Are there any unique skills or experiences that you bring to the table, or a new approach or perspective on the industry?
I always tell people that I’m not in the service industry—I’m in the ho‘okipa business. We’re here to host and welcome visitors from around the world and welcome them to our home. These experiences don’t just extend to our guests. They are part of the culture we live every day. In this way, the culture is innately integrated into the guest experience, which truly makes Hawai‘i unique as a destination.
This thinking has greatly prepared me for my position at Aulani, where we have a strong focus on the community and give back in a number of ways, including Disney VoluntEAR events, donations and community-outreach activities. In this way, we are paying it forward—thanking the community for everything it does to allow us to host guests from all over the world.
What sets Aulani apart from other resorts? How has it remained competitive with hotel brands with a longer history in Hawai‘i?
Aulani’s distinguishing factor has always been storytelling. Disney is a storytelling company and Hawai‘i is a storytelling culture. At Aulani, we have brought the two together to share the stories, culture and traditions of Hawai‘i with guests, members and the community in an unforgettable and magical way. I am proud of the role Aulani has played in expressing the stories of our home, and in celebrating and sharing the Hawaiian spirit, people and culture with the world.
Do you partner with other entities to bolster the industry as a whole?
As a business on the Leeward Coast, Aulani is dedicated to working with our community partners to continue to bring vibrancy to West O‘ahu. Our participation with Ko Olina Resort at the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival has been an extremely successful tactic, and we look forward to expanding on the tradition this year by supporting the Keiki in Kitchen event, which will be held in Ko Olina this year.
This goal also expands into education as we prepare our workforce for jobs in the tourism industry. Recently, I partnered with Aulani’s sales and services director to help build the semester project for one of the business classes at the University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu. This exposed students to real examples of projects they would possibly work on in the hospitality industry. The project was a success, both for the students as well as the industry talent pool here on the west side.
Are you or the hotel involved in any community outreach?
Aulani finds purpose and joy in giving back to the local community and has made this a priority since day one. We have made a dedicated investment in the local community, from character visits to local hospitals, to making nearly half a million dollars in charitable donations to local organizations in need, to cast members giving back more than 7,000 hours via our VoluntEARS program.
In honor of Aulani’s fifth anniversary, the resort recently donated $25,000 to The Friends of Ho¯ku¯ le‘a and Hawai‘iloa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of canoe building. The donation will fund a program in conjunction with Partners in Development Foundation that will provide Leeward Coast children and their families with the opportunity to spend time together learning about culture, stories and history passed down through the tradition of canoe building.
What are your chief responsibilities as GM at Aulani?
My duties include overseeing the daily operations of the 832-room resort and leading a staff of more than 1,700 employees—“cast members,” as we call them at Disney. Upholding a fun and engaging work environment for our cast members is equally as important as creating an exceptional guest experience. When our cast members are happy and feel valued, they are able to share more of their genuine aloha spirit and Hawaiian ho‘okipa—hospitality— with our guests and each other.