Two of the biggest names in Hawaii tourism have formalized their integration with a new name: Aqua-Aston Hospitality. For this edition of Friday 5, President and COO Matt Bailey talks about the group’s five strong brands, 50-plus properties and the benefits of a “one-stop-shop approach” for the travel trade.
1. Can you spell out the details of the recent big announcement from Aqua Hospitality and Aston Hotels & Resorts?
Bailey: The acquisition marked the beginning of the ongoing integration of Aqua Hospitality and Aston Hotels & Resorts. The integration started in December 2013, and is now being formalized with our new name, Aqua-Aston Hospitality.
The big news is that after integrating, the group manages more units in Hawaii than any other hotel management group in Hawaii, making it the largest in the state and putting it into position to deliver greater benefits to travel partners. In addition to the new name, Aqua-Aston Hospitality is also unveiling a new look, and its five brands have been further refined.
2. How will the deal affect travel agents?
Bailey: The integrated Aqua-Aston Hospitality group offers key benefits to travel trade who can call on us as a one-stop-shop, especially for Hawaii, with our robust portfolio of 50-plus properties for all.
As an integrated group, we’ve formed new strategic partnerships and can deliver more robust market intelligence. We have a team of sales reps who sell across all five brands located across all time zones in the U.S. and internationally. We’ve developed more direct connectivity with more travel partners to make the booking process easier, plus we offer a year-round cash-back bonus program for travel partners (up to US$250 per booking).
Aqua-Aston Hospitality now offers direct connectivity to more travel partners to make the booking process easier, and partnerships with general sales agents throughout North America, Asia and Europe to directly communicate with travellers and assist in booking their trips to expedite the process. Our online booking process is also fast and easy to understand. Aqua-Aston Hospitality is also a beta-company with direct connectivity to wholesale partners. Direct connectivity offers real time, two-way inventory management in terms of both inventory and rates, which can be changed dynamically, giving our wholesale partners the same competitive advantages that have traditionally only been enjoyed by OTAs.
Regarding the cash-back bonus program, both Aqua and Aston have had incentive programs in the past, however the cash-back bonus program takes the best practices from both. We recognize what is important to our travel partners – cash in their pockets – and this program, which applies across our integrated portfolio, gives us more opportunities to deliver it.
3. There will be a new emphasis on branding. How many brands are there now under the newly-formed company and what are the plans for differentiation?
Bailey: A natural part of the integration process has also been to develop a refreshed identity and to further differentiate what each of our brands mean to consumers. We now have a new look and five brands that are further refine. We want our travel partners to know our biggest strength, that we offer a robust portfolio of hotels for all:
Aston Hotels & Resorts – Welcome home
- Hotels, condominium resorts and villas in Hawaii & U.S. mainland locations
- Popular with travellers seeking the comforts of home, away from home
- Instinct Hotel Collection – Providing distinctive experiences
- Formerly known as Monogram
- Distinctive experiences and personal service at an elite group of noteworthy hotels
For Instinct, we decided to change the name because we wanted to give the collection a name that truly reflects the product. The boutique properties in this collection provide distinctive experiences, and aim to be attentive, unique and personal at a higher price point. Instinct was the perfect fit.
Aqua Hotels and Resorts – For the savvy traveller in everyone
- Stylish, upper-mid scale hotels with plenty of personality for the savvy traveller
- Provides an active, playful experience at a wide range of properties throughout Hawaii
- Lite Hotels – When clean and comfortable is enough
- An eclectic collection of economy hotels that deliver good value for money
- Caters to the budget traveller looking for something friendly, simple and local
Maui Condo & Home – Your piece of paradise
- Condo accommodations that appeal to guests looking for an extended stay, local experience
- Expanding its portfolio of professionally managed accommodations across the islands
4. There will also be a refreshed identity for the new company. Can you give us any hints about that?
Bailey: In terms of our new name, we did a lot of homework, looking into case studies around best practice when it comes to integrating two companies.
What we found is that what has historically worked best for other corporate entities – like United Continental Holdings and Boeing-McDonnell Douglas – will also work for us, because by keeping both company’s names, we can capitalize on two respected brands that are both well respected and have strong followings. The order of the names is simply alphabetical. We also just launched our new logo and corporate website http://www.aqua-aston.com/ that offer a view of our new look.
5. What’s next for Aqua Hospitality and Aston Hotels & Resorts?
Bailey: We are constantly seeking out opportunities for the best positioning of our brands – the refinements described above are evidence of that – and we hope to grow all of them. We are very proud that we have a portfolio of hotels for all, which is offers developers a wealth of opportunities, and consumers many options in one place. We offer a diverse mix of accommodation options that will appeal to many different types of guests.