Thanks to many meetings and incentives and the rapidly growing popularity of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu and Maui hotels have scored spectacular occupancy rates, in the 80 percent to 90 percent range, during the past two years. All the activity has drawn the interest of the big hotel corporations and generated an explosion of new hotel building — and, where there is no room to build, the razing, upgrading, enlarging, and rebranding of properties. Outrigger Enterprises Group, long a local hotel company, started the trend by razing six of its tired properties in Waikiki and going upscale.
Waikiki Beach Walk, an eight-acre retail, entertainment, and hotel development, is taking shape. A dozen shops are open in the 93,000-square-foot complex. Also open is Hilton's new Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk.
A new attraction has been added to the USS Arizona/Pearl Harbor Memorial. On the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the new Pacific Aviation Museum opened in a World War II hangar that is complete with the scars of December 7, 1941. Hangar 79 holds restored vintage WWII aircraft, interactive displays, a theater, and a restaurant like the one where aviators grabbed a quick meal before their missions or chalked up their hits afterward. Hangar 79 is dedicated to the Pacific battles of WWII, and Hangar 54, a future expansion, will focus on the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold wars.
The state has enacted a Smoke-Free-Hawaii law; however, hotels can designate up to 20 percent of their rooms as “smoking rooms.” Hotels have the option of banning smoking entirely, so planners can no longer assume a hotel will provide rooms for smokers.
BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII
The Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio has completed a $65 million renovation to all of its 601 guest rooms, 17,000 square feet of meeting space, and public areas.
The Ala Moana Hotel has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that updated all 1,154 guest rooms and 67 suites.
The Outrigger's Embassy Suites — Waikiki Beach Walk opened in January with 421 rooms and 1,965 square feet of meeting space. The hotel will be adjacent to the Trump International Hotel, which is expected to open in 2009.
Turtle Bay Resort has finished a $70 million renovation that included the construction of the 9,340-square-foot Kuilima Ballroom.
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Starwood's June 1 rebranding of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider to the Westin name will coincide with a completed renovation of its 793 guest rooms, a lobby facelift, addition of a spa in the Surfrider Tower, and a Westin Kids Club.
On the Kohala Coast, the 540-room Fairmont Orchid has been renovated. Included in the renovation were 18 meeting rooms.
Hilton Waikoloa Village will complete a $61 million capital improvement project in December. Of 1,240 guest rooms, 316 are receiving new carpeting, wall coverings, and ceramic tile entryways.
The Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa opened in December on Kauai's east coast. Its Aveda Lifestyle Salon and Spa will open this summer. The $200 million condo hotel has 153 two-bedroom suites and 37 one-bedroom suites.
The Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort became the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort after an $18 million renovation. The resort has 350 condominium hotel units and 13,000 square feet of indoor meeting space.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua will close in July for a $95 million, six-month renovation. Room count will be reduced to 466. The hotel has nine meeting rooms.
The 463-room Royal Lahaina Resort completed a $30 million renovation in mid-February. All 333 rooms in Lahaina Kai Tower were upgraded.
The 310-room Maui Prince Hotel was sold for $575 million. There is speculation about redevelopment to condos, but the hotel and two 18-hole golf courses are expected to remain open for now. Indoor meeting rooms accommodate 500 guests.
Castle & Cooke completed $100 million in renovations of two resorts on Lanai in November and rebranded them Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. At the Four Seasons Lodge at Kohele, 102 guest rooms and suites were upgraded as well as the Great Hall. A spa and wellness center will be ready in 2008. The Lodge's sister property, the 250-room Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay, will be adding an additional $10 million in meeting space to the four ballrooms and five meeting rooms already available.
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau
Total Hotel Tax: 11.416%
Oahu Visitors Bureau
(808) 524-0722; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kauai Visitors Bureau
Big Island CVB
Molokai Visitors Association
Lanai Visitors Bureau
Even though Hawaii's hotel room rates keep rising, meeting planners can get a 50 percent price break on Hawai‘i Convention Center space and a plethora of destination services if they book before the end of 2007.
The Hawaii VCB and SMG Hawaii, which operates the Hawai‘i Convention Center, have joined forces to launch BusinessAloha.com, a Web site dedicated to supplying meeting planners with the information and resources needed to bring a group to the Hawaiian Islands.
Low-cost ATA Airlines will increase its flight capacity to Hawaii in June, adding daily flights between Oakland and the cities of Honolulu, Kona, and Lihue, and between Las Vegas and Maui.
To “see” before you commit to a Hawaii resort, go to www.wizardpub.com/main/home.htm and click on your island under “Resort reviews.” Aerial photos show how big a hotel or condo complex is and how close it really is to the ocean or busy roads.
Be ready for sticker shock in Hawaii, where just about everything costs more than on the mainland. Sunscreen, sunglasses, cameras and film, toothpaste, and meeting supplies should be packed in checked luggage and brought with you or sent ahead.
From Maui, arrange for your attendees to take in Molokai, a less developed island, with a cruise on the Molokai Princess and 18 holes of par-72 golf at Kaluakoi. It's a full day from 7:15 a.m. when the ship departs Lahaina Harbor until it returns golfers to Maui for dinner. A continental breakfast and picnic lunch are part of the deal. (866) 307-6524; www.molokaiferry.com
The Four Seasons Resort Maui is scheduled to open a new restaurant, Duo, this month. Prime cuts of beef, including Japanese Kobe, and fresh seafood will be served from an open kitchen. A private dining room in the gardens can seat 20 guests. (808) 874-8000; www.fourseasons.com/maui/dining/duo.html
There are numerous whale-watch excursions, many of which guarantee sightings and provide expert narration, during the late November to mid-April season. On Oahu, Wild Side Specialty Tours leave from Waianae Boat Harbor, A-11. Tours include marine biologists on the crew and take groups away from the major tourist activity. From outside Waikiki, (808) 306-7273; www.sailhawaii.com