Hawaii is welcoming new airlift and celebrating the completion of several hotel renovation projects in 2019, and destination specialists are looking forward to taking advantage of the increased accessibility and fresh-faced properties.
Gogo Worldwide Vacations' Victor Mayo recently took over as director of product merchandising and partnerships at the travel wholesaler. Mayo has traveled to the Aloha State several times, but he took his children for the first time in 2017, discovering a new appreciation for what Hawaii offers families.
Contributing editor Tovin Lapan recently spoke with Mayo about what's exciting in Hawaii for 2019 and his tips for agents.
Q: What did you learn about Hawaii on your first trip with your children?
A: My view of the destination completely changed. We had a bit of trepidation traveling all the way from the East Coast with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. We asked ourselves: "Can we do this?"
In the end, it was an amazing trip. The kids bug me every chance they get about when we're going back. And that's Hawaii, you have to go there to believe what it has to offer. … A family vacation can be hard to orchestrate sometimes, but Hawaii's tourism infrastructure is set up for it, and the Hawaiian culture embraces the family.
Q: Any challenges for the Hawaii market in 2019?
A: The Big Island faced a perfect storm of natural disasters, most notably the volcano erupting. With the national news coverage, we were getting calls from people who thought the whole state was shut down. In reality, Hawaii was always open for business, and even the majority of Hawaii Island was fine to visit during the volcano activity. But numbers are still down for the [that island], and it's really about getting the message out that it is, and always was, open and ready for visitors.
Q: What Hawaii developments are you excited about in 2019?
A: The new airlift into the destination is great, and there are several hotel updates. Hawaiian is starting a new direct route from Boston to Honolulu. Customers and agents should be expecting lower fares and new deals.
The Alohilani in Waikiki is a great new property that is generating buzz. The Queen Kapiolani, Sheraton Kauai, Waikiki Beachcomber and Mauna Kea have also all recently been renovated or updated.
Q: What areas of growth do you see?
A: Hawaii has a bit of a reputation, especially on the East Coast, for being expensive, but you don't have to break the bank to go to Hawaii. Our bread and butter is still hotel customers, but we are seeing increasing demand for condo rental and Airbnb-type accommodations. That's great for families who want to keep costs down and maybe cook some meals in the rental.
Q: What advice do you have for agents breaking into or expanding their Hawaii business?
A: You can't sell the destination well without knowledge. If you haven't been there in the last five years, you have to travel. And if that's not an option right now, then invest the time in research and training.