Q&A With Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ V.P., Domestic Travel Industry & Destination Sales, Lynn Clark

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
There’s no mistaking Stitch, from “Lilo & Stitch,” who’s made a home for himself at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa.

In the Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa onsite review, which appears in the September Family issue, Lynn Clark, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ vice president, domestic travel industry & destination sales, offers some insight about the resort. Here, we’ve posted the interview in its entirety. Contributing writer Steve Grasso conducted the interview.

Steve Grasso (SG): How much business does the property get through travel agent bookings?

Lynn Clark: The exact figure is proprietary information so I can’t reveal that, but travel agents have historically sold a great deal of Hawaii travel and we are very pleased with the level of support from retail agents.  We work hard educating agents on Aulani’s features and benefits and our business continues to grow from this channel.

SG: Is it mostly West Coast-families booking at the resort or do you see an interest from the East Coast?

LC: Obviously the West Coast, due to its geographic closeness to Hawaii, remains a core market.  But thanks to airlift from places like New York, Houston, and Chicago, for example, we are seeing steady growth from those markets as well. Remember there’s a great deal of families on the East Coast with an affinity and familiarity of Disney since they visit Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, so they are interested in experiencing Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii for their next family vacation.

SG: Within the family bookings, has there been a spike in multi-generational family bookings—grandma, grandpa, the kids and the grandkids?

LC: Not so much a spike but a steady growth, as more and more families become aware of the benefits of a Hawaiian vacation at Aulani. We have a variety of family villas available for rent, in addition to our traditional hotel rooms. Large families find these a great value and a perfect way to vacation together. These villas come with small kitchens, laundry appliances, family dining tables, etc. and great spaces for families to enjoy.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Oahu
Family thrills at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Oahu.

SG: If a travel agent’s client (a family) couldn’t decide between Aulani and a Four Seasons property in Hawaii, what are the three things a travel agent should know about the Disney property that would close the deal in favor of the Disney property?

LC: I would say three things when comparing Aulani with other Hawaii resort properties:

Number one: we were purpose-built for family vacation travel. Every detail of our resort was designed to accommodate families.

Number two: we provide a great deal of inclusive activities and recreation. Our entertainment, our extensive pools and water slides and themed whirlpools and grottos, and of course, our very popular Aunty’s Beach House children’s play center, are all included in the price of the room.

And number three: we celebrate true Hawaiian culture. It’s not just a saying for us—we are obsessed with delivering a resort experience, which celebrates and embraces the true stories of Hawaii. Our resort is overflowing with details to explore which all help us to tell the story of Hawaii.

SG: What’s the average length of stay for families at the resort?

LC: It’s not uncommon for families to spend a week with us. Some combine a visit to Aulani with a visit to a neighbor island, or even Waikiki. That’s the beauty of Hawaiian vacations—there’s so much to see and do at Aulani and since we are focused on delivering the stories of Hawaii, can serve as a nice portal from which to explore the islands.

SG: What are rates for family accommodations for September onward?

We have a special offer available for families who’d like to visit us this autumn with a free night promotion.When they stay for a minimum of four nights, the fourth night is free. And, if they upgrade to a 1- or 2-Bedroom Villa, they’ll receive the fourth night free plus a nightly $100 resort credit. Plus, if travel agents purchase this package through The Walt Disney Travel Company, they’ll receive complimentary transfers for their clients to and from Honolulu International Airport and a complimentary 1-day mid-size Alamo car rental. Book by 10/30/14 for travel 8/15-12/22/14, excluding 11/26-11/29.

SG: Any special holiday events that we should be aware of for families traveling there during the Xmas break?

LC: Aunty, Uncle and the cast members at Aulani celebrate the holidays with special songs and stories. Aunty performs a “Santa’s Hula” as part of her Breakfast Celebration at Makahiki. The Aulani Starlit Hui features a special “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Christmas Luau” addition to its show. And Uncle tells stories, which celebrate the Makahiki season around The Circle of `Alae `Ula Fire Pit. Movie Nights can also feature holiday favorites and there’s a holiday-inspired `ohana trivia game with a special gift for the winning family. Property-wide decorations make holidays in paradise even more magical.

SG: Does the property offer travel agent rates or other incentives for travel agents?

The standard discount available is 25 percent off rack rates, available to travel agents who have taken the corresponding Aulani online coursework. From time to time, other travel agent specials are offered. Travel agents should continue to visit DisneyTravelAgents.com for the latest information on travel agent rates and more.

For more information on Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, click here.