Wholesalers: A majority of U.S. vacationers heading to Hawaii buy at least one element of their trips through the wholesaler channel. You will find that most of the inventory that interests your clients is accessible to you through wholesalers—and not just air, room and car, but optional activities, as well.
Although wholesalers have been strengthening their online booking tools for agents, they've also retained their call centers. This gives you the flexibility of working independently on a booking or calling the wholesaler's staff for a more complicated itinerary. Base commission generally starts at 10 percent and can vary depending on the components selected. There generally are preferred rates for agents and agencies driven by performance. (Note that you can't book air-only packages, but you generally will receive commission on the air component of most packages.)
Among the wholesalers with a breadth of Hawaii product are Classic Vacations, 800-221-3949, www.classicforagents.com; Creative Leisure International, 800-413-1000, www.creativeleisure.com; and Pleasant Holidays, 800-448-3333, www.pleasantagent.com. The sales team contact at Creative Leisure is Betsy Cutler at [email protected] or 800-548-3566, ext 222. Pleasant's liaison for home-based agents is Nikki Shanley at 800-442-3234 or [email protected]
Lodging: If your clients plan to explore Maui thoroughly, look at splitting their stay between two properties, especially if they'll be on-island for a week or longer. You might start them out in bustling Wailea before easing them into a quieter Hana or West Maui sojourn. Choices range from upscale hotels with multiple onsite diversions to quieter retreats. Another option that's especially worth suggesting to families, independent sorts and active travelers, such as hikers and golfers, is that of a condo. From your client's point of view, a condo is similar to a hotel, with a front desk and onsite amenities (these vary by property), with the bonus of generally having a full kitchen and more square footage. From yours, a condo is largely like a hotel, as well—being familiar with the travel agent channel, paying commission and so forth. Before recommending a specific condo property, be sure you understand what's included in the rate and available on property so that you can fully brief your clients.
Getting to Hana is part of the adventure. Make sure your clients aren't among the many who make the scenic, switchback drive to this remote oasis, only to have to turn around and head back the same day. If you're working with people who don't think they can slow down to Hana's pace, point out that there's horseback riding, yoga, excellent beach access and the award-winning Honua Spa—and book them at the Hotel Hana-Maui (800-321-4262, www.hotelhanamaui.com) for at least a night toward the end of their trip, after they've decompressed a little. The hotel has a cadre of repeat guests spanning several generations. The Sea Ranch Cottages adjacent to the hotel proper are a true insider's pick—falling asleep to the sounds of the waves, waking up at sunrise, grinding the provided island coffee beans and taking that first cup of java onto the lanai to watch the horses graze nearby. Special splurges are the two-bedroom oceanfront suite with hot tub and the oceanfront one-bedroom suite with hot tub. The drive really is part of the experience, but it's possible to fly into the town's airport (and the hotel will provide complimentary transfers). Agent contact is Emma Park, hotel reservations manager ([email protected] or [email protected]).
Kaanapali Alii (800-642-6284, www.kaanapalialii.com) is a good choice for families and friends traveling together who want to be within the Kaanapali Resort but a bit removed. This beachfront upscale condo has yoga classes, tennis courts and a phalanx of poolside do-it-yourself barbecue grills. It's also within walking distance of many neighboring properties for nights when guests want to dine out. The property's most popular category with return guests are its 100 premier units; these were renovated last year. The best of the best are the oceanfront premier units, with unobstructed ocean views—there are 24 of these available. Agent contacts are Maryann Lopez, regional sales manager, at 925-625-4519 or [email protected], or Epi Rabanal, director of leisure sales, at 808-667-1103 or [email protected]
Napili Kai Beach Resort (800-367-5030, www.napilikai.com) is a versatile property, with appeal to couples and families, as well as small family-style groups, such as reunions and destination wedding parties. The condo's right on the beach, but it also has several swimming pools. Kids are welcomed with seasonal complimentary activities, and guests are provided with free use of putters, shuffleboard, beach gear, snorkel equipment and in-room Internet access. The property has a range of room configurations. Families traveling with one or two youngsters under 12 may want to book one of the oversize family studios in the Keaka Buildings. Agents who want to join the property's Paradise Plus program to earn free nights based on client bookings can e-mail Faith Ompoy, sales coordinator, at [email protected]
Kaanapali Beach Hotel (800-262-8450, www.kbhmaui.com) appeals to guests looking for a moderately priced hotel on Kaanapali Beach. Repeaters come back for the low-key atmosphere with a cultural emphasis. Ground floor rooms in the Maui and Lanai wings of the hotel provide additional space, with a step-down area that opens to a lanai and then the garden; most of these are in the gardenview category. Pre-teens can visit Guest Services for an "Aloha Passport" with Hawaiian activities and places within the hotel to visit for stamping. Upon completion, kids receive items to play with during the stay. Agent contact is Carol Santos, account executive, at 808-667-0105 or [email protected]
Other noteworthy properties include the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua (www.ritzcarlton.com), known for its seclusion and fine service, and the Sheraton Maui (www.sheraton-maui.com), for its excellent sandy beach and family-friendly atmosphere. The Hyatt Regency Maui (www.maui.hyatt.com) has an oceanfront spa, a Camp Hyatt for kids and lots of other onsite activities. Also weighing in with an excellent activity pool and amenities is the Grand Wailea Resort (www.grandwailea.com). Its Spa Grande is a particular draw; suggest the Napua Tower for added amenities and a hotel-within-a-hotel feel.
Restaurants: Haliimaile General Store (808-572-2666, www.bevgannonrestaurants.com) is worth the upcountry drive. Other high-ticket spots worth the splurge include David Paul's Lahaina Grill (808-667-5117, www.lahainagrill.com) and both Maui locations of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Kapalua: 808-669-6286; Kihei: 808-879-0004; both: www.sanseihawaii.com). Other spots include Makawao Steak House (808-572-8711) and Pineapple Grill (808-669-9600), serving excellent cuisine in a relaxed setting. Tip: Ordering several hapa (half-order) entrees to share at the bar and lounge portion of the restaurant gives diners the ability to try multiple signature dishes in a single visit.
Educational Resources: The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Maui Visitors Bureau provide destination-specialist training programs. Register at the HVCB's site for travel agents—www.agents.gohawaii.com—for industry information, tools and resources, as well as links to the travel-trade sites maintained by the MVB and other island chapters. Consumer sites—www.gohawaii.com and www.visitmaui.com, respectively—also deserve bookmarking. The Travel Institute (www.thetravelinstitute.com) has two Hawaii designations: destination specialist and certified destination specialist. Agents seeking the latter designation need to have passed the institute's Hawaii destination-specialist test and visited Hawaii. —CF