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Waikiki hotels part of $750M upgrade

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Waikiki hotels part of $750M upgrade

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

hawaii707240338AR_b.jpg

This is pretty darn huge and the renderings of the finish product look pretty good although, I wish that they were drawn a little better.

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The iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel will soon have a new entrance, a "fantasy swimming pool" complex to share with the Sheraton Waikiki and extensive room upgrades as a wave of hotel renovations continues.

Kyoya Management Co. Ltd. is investing heavily in those two hotels and its two other Waikiki properties: the Moana Surfrider and the Princess Kaiulani.

The $750 million investment includes:

# $110 million for Royal Hawaiian guest rooms and grounds;

# $80 million for Sheraton Waikiki rooms, corridors, suites and elevators;

# Tens of millions to rebrand the Moana; and

# Demolishing two lower towers of the Princess Kaiulani, replacing them with one taller tower and shorter retail buildings.

The four Kyoya properties include more than 4,100 rooms on 21 acres, much of it beachfront. Ernest Nishizaki, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Kyoya, said work on the project will continue at least through 2011.

Kyoya's project comes amid a boom in hotel renovation in Hawai'i with more than a dozen major projects in the pipeline or recently completed.

The wave of renovations can be traced to a number of factors and includes a recent focus on more quality visitors instead of quantity, said Murray Towill, president of the Hawai'i Hotel & Lodging Association.

There is also the competition from other warm-weather vacation destinations such as Mexico, Thailand and the Caribbean.

Having enjoyed record-setting hotel bookings with occupancy that averaged above 70 percent statewide, the companies have the money to spend on reinvestment.

"Given the success of recent years, people have more resources to be able to make re-investment," Towill said.

PEER PRESSURE

Hotels are also under pressure to improve when competitors a few doors down invest tens of millions to renovate. "When one company does it, more need to," Towill said.

But Towill sees it as much demanded by customers, who want to do more things, explore new food, destinations and culture. "You have to continually improve your product," he said.

A big change for the Royal Hawaiian will be a new entrance visible from Kalakaua Avenue. The current entrance is tucked off to the side of the Sheraton entrance with a left turn that leaves drivers uneasy about whether they're driving where they should. The vintage porte cochere clogs easily with cab and car traffic.

The area surrounding the old entrance will be turned into a grass lawn with a lanai or stage. The new entrance would appear on the other side of the hotel, leaving the buildings intact.

Kyoya's Nishizaki has a long history with the Royal Hawaiian. He first showed up regularly at the pink palace landmark in 1966 when he worked as a busboy in the Monarch Room. Walking the grounds, he calls many of the employees by name, checking in with them one moment and shaking a guest's hand the next.

While he welcomes the new "improved" resort, he values the history: "It will always be called The Royal Hawaiian Hotel," he said. "Nothing is going to be taken down."

Greg Dickhens, Kyoya executive vice president and senior adviser, points to changes at the Sheraton Waikiki that include redoing the entire front and pulling the front desk up where it's accessible from the entrance rather than hidden in the center of a retail area.

Many recent hotel renovations feature extensive spas that offer massages and facials and other pampering. They spotlight fitness centers. They add new restaurants, flat-screen TVs and wireless Internet.

Marriott will have spent close to $200 million over a three-year period on properties across the state and expects to spend more, said Ed Hubennette, Marriott International's vice president for Japan, Hawai'i and the South Pacific.

"We've been very successful for several years," Hubennette said.

His company just spent $50 million at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Big Island of Hawai'i and $78 million at Wailea on Maui and plans to spend $40 million on the Kaua'i Marriott next year, $18 million on the JW Marriott at Ko Olina and $25 million on the rooms at the Waikiki Marriott, he said.

Hubennette called from the Kohala Coast resort to talk about the changes in style in hotels.

"It's kind of the Pottery Barn/Crate & Barrel phenomenon," he said. Travelers who spend time and money to have designer kitchens at home will expect luxury.

COMFIER, CLEANER LOOK

While lobbies of old were more formal with limited seating, that model is disappearing. Hubennette said the renovations feature comfortable seating in areas that "you can hang out in, use your computer, read a book, get a coffee."

Waikoloa general manager Rodney Ito said the new look is cleaner. "You don't see the traditional floral prints everywhere. It won't take away from nature," Ito said. "The view will be the attraction."

Hubennette agrees that the wave of renovations is natural after years of boom and a smart business move in light of increased competition.

"We really compete with the world as a product," Hubennette said. "Even though we have a very unique environment that doesn't exist anywhere else, we've got a culture that doesn't exist anywhere else and things that nobody can ever replicate or buy."

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