Romance Reigns in Hawaii

It’s really no surprise that Hawaii has owned Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in the USA/Canada for the past decade. What may surprise some, however, is how the destination consistently reveals innovative ways to make itself even more intoxicating for those as passionate about exotic escapes as they are about one another.

“We’re so honored to be chosen for this Recommend award,” says Julie Zadeh, managing director of travel trade marketing for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau (HVCB). “Hawaii and romance is a timeless pairing that spans all generations and draws couples from all walks of life. That explains why the islands consistently rank so high when people are asked to name the world’s most romantic destinations.”

She adds, “This award indicates that we don’t rest on our laurels. We count on the agent community to tell us how we can best help them sell the Islands of Aloha.”

In that vein, HVCB’s travel trade team will extend travel agent partners updates through a series of Hawaii Destination Road Shows slated throughout 2010. “We’re working hard to keep our sales and marketing tools, educational programs and travel professionals website fresh, current and relevant,” Zadeh says.

Despite an overall downturn in 2009, Hawaii’s honeymoon business was up 1.6 percent year-to-date through August—a stat Zadeh attributes to enduring appeal. “For couples planning their ideal honeymoon, travel agents know that Hawaii will fulfill and exceed their clients’ expectations.”

Ed Hubennette, Marriott International’s v.p. for North Asia, Hawaii and South Pacific, agrees with Zadeh on Hawaii’s romantic allure. Garnering Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards honor for the eighth year in a row as Best Resort/Hotel Chain in the USA/Canada, Marriott serves up seven Hawaii properties prospering from a high volume of honeymoon business. “We’re cognizant of being able to design and fulfill the dream of anyone who wants to come here,” notes Hubennette.

That’s especially true at the Marriott Kauai Resort & Beach Club, which is fresh from a massive $54 million refurbishment. “It’s on one of the top golf courses in the country,” says Hubennette. “And the gardens and grounds are gorgeous. That combined with the best beach on the island makes this a very romantic setting.”

Fully understanding that the consumer selects destination first, Marriott teamed with Hawaiian Airlines and Polynesian Cultural Center in 2009 for its Spirit of Aloha bus tour—a national promotion that will continue in 2010. Hubennette notes that the program incorporates sales calls to travel agencies, wholesale partners and corporate customers, plus a consumer thrust at select Costco Warehouses. “We’re also turning to social media like Facebook and Twitter with sweepstakes that include Hawaiian Airlines and Hertzas our partners,” he adds.

Hertz’s Aaron Medina, general manager for Hawaii/Japan/Micronesia, remarks that his company shares Marriott Hawaii’s mindset. “In hard economic times, Marriott has stepped up to invest in Hawaii tourism by not only promoting its brand but the destination as well,” Medina says. “Hertz is proud to be a partner with Marriott in that effort and provide our cars to their package customers.”

Both honored and humbled to receive Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Rental Car for the 10th consecutive year, Hertz places a premium on outstanding customer service. “Honors like this reflect our service efforts,” says Medina. “By the same token, travel agents we partner with have found their clients extremely satisfied with Hertz service.”

For 2010, Hertz will remain on track with expedited conveniences like Gold Service, #1 Club and Express Return. And the Hertz Improvement Process helps the company improve via customer suggestions. “We’ll also put significant investments in our facilities during 2010 to make them more user-friendly,” adds Medina.

With a slew of packages to Hawaii and other global destinations, GOGO Worldwide Vacations has scooped up Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Tour Operator, USA/Canada for the eighth consecutive year. According to Michele Kish, president, GOGO will continue to expand its global product range, enhance its sightseeing options (especially in Hawaii) and improve processes to make agents’ jobs easier.

“In 2010, agents will be able to access all reservations on our website,” explains Kish. “They can view all parts of the booking and process payments as well, saving an enormous amount of time. And we’ll pay commission at the time of full payment instead of after departure.”

The boldest move, however, is GOGO’s new Price Beat Promise. “We’ll guarantee that if we can book the business, we’ll beat any price,” notes Kish. “We’ll compare against other wholesalers and online travel companies. So agents can make the sale and still earn commission.”

Island romance has never been sweeter thanks to these four RCA recipients.