Journese is one of Hawaii's most prominent luxury wholesalers, working regularly with travel agents to book high-end itineraries across the Aloha State's six visitor-friendly islands.
Travel Weekly's contributing editor for Hawaii, Shane Nelson, spoke recently with Kimberly Daley, senior vice president of sales strategy for Journese, about the destination's new luxury products and the tools the wholesaler offers agents to help sell high-end island vacations.
Q: What's new in the Hawaii luxury travel market? Anything in particular you are excited about?
A: There's been some exciting new product emerging in the Hawaiian Islands, and one of the big things that happened recently was the addition of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. I think it's been a great addition, because Andaz took aspects of the Hawaiian influence and infused that with the Andaz philosophy they have in some of their other properties. So it's a hip, Hawaiian look and feel that's different from what you saw on Maui previously.
The lobby of the Andaz Maui, which opened in 2013.
Another, smaller change has happened on the Big Island of Hawaii, where the Mauna Kea [Beach Hotel] will now be a part of the Marriott's Autograph Collection. I think that is a very exciting next step for the Mauna Kea, which has epitomized excellent branding on that island and is an excellent resort. Mauna Kea already has a pretty extraordinary following. It's a repeat traveler's best friend, but I think the Autograph Collection will introduce new agents as well as new travelers to the resort, and I think that's very exciting for both the property and then agents, particularly as you move east across the country and find agents who aren't as familiar with the Hawaiian Islands.
And then on Oahu there are many changes in the works, including the building of the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikiki and the Four Seasons taking over at the Ihilani at Ko Olina along with the new enhancements that I think are on the horizon at the Kahala Hotel.
So three out of the four major islands have made some big changes in terms of rebranding or refurbishment or absolute new concepts. Plus, you can't forget all of the new changes going into the Four Seasons properties on Lanai. What they're doing over there is very impressive.
Q: What about luxury activities? Are there some really high-end, memorable Hawaii activities that Journese offers in the destination?
A: There are some new experiences coming on board that are more immersive and showcase the true aloha spirit that people crave. Once you've been to Hawaii, you completely understand what that encompasses, and it's a pretty unique attribute you can't find elsewhere. At Journese, we really focus on making our experiences, or activities as others call them, either private or small with manageable groups, so people aren't being put into a large group setting.
For instance, on the Big Island, we have the Waterfall Heli-Trek, which is a private trip that departs daily and starts off on the dry side of the island and then goes up to Kohala while experiencing all of the true aspects of the Big Island that so many people don't get to see unless they do a helicopter tour. You also get a chance to hike on this trip and learn about the irrigation systems built in the early 1900s by plantation farmers and visit a traditional taro farm, where you learn more about the history and heritage from a local's perspective.
On Maui, we have a private charter limo van that takes people up to Haleakala but begins first with a stop at the Surfing Goat Dairy, which is a working dairy farm. Then you move up to the Tedeschi Vineyards for some wine tasting, and you'll go to the Maui lavender gardens, where people usually get a chance to try some lavender-infused vodka. Then you ascend up to the Haleakala summit, around 10,000 feet, to watch the sunset in spectacular fashion and make your way back down the mountain after to Kula Lodge for dinner. That's really a wonderful way to better understand all of the different climate zones and topography that make up that amazing island.
Q: And these are activities agents can book prior to a trip and earn commission on?
A: Absolutely. Our goal is to make sure we can provide the client, and subsequently the agent, a seamless itinerary from start to finish that incorporates all the aspects of the journey, especially when you're going to Hawaii, [and] agents can book that when they call or online.
Q: What online tools does Journese offer agents? Any recent improvements they should know about?
A: Well, we have the online booking engine, which obviously enables agents to book things at their leisure day or night, but we also have a number of different tools, both on the website as well as things that we send the agents, so Journese really tries to provide as much information in as easy a format as possible. We also send out an e-newsletter to agents in the database, and that's not just about promotions at Journese, but it also tells them, for example, about renovations, anything that's happening in any of the destinations we sell that agents need to know. And each e-newsletter also has an expert tip, because that expertise can really set agents apart not only from the Internet but also other travel advisers. It's those nuggets of information that the traveler is seeking.
We have also put a page online that talks about all of our destination specialists, which other people call reservation agents, and that Web page has a Q&A bio for them because we want to make sure the travel advisers can choose who they want to work with and don't have to go through a queue system.
They can just call Tracy or Cathy and have their go-to person without explaining themselves over and over again. On that Web page agents can learn about each destination specialist, and those destination specialists have write-ups about all of the places they've traveled to and all the key nuances they loved about that those destinations.
So agents can not only learn about the destination specialists but also, if they're savvy, pass that information on to their clients, as well.
Agents can also search through that content by destination. For example, if they click on Hawaii, everything that has been written up by the destination specialists about Hawaii will flow subsequently. So it's an amazing resource we just launched in 2014.