Travel Agent's Top Five Most Read Hawaii Stories of 2014 (SLIDESHOW)

Photo Credit: Joe Pike

As we approach the end of the year, it’s the perfect time for Travel Agent to look back on the news that helped shape Hawaii’s tourism industry in 2014.

Travel Agent breaks down the most read Hawaii stories for 2014 with hopes that agents will use their newfound knowledge to make more money selling the Aloha State in 2015.

1. First Look: Hilton Waikoloa Village's New Makai Experience at Lagoon Tower (SLIDESHOW)

In early February, Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii Island introduced a new luxury experience: Makai at Lagoon Tower

The Makai program includes 162 recently renovated rooms, including nine suites, along with exclusive benefits and oceanfront views of the Pacific, Kohala Mountain and Dolphin Quest Lagoon.  

Upgraded amenities include:

  • Dedicated Makai check-in with lobby greeting
  • Room escort with expedited luggage service
  • Makai plush robe
  • Complimentary full access to Kohala Spa facilities
  • Preferred restaurant reservations
  • Daily bottled water and cultural turndown
  • Private concierge service
  • First day planning assistance
  • Dedicated cabana and lounge chair area at Kona Pool

Upon arrival guests are welcomed with dedicated check-in, expedited luggage service and lobby greeting with refreshing towels. A private Makai concierge facilitates all aspects of each guest’s stay including a dedicated phone line to answer any questions throughout the day, as well as planning assistance to help with the week’s itinerary. In room, Makai guests can take advantage of plush robes, along with daily complimentary bottled water and the hotel’s signature turndown service with a cultural card and flower. 

Additional perks include preferred restaurant seating, guaranteeing the best seat available at the Kamuela Provision Company, Imari and Legends of Hawaii Luau (with purchase of Ali’I ticket). Makai guests also have complimentary full access to the Kohala Spa facilities, including the steam room and Jacuzzi.

The Makai concept follows last year's $15 million renovation of the Lagoon Tower. 


2. We Take You Inside Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

As part of our recent coverage of the fifth annual Hawaii Travel Exchange, Travel Agent accompanied several agents on a site inspection of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, one of Hawaii's latest luxury hotels that caters to the young, chic crowd.

Right off the bat we were impressed that there was no nickel and diming here as the resort offers free Wi-Fi, a free mini bar and snack station (except alcohol) and there are no resort fees, something quite common in Hawaii.

Andaz Maui's roughly 300 rooms and suites range from 456 to 2,321 square feet, including seven three-to-five-bedroom villas. The resort's two Premiere Suites are one-bedroom units that can connect and form a two-bedroom suite. Each Premiere Suite comes with a soaking tub in the center of the room, offering clients an ocean view while they soak. 

View from the bed of a Premiere Suite

The best room we saw was one of the three-bedroom villas, which we were told were not just popular amongst families, but also among couples looking to travel with other couples. One of the features we loved the most about this room was the outdoor plunge pool facing the ocean. Butler service is available.

The two features that we loved in all rooms were the full ocean views from both the bedroom and the shower. Partial ocean views from the shower or bath is nothing new at a luxury resort, but this was a full on, floor-to-ceiling view of the ocean. 

There are is a lot of nontraditional Hawaiian design at the hotel. The colors are simple with black, red and white dominating most of the resort. It just has a very simple, clean and tasteful feel to it. If clients don't feel like their room is Hawaiian enough in design, they can always pull the curtains open for a full, floor-to-ceiling view of the Maui beach. 

We dined at Ka’ana Kitchen. The food is delicious and served tapas style in the sense that the menu lends it self to sharing dishes, although the portions are not small as a traditional tapas style dinner. 

Other facilities at Andaz Maui include a 15,000-square-foot Awili Spa and Salon with 10 treatement rooms, a gym, a lobby lounge and meeting space. Another feature that we were impressed with was the resort's five pools, which include four that all lead into each other. In fact, three infinity pools all end up in one relaxing “lagoon.” The fifth is located separately and serves as the resort’s adults-only swimming pool. 

Transfers are available to and from Maui's Kahalui Airport in high-end, luxury vehicles. 


3. Hawaii's Hottest Trends and How Agents Can Capitalize

From a spike in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) clients looking to tie the knot in the Aloha State to an influx of luxury products everywhere from Maui to Lanai, Travel Agent breaks down the hottest trends to come out of Hawaii and offers agents some selling points for each.

LGBT is Booming in the Aloha State

With the passing of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act, which legalized same-sex marriages, there's never been a better time to visit the Hawaiian Islands than now for LGBT clients to celebrate their special day in the Aloha State. 

The Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival on Oahu celebrates its 25th anniversary this year from June 10-15. One of the longest-running and well- respected LGBT film festivals in the country, the Rainbow Film Festival presents documentaries, feature films, shorts, and animations from around the world, with special consideration given to Hawaii-based filmmakers. Visit

LGBT couples can look forward to saying 'I Do' in extraordinary settings at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa. From the "Slide Into A New Beginning" wedding ceremony held atop the resort's 128-foot slide to the resort's lobby waterfall with its walkway hidden by cascading waterfalls, the choices are simply breathtaking. The 12-acre beachfront resort is also the first and only one in Maui to offer a weddings manager certified to process wedding licenses. Visit

Aqua Hospitality also continues to embrace diversity with newly updated specials and packages for LGBT travelers. The company's "Out and Proud" and "Free To Be" packages add a special aloha to any holiday in Hawaii whether to get married, celebrate a romantic occasion or simply relax in tropical paradise.

Couples can celebrate their unions with the Free To Be package at any Aqua Hotels and Resorts hotel on Oahu. Pairs can enjoy the excitement of Waikiki, then retreat to one of 12 stylish properties. 

Included in this package is a Kama Sutra Getaway Love Kit with a bottle of sparkling wine, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, copy of eXpression. Magazine and a coupon for two free Mai Tais at Hula's Bar & Lei Stand, a popular establishment with views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean that caters to visitors and locals. An optional Saturday Hula's Catamaran sail around Diamond Head is also available for purchase when couples stay over a weekend.

Thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists can now marry in the state.

The Out and Proud special offers savings across Aqua Hospitality's three hotel brands. Visitors can save an additional 10 percent off best available rates at select Lite Hotels throughout Hawaii and 15 percent at all Aqua Hotels and Resorts hotels on Oahu. Clients also receive a copy of eXpression magazine and a coupon for two free Mai Tais at Hula's Bar & Lei Stand.

For dining enthusiasts, other Out and Proud specials include a free dining credit with a minimum stay as follows: Aqua Kauai Beach Resort earn a $50 credit for every three nights booked to use at any of its three on-site dining venues; Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head, a Monogram hotel earn a $50 credit at Park restaurant for every three nights booked; Volcano House, a Monogram hotel earn a $50 credit at The Rim restaurant or Uncle George's Lounge, both overlooking the crater, for every two nights booked. Aqua's LGBT specials and packages are available now through December 31. The specials and packages are valid on new reservations at participating Aqua Hospitality properties in Hawaii and cannot be combined with any other offer or special. Visit

According to the Assoicate Press, an estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says same-sex marriage in Hawaii is expected to boost tourism there by $217 million over the next three years. The study's author has said Hawaii will benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons, according to the AP report.

Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time. According to the AP, couples can sign up for a license online then be verified by any license agent throughout the state. Agents have set up shop throughout the islands, from resorts on Maui and the Big Island to places on Kauai. The state Senate passed a bill on November 12 legalizing gay marriage. It allows thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state.

Luxury Surge Continues 

Hawaii is no stranger to the luxury market but the state does tend to hit a lull every now and again when it comes to fresh, new product.

Well, that hasn’t been the case lately.

Hawaii’s latest luxury run began in September when the much-anticipated Andaz Maui at Wailea final opened its doors after a few minor delays.

And clients heading to the destination will discover that it was worth the wait. 

Andaz Maui at Wailea opened in September

The resort occupies the 15-acre site that was previously home to the Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort, which closed in 2007. The hotel houses roughly 300 rooms and suites as well as seven villas. A series of cascading infinity pools will provide views of the Pacific. There will also be two restaurants, including the Morimoto Maui, which is garnering more buzz than perhaps any restaurant in the state. Visit‎.

News that Montage Hotels & Resorts was entering Hawaii in the form of the Montage Kapalua Bay kept the luxury momentum going for Hawaii. The resort, presently operated as The Residences at Kapalua Bay, will undergo a multi-million dollar improvement plan, which began last fall.

Plans include 56 Montage branded residences offered for sale and the introduction of a 50 room all-suite Montage hotel. Like its fellow Montage hotels, Montage Kapalua Bay will celebrate art and artisanship in many forms, including visually, and through culinary and spa offerings. Montage Hotels & Resorts will assume management of the property immediately. 

While the improvement program is being completed, the property will continue to operate as The Residences at Kapalua Bay on an interim basis. Visit

Clients staying at the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai can now take advantage of enhancements in restaurants, public areas and guestrooms throughout the resort, ensuring a private island getaway is all that could be imagined.

The launch of NOBU Lanai last year heralded an exciting new dining option at Manele Bay, in the restaurant, by the pool or even via in-room dining.  

Four Seasons Resorts Lanai also recently announced the debut of the resorts’ first full service airport lounge located at Honolulu International Airport. The lounge, situated in the commuter terminal, will now welcome Four Seasons clients enroute to Lanai.

In December, the Koele course will reopen following a redesign by Jack Nicklaus, who also designed the Manele Bay golf course. Along with a refreshed lower lobby, thirteen new Penthouse Suites in the main building of the hotel and a newly designed spa demonstrate the resort’s commitment to continually improving the guest experience. Visit

Aston Waikiki Beachside Hotel recently debuted a new Luxury Penthouse Suite across the street from Waikiki Beach and near Waikiki's shopping, nightlife, restaurants and attractions. The new suite offers unobstructed ocean views.

It encompasses the 11th floor of the hotel, offering floor-to-ceiling windows and a private 160-square-foot lanai to take in the Pacific Ocean and Waikiki Beach below. With a gourmet kitchen, wrap-around bar, entertainment room, master suite, two bathrooms, and laundry room, this spacious open-concept suite is a good fit for romance travel, a family retreat, cocktail reception or catered event. Visit

Clients can also explore and experience 553 newly-refreshed guestrooms and suites in the Ocean Tower of The Westin Maui Resort & Spa. Roughly $70 million has been invested for the stunning transformation with redesigned accommodations featuring brand new in-room furnishings with Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed, contemporary elegance and island-inspired decor. 

New glass enclosed showers and transparent balcony railings add touches of inspiration, creating vibrant energy. Visit

Multigenerational Travel Here to Stay

Multigenerational travel has always been Hawaii’s bread and butter and that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. 

The Napili Kai Beach Resort is perfect for such clients, offering spacious rooms (most with kitchens), complimentary beach gear, and a putting green just for children. 

Mulitgenerational travel remains hot in Hawaii. 

The unique Family Studio units provide lots of space for families with young children, and its is also offering a complimentary‚ Keiki Club program for children (ages 6 to 10) seasonally (Easter, mid-June to late August, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/New Year’s). Napili Kai also offers a Keiki Eat Free program. Children age 12 and under will receive one free entree from the special keiki menu when accompanied by an adult who purchases an adult entree. This is offered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the resort’s beachfront Sea House Restaurant. The Keiki Eat Free program is not available on holidays and is valid for hotel guests only. Visit

The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas’ chefs have enjoyed their sustainable herb garden and use the harvest in the savory and sweet dishes found on the award-winning Pulehu, an Italina Grill, menu.

The resort chefs now invite clients to access the fresh herb garden to use the ingredients for cooking meals in the comfort of their own resort villa or at the poolside barbeque grills. 

Kaanapali Alii clients know one of the best reasons to vacation in Kaanapali is the varied accommodation options and many find advantages in the spacious units, including access to a fully-stocked luxury kitchen in the villa or condo. Kaanapali Alii is the first resort to offer beachfront Grill Master services. The masters arrive at the grills at 5 p.m. nightly to provide complimentary tips, rubs and spices for resort guests until the last guest is happily satisfied. Visit

Destination Resorts Hawaii manages the largest selection of private vacation home rentals in Maui’s most luxurious destination of Wailea. The company, in fact, just unveiled new Five-Bedroom Penthouse Suites. The open layout allows clients to enjoy some time together. Perfect for multi-generational clients, a personal chef, private adventure guide and other authentic Maui experiences can be arranged. Visit

Hawaii wholesaler Condominium Connection has added the Pacific Beach Hotelin Waikiki, with rates starting from $159 per night. The property is across the street from Waikiki Beach and near a variety of restaurants, shops and entertainment activities. 

Perfect for small families, the full-service Pacific Beach Hotel offers many guest amenities including a swimming pool, whirlpool spa, sun deck, health spa, restaurants, lounges, tennis court, golf cages, putting green, lobby shopping mall, 24-hour fitness club, sundries shop, activity desk, concierge, business center, meeting rooms and central laundry facilities.  The guest rooms feature air conditioning, refrigerator, coffee maker, 37-inch TV and a private lanai. Visit and

This year, The Kahala Hotel & Resort has added more features to its Kids Eat Free program, which is available to guests booking the resort’s popular “4 for 3” room package, which already includes a fourth night free, breakfast for two adults and free internet plus many other hotel amenities including nightly turndown. 

A minimum stay of four nights is required for the package and the Kids Eat Free program. The Kids Eat Free program is available from Scenic to Beach Front Lanai categories. Wholesaler partners can offer the program from partial ocean view room category and up. 

The features of The Kids Eat Free Program provide for up to two children who are 12 years of age or under, per room or suite, and include one daily breakfast buffet at The Plumeria Beach House; one daily lunch item from the children’s lunch menu; one daily dinner item from the children’s menu; a daily gift fromThe Kahala Boutique and one daily smoothie for each child.

The Kids Eat Free program can also be combined with The Kahala’s Suite Amenity Program for all suite bookings. The Kahala Kids Eat Free Program is available with the fourth night free plus breakfast package and suite rates for dates of stay from March 18 to December 19. Visit  

Culinary Travel Heats Up This August

It's literately a hot time for culinary travel as the Aloha State prepares for two big food festivals, both slated for August. 

Tell foodies August is the month to head to Hawaii

The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is considered one of the premier epicurean destination events in the Pacific. It takes place August 29-September 7. The Festival features a roster of more than 80 internationally renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers. Co-founded by two of Hawaii’s own James Beard Award-winning chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, the festival will showcase wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, one-of-a-kind excursions, and exclusive dining opportunities with dishes highlighting the state’s bounty of local produce, seafood, beef and poultry. Agents Should E-mail [email protected].

Executive Chef Eric Faivre and Grand Wailea host James Beard Foundation's Celebrity Chef Tour from August 15-16. James Beard Award-winning guest chefsDavid Burke, Johnny Iuzzini and Norm Van Aken will prepare their signature cuisines for a fabulous reception on August 15 and a dinner August 16 amid the fountain pools and gardens at Grand Wailea. The event benefits James Beard Foundation and its mission to celebrate, nurture and preserve America's diverse culinary heritage and future. Visit and

Clients Coming From Warm Weather Destinations

Hawaii may be America’s 50th state, but it’s number-one in the hearts of U.S. travelers as revealed in a recent poll conducted for the top luxury tour operator Tauck by Reuters/Ipsos. 

More than 20 percent of respondents in the poll picked Hawaii as the place they would visit if neither time or money were a concern. The popularity of Hawaii isn’t surprising, according to Tauck CEO Dan Mahar, because while its climate is certainly appealing to the winter-weary, it offers far more than sunny beaches and a respite from this year’s unusually harsh weather. 

“This year is Tauck’s 50th anniversary offering tours in Hawaii, so we know first-hand that Hawaii really has it all,” said Mahar in written release. “It has centuries-old culture and a compelling history. It has a vibrant culinary scene, and of course, it has world-famous beaches. It’s interesting to note that Hawaii was the number-one choice in all eight regions of our survey group, so its appeal isn’t just limited to people in areas that have seen a lot of snow.” 

In fact, according to Mahar, the region where Hawaii was named most frequently (33 percent) as the top destination was the U.S. Southwest which, relatively speaking, experiences fairly mild winter weather.

Visit and keep visiting for all the latest Hawaii news and articles.

4. Hawaiian Airlines Leads U.S. Airline Industry in Punctuality for March

Hawaiian Airlines was the nation’s most reliable carrier that kept travelers on schedule throughout the month of March, earning the top rankings for both on-time performance and fewest flight cancellations as reported today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).hawaiian airlines

Hawaii’s largest and longest-serving airline earned the top spot out of 16 of the nation’s largest carriers, with 91.6 percent of its flights arriving as scheduled in March. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines also led the industry in the avoidance of flight cancellations with a total of five cancellations out of 6,073 flights operated during March for a cancellation rate of 0.1 percent.

Hawaiian Airlines, the leading U.S. carrier in on-time performance for 10 consecutive years, provides daily non-stop service to Hawaii from 11 gateway cities in North America – more cities than any other carrier – using Airbus A330-200 and Boeing 767-300 aircraft. 

It is the only carrier to offer wide-body, twin-aisle aircraft for all transpacific flights. The airline is also the leading provider of air service between the islands of Hawai‘i, operating more than 200 flights daily.

The DOT’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report ranking the nation’s 16 largest air carriers is available online at by clicking here. Visit

5. Advisors Expect New Four Seasons to Enhance Oahu's Demand Among Affluent Clients


The JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort will soon become the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts officially confirmed plans for Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, an integrated luxury beach resort and private residences that will be the jewel in the crown of the master-planned Ko Olina development. 

And Travel Agent spoke to some luxury advisors about the impact they expect this resort to have on client demand. 

"The arrival of the Four Seasons brings to Oahu the first true luxury brand name. Four Seasons has a standard of luxury and quality that people can
expect and rely on," says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco, CA. "Its arrival will bring with it many global luxury customers and Four Seasons loyalists that avoided the island or thought the island did not appeal to them. This will benefit everyone."

The resort will be located at the site of the existing JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort. It will introduce the first Four Seasons-branded private residences in Hawaii.

"As an agent specializing in luxury tropical vacations, news of the new Four Seasons on Oahu is pretty exciting to me," says Caroline Fridley Bracewell of Easy Escapes Travel in Atlanta, GA. "It's a much-needed addition to the island, which has many beautiful hotels but far fewer full-service luxury resorts."

Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, noted in a written release that island royalty and the world’s elite have long enjoyed Ko Olina, or “place of joy” in Hawaiian, as an exclusive gathering place.

"I expect that this property will encourage many visitors who otherwise may have chosen to go to Maui, Kauai or the Big Island to stay on, or spend more time on, Oahu, as well as giving Four Seasons junkies a great reason to book that vacation they've been putting off," says Bracewell.  

With the reacquisition of Ihilani from Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors complete, Westbank will take the development lead on Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. Westbank has assembled an internationally acclaimed team to transform Ihilani into one of Hawaii’s finest luxury resorts. 

"With the arrival of Four Seasons Oahu, families, honeymooners and incentive groups have a perfect luxury setting," says Sharon Strelzer of Travel.Shop.Dine in Fairfield, CT. "Maui and the Big Island will have a perfect complement with this exciting arrival. The Luxury end market likes to enjoy at least two islands. Now clients have a perfect option and this builds renewed demand for Oahu."

Ko Olina is located on the sunny west side of Oahu. Originally conceived in the mid-1980s, the resort has been reaffirmed many times over the years, most recently by the notable success of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, which debuted in 2011. 

"In many locations around the world the Four Seasons sets the luxury standard," says Zakharenko. "The current luxury kings of Oahu, The Halekulani and The Kahala Resort, will have to make that their hotel continues to meet and/or exceeds the standard that will be set by the Four Seasons when it arrives." Visit and

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