Hotel keeps them coming back

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HONOLULU -- The Ilima Hotel in the heart of Waikiki may need a paint job, but there are good reasons why 80% of its guests are repeat visitors, according to reservations supervisor Karen Behnke.

"Off-the-beach" rates, 99 spacious rooms and a secluded placement in the center of Waikiki are some of the elements that attract a business/corporate market that accounts for 40% of guests.

And that ratio is steadily growing. "Once people find us, they always come back," Behnke said.

The hotel generally keeps room rates under the allowed government per diem, which Behnke said helped account for the recent visits of representatives from NASA and the U.S. Census Bureau.

There's a full kitchen in every unit, a tour desk in the lobby and a number of freebies: local phone calls, parking and high-speed Internet access on the top six floors.

For those who bring their families, free HBO, the Disney Channel and Nintendo in each room make up for the tiny pool and fitness center.

The staff is quick to offer tips to guests, such as where to find the closest beach (Royal Hawaiian beach, about two blocks away), the nearest grocery (a couple of doors down), inexpensive places to eat and shop (International Marketplace and the shell and muumuu-stocked pushcarts along Duke's Lane).

Everything is within walking distance of the hotel's Nohonani Street location.

Rates are higher on the upper floors, and only rooms on the mountain side have a view.

Studios are spacious for one person, but a family of four could squeeze into the 530 square feet. One- and two-bedroom units also are available.

Behnke calls the property "condo-style living with hotel services," referring to its fully stocked kitchen with stove, oven and microwave, complemented by daily maid service and a 24-hour front desk.

Opened in 1968, the Ilima was refurbished in 2001 with new bathrooms, carpeting, bedspreads and drapes.

The hotel plans to renovate its 12-person meetings room. By the end of the year, one large room will accommodate 50 to 75 people and will be divisible into three smaller rooms.

Superior (sixth to ninth floors) studios run $129, single, and $139, double, in low season (April to December). Three-bedroom penthouse units that sleep six cost $355 during low season.

Travel agent rates are available at $69, single, and $74, double, through December for a studio. The hotel pays agents 15% commission.

For more information, call (800) 801-9366 or visit www.ilima.com.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

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