|Pleasant Holidays recently extended its Hot Deals for Kids promotion.|
Deals for Hawaii are hardly rare, but when several major tour operators offer significant price discounts and value-adds, our ears perk up. Both Classic Vacations and Pleasant Holidays have come up with major deals for travel to Hawaii, some good through the end of the year. Attractive promotions are also available from Blue Sky Tours and MLT Vacations.
Discounts and Value-Adds
Classic Vacations, a veteran in Hawaii packages, updated and upgraded them in January. Under the new title, Head Over Heels for Hawaii, the company introduced increased savings in airfare, an additional instant credit, five new participating properties and an extended booking window through March 31. Travelers booking the package can get up to $750 off their airfare, $100 off car rentals and additional benefits with Hertz or Alamo, $100 instant credit when departing from Los Angeles or San Francisco, and an instant $100 Classic credit on Hawaii vacations.
Pleasant Holidays launched its Spring Sale for Hawaii Vacations earlier this month, with several distinct promotions. First and foremost are reduced package prices on air-inclusive vacations using Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines; special deals for kids; free Hertz car rentals or up to $100 car rental credit (depending on travel dates); and exclusive hotel offers. The Spring Sale for Hawaii Vacations is valid for new bookings made through May 1 for travel through December 15. In addition to commission, agents can earn a bonus 250 TRIP points for each booking during the promotion. (TRIP is Pleasant Holidays’ Travel Reward Incentive Program, which earns travel agents points redeemable for personal travel.)
The tour operator also recently extended its Hot Deals for Kids promotion that saves travelers $150 on roundtrip airfares to the Hawaiian Islands. The discount applies to one child fare for each full-paying adult roundtrip fare (with a maximum of two children per booking), and is valid for new bookings made by May 1 for travel from May 26 to August 21. Families can save up to an additional $100 by opting for a Hertz car rental with this promotion. Hot Deals for Kids requires purchase of select roundtrip transpacific air and minimum five-night hotel accommodation at a participating hotel, and car rental taxes are additional.
Hot Deals to Hawaii includes a free Hertz car rental with a minimum five-night, air-inclusive vacation now through April 15, May 2 to 25, and August 22 to December 16. The free car rental is valid for a maximum of seven days and does not include car rental taxes. The deal is available for Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii, the Big Island.
Blue Sky Tours is using a different tactic, tying deals into its 30th anniversary this year. The company is focusing on one island in each quarter, offering special discounts and value-adds in combination with air travel, and car rentals through Dollar. The year began with packages for Oahu; Maui deals begin in April; and Kauai and the Big Island will follow later in the year.
MLT Vacations is offering free nights, meals and both room and car upgrades for trips to Hawaii booked before the end of April. Some hotels, which range from economy to luxury, are honoring the prices well into 2012, and almost all the islands are represented in the deal.
Behind the Scenes
Classic’s deal is not new, Jonna Jackson, senior director of product development at Classic Vacations, tells Travel Agent. “It’s an extension of a sale we’ve had. We’ve enhanced it and re-released it,” she explains. Among the enhancements are a West Coast credit for guests flying from San Francisco or Los Angeles, and new air discounts and credits.
Discounts and upgrades can work well together for a deal, says Jackson. “Giving both is the best combination. The idea of having higher value seems to resonate.” For example, visitors can rent a compact car and get a mid-sized one, or they can book a suite at a Starwood property and get an air credit of up to $750. “It encourages people to go after room categories they had wanted in the past but couldn’t afford,” she said. To accomplish this, Classic has to work with partners in the islands, but she says it helps when everyone has the same goal: “They all want to see what we can do to move the needle further.”
While Jackson didn’t give us details on Classic’s numbers to Hawaii, she noted that the company has been an increase in visitors to the islands, especially in the last two months. She credited the package for the upturn.
Jack Richards, Pleasant Holidays’ president and CEO, said that several factors prompted its “sale,” with oil prices high on the list. “We are concerned that rising oil prices, resulting in higher airfares, will negatively impact travel demand for the remainder of 2011,” he says. “Booking now may avoid higher airfares later if the price of]oil continues to increase.” Still, he added, the company’s business to Hawaii is up year-over-year.
Seasonality was also significant, as Easter is much later, in April, this year. “Although the deals are valid for much of 2011, the peak booking season is now through May,” said Richards. So, Pleasant Holidays shifted its focus from March to April, which, he hopes, will also help ameliorate potential higher oil prices during the year.
Richards also feels that travelers are looking less at total pricing and more on the total value of their vacation. “Price discounts are declining as hotels raise rates in 2011 so added-values become even more important,” he says. “We have long-term hotel partnerships and we work directly with the resorts to address their needs regarding rates and inventory.”
Susan Kownacki, director of marketing for Blue Sky Tours, holds the view that cutting costs and adding value are equally effective in terms of driving deals. “If it’s less expensive, clients might upgrade,” she says. “But the value-adds, like breakfasts or special parking, have a financial value that I think people recognize. If I’m going to get free breakfasts, that saves me ‘x’ number of dollars per day.” Blue Sky Tours works in tandem with its partners to make sure the deals are mutually beneficial. She says. “We follow what the partners’ needs are.”
Wibke Brown, MLT Vacations’ product manager, Hawaii, points out that Hawaiian hotels have been able to increase prices for high-season dates like Spring Break due to demand. “We work with our partnership marketing department to promote the off-season (late spring and fall) at lower rates and with more value-adds,” she says. “I think many travelers are conscious of what they are spending. However, in the end, it all comes down to the value for the money, whether it’s by cutting costs or adding things to the vacation that we know travelers value.” To that end, she adds, MLT tries to use either a lower rate, or a slightly higher rate with a value-add that’s easy to understand and flexible to use. “For example, a $100 Resort Credit is much more effective than a two-for-one luau or a 20 percent discount for spa services,” she explains.
|Visitor numbers are up across the board for all Hawaiian islands, including Oahu.|