Despite demand, island resorts offering summer steals, deals

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HONOLULU -- Although abnormally rainy weather that generated some bad press may have played a role in a 4.6% decline in Hawaiis visitor count this March, advance summer bookings now suggest that interest in travel to Hawaii remains strong overall.

There seems to be little price resistance, even though air fares are up and nightly hotel rates increased by double digits in 2005, another year for price hikes. But if visitor satisfaction ratings are telling the true story, most people think Hawaii is still worth it.

Several factors have conspired to put upward pressure on rates. Just as demand is growing from the mainland, the count of available rooms is in decline. Thats mostly the result of conversion to interval ownership programs, which have taken thousands of hotel rooms out of circulation over the past four years, at a time when no new hotels have opened.

In fact, at press time, Kapalua Bay, a 186-room luxury property on Maui, had closed for demolition, its inventory to be replaced by a multimillion-dollar compound. Dont be surprised to find sellouts for particular properties throughout the summer. 

Polls looking at travel trends confirm Hawaiis continued appeal, despite strong growth in Mexico and other competing destinations farther afield, such as Tahiti.

Advance bookings for early summer are strong, despite air fares that have hit consumers and wholesalers hard, cutting into their already thin profit margins.

But the public is ready to travel, with expectations of a 10% increase in air travelers this summer.

August may be the time for deals, according to Dean Johnson, vice president for sales at Creative Leisure, in Petaluma, Calif. Hawaii bookings are up by double digits for Creative Leisures upscale mix of condominiums, villas and homes.

Real deals

Heres a sample what clients are looking at price-wise if Hawaii is their summer destination:

" Family Summer Discovery packages are the theme at Mauna Lani at Kalahuipuaa on the Big Island. The luxury resort offers significant discounts on rooms, with oceanview category rooms priced at $370 a night, reduced from $670, and deluxe oceanview digs now at $400 nightly, rather than $715.

Bookings include free participation in the hotels Summer Discoveries programming, which includes history walks, ukulele lessons and story telling at the Eva Parker Woods Cottage. A three-night minimum is required. For more, call (800) 367-2323 or visit www.maunalani.com.

" Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii puts value into its multi-island, free-night Sunsational Savings promotion offered at properties throughout the Islands. In Waikiki, that means a fourth night free and a $75 dining credit at the Sheraton Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider and the Princess Kaiulani.

At the W Honolulu, its a fifth night free and a $75 food credit, as it is at the Sheraton Kauai, where a buffet breakfast is included.  At Starwoods Sheraton Maui, Westin Maui, Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort on Maui and the Princeville Resort on Kauai, its a sixth night free and daily breakfast for two. Call (888) 488-3535 or go to www.starwoodhotels.com/hawaii.

" You can still book an oceanfront room at the low-key Napili Kai Beach Resort in west Maui, along with car rental, at rates starting at $311 per night for an oceanview studio. Located on a lovely crescent beach, the property caters to families with a complimentary summer activities program for kids ages 5 to 12 that includes Wednesday movie nights. Call (800) 367-5030 or visit www .napilikai.com.  

" Consider the Spa Package to discover why the Spa at the Four Seasons Hualalai was given first-place honors in votes by the readers of both Conde Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure magazines. Included are two spa treatments or fitness services, spa and tennis court use and gift. Package rates through Aug. 31 start at $1,010 for golf courseview or oceanview accommodations. Alternative packages include room-and-rental-car and bed-and-breakfast promotions, starting from $660 per night. Go to www.fourseasons.com/hualalai.

" ResortQuest Hawaii aims at the family traveler with a Kids Stay, Play and Eat Free promotion. Kids under age 12 get coupons for free meals, activities and attractions on Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai. Oceanfront studios at the Mahana in Kihei, on Maui, are priced at $267, with the newly renovated Islander on the Beach on Kauai a best buy at $156. Call (866) 776-2924 or log on to  www.resortquesthawaii.com.

To contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].

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