A career in hospitality was practically Sandy Narvaez’s birthright—her father worked at Paradise Cove, where she got the opportunity to lifeguard in college, and her mother was a director of IT with Polynesian Adventure Tours, where she later worked as an outside sales and promotions manager. But even during her time double-majoring in international business and marketing at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and finding relevant work after college, she still didn’t consider that a career in hospitality might be her destiny.
In 2007, Narvaez signed on as a sales manager at Makaha Resort & Golf Club, assuming duties in sales and marketing, handling outside sales efforts and servicing large travel groups. After two years, Narvaez decided to step away from tourism and try her hand at retail as a sales and marketing director for The Wedding Ring Shop. But it took her just six months of being away to realize that hospitality was the perfect vehicle to cultivate her passion for travel and new experiences.
In 2010, Narvaez joined the Hilton Waikiki Beach on Kuhio as its transient and group sales manager before accepting a promotion to director of sales and marketing for the DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki. She decided to return to Kuhio as assistant director of sales to focus on the birth of her second child, but within a year she was back in her beloved director role, ready to tackle any challenges Hilton could throw at her.
Today Narvaez strives to achieve Hilton’s goals for growth while building a talented team of industry professionals united by a common vision for excellent service. With 601 guest rooms, all-hour room service and 17,000 square feet of event space, the Hilton Waikiki Beach on Kuhio is one of the busiest in Waikiki. Narvaez’s responsibilities are extensive, but she’s grateful that no two days are the same. Her efforts have contributed to many measures of success, including earning the hotel a number-one ranking in guest loyalty and customer satisfaction within the Americas region of Hilton Worldwide. “Together we review our strategies and ensure we are working diligently to achieve our goals,” she says. “That award is definitely something we are proud of because it illustrates our focus on providing outstanding guest service while working together as one unit.”
Narvaez says the most challenging aspect of her job is balancing her role as a driven businesswoman with an equally busy home life caring for two children. Her secret? “It’s about authenticity,” she says. “My life is full of constant decisions and trade-offs. At the end of the day, I do my best to live the most authentic life possible, and at work it’s equally important that our team is motivated to succeed and maintain a healthy work-life balance.”
Narvaez’s greatest satisfaction is seeing her staff grow and forge collaborative solutions. “I am passionate about helping them strengthen their skillsets and evolve to the next level of their abilities,” she says. “Whether we are looking at numbers and identifying an opportunity or just working out a communication barrier, finding solutions is fun. The hospitality industry presents so many opportunities to think beyond our comfort zones and that ‘light bulb’ moment really energizes me.” One idea she’s helped bring to fruition is a new virtual reality app that lets travelers experience the hotel’s picturesque ocean views before booking their stay. Right now, Narvaez and her team are focused on finding creative ways to market the hotel’s M.A.C 24/7 restaurant and special event venues like its Altitude @ 37 space, as well as figuring out how to further infuse Hawaiian culture into the guest experience.
No matter the endeavor, Narvaez prides herself on being a trustworthy business partner who is sincere in her efforts. “One thing I am very proud of is the fact that I was born and raised here in Hawai‘i and was able to climb the ladder thus far as a local,” she says. “I think it’s my responsibility to incorporate that aloha into my team.” Above all, Narvaez’s single most important motivator is that she truly loves what she does. “I think Maya Angelou said it best,” she says. “‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.’”