Onsite: From Waikiki to Manila


It’s been a rough spell of late for Hawaii. The closing of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines, little Molokai reeling from the closing of The Lodge & Beach Village at Molokai Ranch and the controversy on Oahu’s North Shore, over Turtle Bay Resorts expansion plans. But walking along Kalakaua Avenue, you’d never know there was trouble in the air. A balmy breeze is blowing, the surfers are out in full force and the sidewalks are filled with sunned shoppers. Behind closed doors there may be round-the-clock meetings, but out on the street its business as usual.

All of this turmoil, however, has a silver lining for agents and their clients. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shari Chang, senior vice president sales, marketing & revenue management, Resort Quest Hawaii, who said her company will now be offering similar special promotions for travel during the peak summer months as it does during Hawaii’s shoulder seasons. Look for other companies to follow suit.

I’m writing this on Sunday, the day before I join Hawaiian Airlines on their inaugural non-stop flight to Manila. Earlier, I’d finished filing a few stories and decided to go out for a long walk. One of my heroes is Bob Dylan, and I was pleased to learn that even though in his 60’s, and rich beyond belief, his favorite thing to do when he arrives in a city is to head out incognito and roam the outskirts on foot.

I walked the length of Kalakaua, from Halekulani, where I’m staying. During this trip I’ve stayed a couple nights in Resort Quest Waikiki Beach Tower and then two nights in Halekulani. They both deliver top-notch experiences, but completely different ones. Resort Quest Waikiki Beach Tower Resort is great for those who are looking for the comforts of a condo right across from Waikiki Beach. The entrance is so low key (a selling point for celebrities, I hear) that the first time I went out from the hotel I passed by a few times before I finally spotted it. Halekulani gets top marks for a different reason—the unobtrusive service is right there when you need it, the restaurants are superb and the attention to detail is a delight. A tip for agents: If you put your clients into Halekulani’s room 1661, with its views of Diamond Head, you won’t receive any complaints.

During the long walk I ended up on the return loop ambling along Kuhio Street. I picked up a copy of Honolulu Weekly and stopped into Pho Old Saigon Restaurant for lunch. I usually make a point of stopping into Old Saigon during swings through Waikiki —it’s refreshingly un-touristy.

While I was reading I came across an interview with environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose book The End of Nature is a seminal work warning of the danger of global warming. McKibben spoke about Hawaii and the problems it faces when it comes to sustainability:

“…Hawaii’s main lifeline to the rest of the world is endless tourists flying two to three thousand miles…it’s going to be pretty hard for that ever to be sustainable. I hope that over time there will be far more opportunities for a kind of gentler tourism, for people arriving again by boat…not for just a weekend away, but for fewer people to come and explore more thoroughly.”

That’s an interesting thought. Instead of short getaways, maybe Americans can begin emulating the French and use our year’s allotment of vacation time in one fell swoop instead of splitting it up. Just think what that would do for families if they got away for a full three weeks and took a few deep breaths and really connected with each other, especially in a reinvigorating environment like Hawaii.

Here’s an idea: Maybe Hawaii’s resorts can modify their “Fifth Night Free” promotions. How about “Third Week Half Off.” You can sign me up.

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