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A Sense of Place: Sharing the Magic of Grand Wailea with the World (Part 1 of 2)

Leisure Sales Manager Molly Sanborn on the joy of travel
Grand Wailea
November 10th, 2022

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting us here at Grand Wailea, you already know what a unique place this is, and how our resort can connect you to the otherworldly natural beauty of Maui in unforgettable ways. Perhaps you returned home and told everyone you know that they absolutely need to visit Grand Wailea to experience it for themselves, or perhaps you tagged all your vacation photos with #DropEverythingAndVisitGrandWaileaMauiRightNow in a determined bid to tell the world what you now know—that our one-of-a-kind Maui resort offers a travel experience that inspires and transforms, and that a visit to our island paradise should be at the top of everyone’s list of dream destinations.

Believe us, we understand. In fact, this very desire drives our Leisure Sales team, which works tirelessly to share the magic of Grand Wailea with the world. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Molly Sanborn, a Leisure Sales Manager here at Grand Wailea, to learn more about her role, and how she and her team are able to create meaningful, authentic connections with guests.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

hilt volunteer

Tell us a little about who you are and how you ended up at Grand Wailea, Molly.

I’m originally from Maine and moved to Maui in 2013. I fell in love with the island immediately and knew I wanted to stay for the long run, so when there was an opening here at Grand Wailea, I applied right away and was lucky enough to join the team as an administrative assistant. In that position, I worked hard to learn all I could about Grand Wailea, even exploring every nook and cranny of the resort to familiarize myself with each detail. Kenji [Ota, Grand Wailea’s Director of Sales] was an early role model, and Frank [Rodgers, Grand Wailea’s Associate Director of Sales] took me under his wing.

Being a part of the Leisure Sales team was invaluable from day one, since what we do requires a 360-degree view of Grand Wailea, from reaching out to new guests, to ensuring each guest experience is perfect until the moment they depart Maui.

molly sanborn

What’s your current role?

I work as a Leisure Sales Manager and absolutely love what this job entails. I’m based on property, which means that I get to meet with travel agents who are visiting Maui and are either staying in-house with us or staying at another beautiful hotel or resort on the island. When I meet with different travel agents, I love being able to connect both professionally and personally. One question I love to ask is, “What’s one of your favorite places you’ve traveled to?” Their answers always spark ideas for my travel list!

I think, broadly speaking, that traveling betters people; traveling allows us to see life in new ways and hopefully it helps the heart grow a tiny bit more. Travel agents give us that gift, and whether I’m giving them a tour of the resort, hosting them for a meal, or meeting them at a tradeshow, the conversations are always exceptional.


In this age of e-commerce and e-tourism, how has the role of travel agents evolved?

Historically, the number of full-time travel agents in the US actually dropped by almost half from about 2000 to 2015. This reflected the initial boom in online travel sites and online booking. However, in the one and a half years I’ve been in my current role, there’s been a resurgence in the number of travel agents. This growth has coincided with the receding of the COVID-19 pandemic, as when things began opening up, a lot of families wanted to travel again the second it was possible but didn’t know what the rules were for different destinations. So the number of travel agents grew to accommodate this pent-up travel demand, and to help people navigate the patchwork rules and paperwork, which differed by destination.

That said, I believe this growth will be sustained, since travel agents save people time and make things much less stressful when making travel plans, especially when it comes to things like flight cancellations.

But it also goes far beyond that. The travel agents I’ve had the pleasure of working with are valuable resources who can provide travelers with new ideas and perspectives on where to travel, as well as unique insights on specific destinations. Unlike online bookings or ratings sites, travel agents offer a personalized experience and advice on the more subjective aspects of a vacation. This enables a traveling family or a group of friends to create and give shape to a holiday that is tailored to their exact needs.


So travel agents provide for a more bespoke travel experience?

Yes, exactly. Let me give you an example from my own work. When I was brand new in my current role, a travel agent reached out to us about booking two Hoʻolei Villas for a client’s bachelorette party. The travel agent was already familiar with Grand Wailea and was able to suggest Hoʻolei Villas to their client based on the client’s specific requests, which included things like the need for privacy, beach access, ocean views, a private pool, multiple lanais and bedrooms, and a gourmet kitchen.

Together with the travel agent, our entire team here worked seamlessly to ensure that each member of the bachelorette party was provided with exactly what they needed, from pre-arrival food purchases to personalized daily itineraries that enabled the whole group to not only experience our resort, but also a range of day trips and island adventures on Maui.

In the end, they loved everything we did for them, and to see it come to life was amazing. That experience enabled me to thoroughly understand the high standard we’ve set at Grand Wailea to provide every guest with an unforgettable Maui experience and a lifetime of memories.

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