Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightTwo of the Aloha State’s major hotel management competitors joined forces last week when Vacations Holdings Hawaii (VHH), a subsidiary of Miami-based Interval Leisure Group and parent company for Aston Hotels & Resorts, acquired Aqua Hospitality, turning heads across the destination’s tourism industry.

“The initial reaction has been a bit of surprise,” Kelvin Bloom, president at VHH and president and CEO for Aston, said of folks he’s spoken with about the recent acquisition. “But after they think about it for a moment, [then] they kind of scratch their chin and say, ‘Oh. That does make a lot of sense.’”

Asked why VHH wanted to add Aqua Hospitality, which manages 20-plus hotels across Hawaii, Bloom’s response was simple: “It provides us more of everything: more destinations, more properties, more product, more services.”

The complementary nature of the two company’s management portfolios was also an important factor. ShaneNelson

“Aston has considerable market penetration in product on the neighbor islands and somewhat less so in Waikiki,” Bloom added. “On the other hand, Aqua has considerable strength in product in Waikiki and less so in the neighbor islands.”

Aston manages 24 properties across Hawaii, and is particularly well known for its condo offerings, but the company took over operations at its first boutique this summer with the addition of Waikiki’s upscale 72-room Hotel Renew. Aqua Hospitality, on the other hand, has been a leading provider of boutique accommodation in Hawaii for more than a decade.

Aqua launched its first website exclusively for travel agents earlier this year, featuring online certification courses along with extensive marketing, destination and property information. Meanwhile, Aston completed an overhaul to its popular Stars Online agent loyalty and education site this fall. Bloom said there won’t be any immediate changes at either site.

“They will certainly stay the same for now, and as this process moves along we will be drawing on the best practices of each of the companies,” he explained. “We will be able to draw on each other and see how we can best serve our travel agent and travel partners in the future.”

More expansion outside Hawaii also appears likely. Aqua announced the addition of two properties in Guam earlier this month, while Aston has run resorts in Florida, Nevada and California for some time.

“In this case, 1 plus 1 one really equals 3, and that certainly applies with respect to future business development outside of Hawaii,” Bloom said. “So we’re working on various opportunities now and expect that there will be more to announce in the near future.”
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