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BY CHAD BLAIR PACIFIC BUSINESS NEWS
Visitors and kamaaina alike can still get a decent hotel room in Hawaii for under $100 a night. The trick is using the Internet to find one. That’s how Phoenix friends Diane Dillon, an artist, and Arlene London, a clinical researcher for a pharmaceutical company, found the Aqua Palms and Spa for $90 a night. The 262-room boutique property, one block from the beach and less than a mile from Ala Moana Center, has a 3-diamond rating from AAA. It’s in the same block of Ala Moana Boule-vard as the Wailana Coffee House, another perk for Aqua Palms guests. “Shopping and beach, that’s all I want,” said Dillon, as she and London waited to check in this week.
Aqua Hotels’ 12 Waikiki properties are running about 90 percent full as most Hawaii hotels struggle to fill rooms. Oahu’s occupancy was 64.8 percent for the week ending Sept. 6, down 5.6 percentage points from the same week last year. In addition to the Aqua Palms, the Aqua Aloha Surf and The Equus were offering the $90 rate for Web reservations. The latest addition to the Aqua line, the Best Western Coconut Waikiki Hotel—it’s the only Best Western in Waikiki—currently averages $130 a night. “We set up the company to offer value-added hotels,” said Mike Paulin, Aqua’s CEO. “That means adjustments like offer¬ing free breakfasts and other deals through the Internet. People like free.” The big outfits like Expedia, Travelocity and Tripadvisor dominate the search for cheap rooms, but locally-based companies try to sell their Hawaii expertise to Web surfers.
Just last week Hawaii-Aloha.com added a link to its Web page that lists hotels in the $80-$100 economy range all the way up to the $400-$600 luxury range. “There are other inexpensive hotels out there, but we have visited to make sure they are clean with decent bedding, and that there are no complaints from customers,” said Hawaii-Aloha.com President Bruce Fisher. “If customers start to complain about a hotel, it’s no good. It will spread all over the Internet.” Hawaii-Aloha.com still is fine-tuning its new link, which uses Google-like program-ming. It utilizes the familiar pinpoint icon and zoom control used by Google Maps to locate properties.The links take viewers to slide shows, video and details of the hotels. The Castle Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki, for example, at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki, has nightly rates starting at $89
“This resort is smoke-free and situated right on the Honolulu bus route, which makes it a breeze to get around town,” says Hawaii-Aloha.com. “Ask about fourth night free.” Or check out the Castle Maile Sky Court, where rates start at $96. “High-rise, nothing fancy, furniture is simple,” states a Hawaii-Aloha.com agent. “The units are clean, restaurant in the lobby, pool is OK, nice for sunbathing.” “The Maile Sky Court ain’t the Taj Ma¬hal,” Fisher said. “There’s no balconies. But we’ve never had any complaints.” Hawaii-Aloha.com, which books up to 200 Mainland customers each month, recommends no Neighbor Island hotels for under $100.But it does list one Maui property, three on Kauai and four on the Big Island that go for well under $150 a night.