AW Vacations is back in town

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PHOENIX -- America West Vacations is back in the Hawaii vacation package business, this time partnering with Hawaiian Airlines.

The operator will offer 60 hotels and resorts in all price ranges on all the islands plus land-only and fly-drive packages featuring Avis car rentals, said Jack Richards, president and CEO of America West Vacations.

America West Vacations will pay a minimum 13% on all Hawaii bookings made by Dec. 31 for travel through 2003.

The firm discontinued its Hawaii program when America West Airlines stopped flying there in 1992, Richards said.

The operator's decision to re-enter the market was spurred by the code-share and marketing agreement between Hawaii-an and America West, he said.

The agreement provides enhanced travel opportunities and streamlined customer services across each carrier's networks, Richards said, "which permits us to sell Hawaii from all Hawaiian Airlines and America West Airlines origin cities.

"We forecast Hawaii will represent about 12% to 15% of our total business in 2003, increasing to 18% to 20% in 2004 and beyond," he said.

The packages are on sale for travel through December 2003 from all Hawaiian gateway cities, including Las Vegas; Los Angeles, Ontario, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

America West Vacations will advertise the Hawaii packages in more than 20 major metropolitan newspapers, "driving business to our travel agent partners," Richards said.

In addition, the firm partnered with Aston Hotels Hawaii and the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau to offer product training at its Phoenix Travel Agent Product Show, which was set to take place Oct. 16.

Hawaii hotel partners such as Aston, Starwood, Hilton and Outrigger will participate in this month's America West Vacations 2003 Travel Agent Product Shows in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver and New York.

Richards said America West Vacations' re-entry into the market required minimal capital investment due to the existing infrastructure and the company's experience in the tour packaging business.

The company's preferred-supplier agreements "will facilitate marketing and sales of our Hawaii packages," he said, as will the company's reservations center in Tempe, Ariz.

Richards said the firm also offers an experienced staff to handle Hawaii bookings, including a large group department.

Because the average package price for Hawaii is almost twice that of the average Las Vegas booking, Richards said Hawaii sales will "contribute significantly to the profitability of the company."

Rates and how to book them

PHOENIX -- America West Vacations set sample rates for its new roster of Hawaii packages.

Five-night programs include roundtrip air, airport transfers, a lei greeting and an orientation breakfast.

Prices start at $493 per person, double, from Los Angeles, $547 from San Francisco, $564 from Seattle and $584 from Phoenix.

For reservations or more information, call (800) 356-6611 or (800) 843-9971 (for groups); visit www.awvtravelagents.com; or access via Sabre, Worldspan and Galileo.

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