Interval Leisure Group, parent company to both Aston Hotels and Aqua Hospitality, rebranded the Hawaii-based sister companies earlier this month as Aqua-Aston Hospitality. According to the rebranded firm’s president and COO, Matt Bailey, the two management entities have been busy consolidating operations for nearly 20 months, keeping programs that performed well while phasing out others that didn’t measure up.
Today, Aqua-Aston Hospitality oversees a collection of five accommodations brands — Aqua, Aston, Instinct, Lite and Maui Condo & Home — and in turn manages more than 50 properties in Hawaii as well as a handful on the U.S. mainland.
Bailey said the company has also been working hard to establish a range of new direct-connectivity partnerships with major U.S.-based wholesalers, including companies like Pleasant Holidays, Classic Vacations, Travel Impressions, and Mark Travel’s Blue Sky Tours, Funjet Vacations and United Vacations.
“We probably have greater direct connectivity with more travel partners than a huge number of companies,” Bailey said. “And so what that will do is make more inventory available with real-time rates, and I think that will make us much more competitive.”
Agents who work regularly with Aqua-Aston’s growing list of directly connected wholesale partners can now better compete, according to Bailey, who said advisers have been at a disadvantage when working with more traditional, static hotel pricing rates that might only be updated once a week.
“Now agents have our absolute, up-to-the-minute rates and inventory availability,” he said. “So when they go online, it’s there and they know right away.”
Aqua-Aston is also expanding a number of cash-back incentives paid to agents who book clients at select properties across the Hawaiian Islands. According to Bailey, the cash rewards are paid out in addition to standard commissions and range in value from $50 to $250.
“We’ve always found agents are our biggest allies,” Bailey said. “So recognizing an agent who is sitting across the desk from a customer — who is choosing from a variety of destinations — these bonuses certainly might help them remember us. But it also rewards them for recommending us.”
Early next year, agents will also have a pair of new Hilton properties, both managed by Aqua-Aston brands, to sell on neighbor islands. Bailey expects renovation work to wrap up in in the first half of 2016 at what will then be the 388-room Naniloa DoubleTree by Hilton, located in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.
“It’s going to be a fabulous product,” he said. “I think it’s probably fair to say accommodations in Hilo have not kept up with the pace of other destinations, as far as renovations and newbuilds and so on. With the renovations that are planned, we see this as being the place to stay in Hilo. It’s going to be without question the nicest product there.”
Bailey was also quick to mention the new Hilton Garden Inn Kauai/Wailua Bay, which is undergoing renovation work now that’s expected to finish up in early 2016.
“Every square inch of the property is going to be renovated, from new guestrooms to new food and beverage to new meeting space,” he said. “So we’re thrilled.”
Aqua-Aston has also recently agreed to manage the 175-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel slated for construction on West Oahu in Kapolei. Bailey indicated the property is likely to be a popular option for Hawaii residents, but said it could also be a great fit for the right Oahu visitor.
“Mainland guests who are adventurous and want to explore sites on Oahu outside of Waikiki would find it attractive,” he said. “It’s going to be a very comfortable and beautifully appointed hotel.”
This article has been updated to reflect that Matt Bailey is Aqua-Aston Hospitality's president and COO, not president and CEO as originally stated.