Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightIt’s been nearly three months since the headline-grabbing power struggle peaked between Marriott International and San Diego-based M Waikiki LLC, owners of the 353-room Waikiki hotel now known as the Modern Honolulu.

Aqua Hotels & Resorts, the management company M Waikiki empowered at the property after ousting Marriott in the early-morning hours of Aug. 28, is still working to bolster awareness of the hotel and a better understanding of what the property offers travelers.

“I don’t think a lot of people know who the new Modern Honolulu is, especially agents,” said Elizabeth Churchill, Aqua’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Obviously we have advertising running. …And then we have fam rates out there, as well. We want as many agents as possible to come in and test the product and see it.”

Modern Honolulu poolThe Modern is offering a fam price for agents beginning at $129 a night at the luxury boutique property for travel through Dec. 22, 2012.

Asked about the type of guest Aqua is targeting, Churchill said reaching out to a range of people would be key and mentioned the Modern’s new tagline: where high design meets barefoot luxury.

“What we’re trying to do is make it more accessible to anyone that’s interested in staying in a property that has high design features,” she said. “We want them to realize that it’s a wonderful experience. …And it’s a place to come relax and unwind and experience the best of what Hawaii has to offer.”

Capitalizing on the hotel’s proximity to the Hawaii Convention Center with increased group business is another priority; according to Churchill, the Modern’s ballroom facilities are third-largest in Waikiki. The property is a five-minute walk to the beach and also features an in-house spa, two swimming pools and the acclaimed Morimoto Waikiki restaurant.

“We’re looking at this property as a product that is unlike anything else available in the state of Hawaii,” Churchill said. “If people know who Aqua is, we’ve always specialized in three-star, midprice boutique hotels. …What this property does is expand our horizons and allows us to go into the five-star, luxury boutique category.”

Meanwhile, the legal skirmishes between M Waikiki and Marriott International continue, including a lawsuit filed by the ownership group against Marriott and New York-based hotelier Ian Schrager in May. Blaming both Marriott and Shrager for “outrageously low” occupancy and average daily rate figures, the suit alleges the partnership failed to create a hotel chain in support of what was then the Waikiki Edition and that Schrager abandoned the brand as early as 2009 to launch his own competing Public properties.

The Modern’s night club, known formerly as the Crazybox and designed by Schrager, had been closed due to trademark issues since Aqua took over management in August. The establishment recently underwent a soft opening with a new look, however, and will celebrate a grand reopening, along with what Churchill said was a tightly guarded new name, in December.
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