club lounges. 

The main reasoning for the rebranding, Dee says, is to provide a more concise, less confusing brand for agents, operators and consumers. The Outrigger Resorts brand will only include the company’s beach resorts, while the other properties, including properties off the beach and condominiums, will be classified under the Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger brand. 


Basically, one of the most successful hotel chains in the Aloha State is stepping up its game and will now present agents with a host of new amenities (mostly at its beach resorts) to pitch to clients who may have previously been on the fence on whether to book an Outrigger vacation or not. 

Dee told Travel Agent the price points for all Outrigger properties wouldn’t change. The brand is looking to go beyond its previous mid-level range and would like to get into the four-to-five stars range but Dee did note that Outrigger Resorts want to stay away from the word, "luxury."
Additionally, Honolulu-based Outrigger Enterprises Group is taking a different tact with its newest multi-million dollar campaign called "Find out. Find Outrigger," which invites clients to discover intimate experiences found at Outrigger Resorts. Each ad highlights the unique local culture of the destination. 

“What you will see is an enhancement, particularly in the Outrigger Resorts side. As we are rolling that out throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia, we are bringing in world-class spas, beachfront bars and a new club level, Voyager 47, the year (1947) my grandparents built the first hotel,” says Bitsy Kelley, vice president of corporate communications for Outrigger Enterprises Group. “We need to still weave them into the Waikiki properties, but they are definitely rolling out at all the news properties in the Pacific.”


Montage's First Hawaii Hotel Opens and We Tell You How to Sell it


Travel Agent has been following the development of Montage Hotels & Resorts' new Hawaii hotel for some time now and, now that's it officially opened, can finally tell you how to sell it.

Following a $15 million renovation of the former Residences at Kapalua Bay, the new all-suite Montage Kapalua Bay resort is a private oceanfront escape with an emphasis on luxury in a Hawaiian setting. It is located on the northwest coast of Maui.

Montage Kapalua Bay offers 50 luxurious residential-style suites, ranging from one to four bedrooms. Montage Kapalua Bay also offers 54 Montage branded residences for purchase. Each room features large "lanais" (balconies), offering a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring islands. 


Hawaii doesn’t have many new-build hotels popping up very often, so it is important for the products already in place to look and feel as if they are new.

Most Hawaii resorts stand out for the top-notch attention they pay to keeping fresh and Montage Kapalua Bay did just that. 

Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui, Hawaii’s first Montage resort, is finally here following a $15 million renovation of the former Residences at Kapalua Bay. 

We hear the top overall suite here is the Premier Ocean-View Suite, thanks to its first-floor location and both garden and ocean views. The best dig for large families is the four-bedroom suite. 

As we’ve already said, this is was clearly a year where the luxury and multigenerational markets in Hawaii began to blend together like never before. With new products like Montage Kapalua Bay, especially the four-bedroom suites, agents now have all the tools they need to sell up to a segment that once vacationed on a limited budget. 

Visit and keep visiting for all your latest Hawaii news. 

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | January 7, 2015
Travel Agent breaks down the most important Hawaii travel stories of 2014 as agent’s prepare to sell the Aloha State in 2015.
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