It is not unusual in the hotel and resort industry to see companies divide their properties into distinct brands which better reflect the level of expectations that the traveler can expect when booking their vacation. On occasion this is done as large companies acquire entire brands by merger or outright purchase such as we see in Hawaii with Starwood Hotels and Resorts which includes brands such as Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis and others.
On other occasions it is done as an existing company grows and develops their own brands, such as we see with Hawaii owned Outrigger Enterprises Group which includes both Outrigger Hotels and Resorts as well as OHANA Hotels & Resorts.
The latest Hawaii company to take such as step is the company previously known simply as Aqua Hotels & Resorts. Founded in 2001 by Hawaii hotelier Michael V. Paulin, Aqua Hotels & Resorts has been one of the most rapidly growing hospitality companies in the history of Hawaii.
In almost every year since its founding, the employee-owned and Hawaii-based management company, Aqua Hotels & Resorts has added new properties to its portfolio which now numbers an impressive 24 properties on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.
Aqua is the only Hawaii hotel and resort company which can claim to manage properties on each of the six main islands in Hawaii, a truly impressive achievement for a company that is still less than 15 years old.
In January 2013, Aqua announced that it was changing its corporate name to Aqua Hospitality and restructuring its 24 properties into three distinctive brands, which, according to Aqua Hospitality's President and CEO Ben Rafter, will reflect "the unique characteristics of our major market segments – luxury seekers of customized experiences, value and adventure-oriented guests and budget-conscious travelers."
A decision of this nature is not without risk, but the potential rewards should eventually overcome what may be some initial confusion over the loss of brand awareness for the properties that will no longer bear the Aqua name.
The rewards will come if the new brands, particularly the new luxury brand, establish their own name recognition and quality reputation. For example, Starwood's luxury brand, St. Regis, stands on its own and is known worldwide for the superior quality and level of service offered at their resorts.
With that in mind, the new brands of Aqua Hospitality and the properties assigned to each brand are as follows.
Monogram Hotel Collection
The Monogram Hotel Collection represents an "elite group of stand-alone and independent hotels and resorts providing a highly personalized luxury experience. Each hotel has a distinct name and identity and is unique in personality, environment and design." All the properties offer a boutique experience and promise to be the highlight of any visit to Hawaii. The properties in the Monogram Hotel Collection are - on Oahu, the Lotus Honolulu and The Modern Honolulu; on Maui, the Hotel Wailea Maui; and on Hawaii Island, the recently resorted and revitalized, Volcano House & Namakanipaio Cabins.
I had the opportunity to stay at Hotel Wailea Maui in the summer of 2011 and I can attest to the superior quality of the resort as you can read in my review.
Aqua Hotels And Resorts
Maintaining the name of the original company, the Aqua Hotels And Resorts brand will offer stylish, mid-priced hotels that present "excellent value and lifestyle services rooted in Hawaii's rich cultural traditions. Savvy travelers will appreciate the convenient added services that make an Aqua Hotels and Resorts stay fun, convenient and positively practical."
The properties in the Aqua Hotels And Resorts brand are - on Oahu, Aqua Ilikai Hotel & Suites, Aqua Bamboo Waikiki, Aqua Palms Waikiki, Aqua Park Shore Waikiki, Aqua Queen Kapiolani, Aqua Skyline at Island Colony, Aqua Waikiki Pearl, Aqua Waikiki Wave, Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki, and Aqua Waikiki Joy; on Kauai, the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort; on Molokai, the Aqua Hotel Molokai and on Lanai, the Aqua Hotel Lanai.
I have had the opportunity to stay at and visit a number of the resorts that remain within the Aqua Hotels and Resorts brand. Many are properties that had been struggling until Aqua assumed management and gave them a new chance for success. In most cases, the improvement in all areas of quality under Aqua has been very impressive. You can read my reviews of the Aqua Ilikai Hotel & Suites as well as the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort.
In, perhaps, the most risky name choice, Lite Hotels represents "a group of eclectic, economy hotels that appeal to budget-minded travelers," where "guests are seeking the best bang for their buck and appreciate the fundamentals – service, convenience and cleanliness." I will be very interested to see how this choice of name works out in establishing a positive brand awareness.
The properties in the Lite Hotels brand are - on Oahu, Pagoda Hotel, Ewa Hotel Waikiki, White Sands Hotel, Maile Sky Court and Polynesian Plaza; on Maui, the Maui Beach Hotel; and on Kauai, the Kauai Sands Hotel.
I am least familiar with these properties, however, as someone who often looks to find a very economical place to stay when I have a few days to get some work done and where I just need a comfortable and clean hotel with friendly and efficient management, these properties may well be worth consideration.
Only time will tell if this decision on re-branding will be a positive one. I suspect that it very well may. In a little over 12 years, Aqua Hotels and Resorts certainly has established an excellent reputation in Hawaii. That was much quicker than many companies have yet to accomplish. I am excited about the new Monogram Hotel Collection and its prospects of building a loyal clientele looking for a superior vacation experience.
One thing that is assured, Aqua will continue to grow, innovate and challenge most of its competitors as a preferred choice for lodging for repeat visitors to Hawaii.