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Sunday, August 14, 2005



[ INSIDE HAWAII INC. ]

art
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Victoria Flood is the new online marketing senior manager for Starwood Hotels in Hawaii. She expects to be around for at least three years, since that's how long her husband will be stationed here with the Air Force.




Flood puts Starwood’s
best foot forward online

Victoria Flood

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii has promoted Victoria Flood to senior manager of online and partner marketing.

» Age: 30 years.
» Was born to British parents in the United Kingdom but raised in the United States and has visited every continent except Antarctica.
» Was a global account manager for the former WorldCom, which she left in August 2002, shortly after the troubled company filed the largest bankruptcy ever.
» Obtained an MBA and became a marketing manager for accounting firm Deloitte & Touche outside Washington, D.C.
» Taught English in South Korea. "My husband's active-duty Air Force, so that explains many of our moves. He works with the Air Force out of Hickam Air Force Base," she said.

Question: What brought you to the hotel business?

Answer: Travel has always been my passion. My goal was to go to every continent by 30 and I did that after taking a mulligan for Antarctica.

I was born in the U.K. All of our vacations were overseas, outside of the U.S. One of the problems being raised in the U.S. is it's difficult to go overseas and travel. When you spend a lot of time in Europe, people develop a global viewpoint because it's easier for them to visit other countries. People (in the United States) have to work a lot harder to get those experiences and it's so critical to do so.

Q: How long will you be in Hawaii?

A: We've been told three years, but my husband (who is in the military) is eligible for retirement soon, so you never know. We really enjoy living here and it's such a fabulous place to live!

Q: You left WorldCom around the time the company's scandal was mushrooming. Any connection?

A: Completely unrelated. I was doing a master's degree and decided to do it full time. We were there for the glory years and that was great. I still keep in touch with people. There's a lot of emotion behind it. People forget this was a family organization like all others and employees were hit and hurt more than anyone else.

Q: How has the online hotel marketing game changed recently?

A: Hotels are making sure the user experience on the Web sort of mirrors the guest experience once they get to the property. All of our properties here in Hawaii and French Polynesia have their own Web sites where our potential guests can get a feel for the hotel. In Hawaii we feel that's very important, because it's a leisure destination, that people get more information than the distance to the airport, etc. We sort of split with the Starwood parent company over that, because they do both leisure and business.

One of the other interesting things we're doing is we've relaunched all of our online cameras showing images of Hawaii.

We call it seehawaiilive.com.

People can see what the weather is like; people can see what the surf is like. That happened about three weeks ago.

Delta.com, which is one of our partners, has actually redesigned their Web concept. Delta.com has changed their entire Web position to be more of a destination. So what they've done is partner with Fodor's and they are going to be highlighting one destination a month. They've just relaunched. The first destination they are featuring is Maui. The airline is trying to drive traffic to the destination with which they have the most capacity.

Q: What's new with the Starwood preferred guest program?

A: Obviously Hawaii is a huge and most popular destination for awards, so people are spending money with Starwood then redeeming for a pleasure vacation, which is great. What we're finding is that the property that has the highest redemption has significant high bookings. Not only are there a lot of guests redeeming awards at the Westin Maui but we're also finding that Starwood preferred guests are paying to stay at the Westin Maui. They're also driving a lot of additional business at a higher rate of ADR (average daily rate) than we see in other segments.

Q: Waikiki is boosting room revenue after major declines. How do you do that when Web sites are offering cheap hotel rooms?

A: One thing that we've found when we do an analysis of the rate plans that are booked, we've found that the Web plans are yielding much higher revenue than they once did. Online booking is no longer a cheap way of getting a vacation done; it's just the way people are booking rooms. Guests prefer to book online. So our average daily rate for Web booking is extremely high and getting higher.


Inside Hawaii Inc. is a weekly conversation with business and community leaders. Suggestions can be sent to business@starbulletin.com.



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