Most general managers change hotels every few years. Not so for
Kathleen Horrigan, who took the helm of the Four Seasons Resort
Hualalai when it opened 10 years ago and hasn’t left since.
“From the moment I set foot on the property, I felt like I
belonged here,” she said. “Hawaii is such a welcoming place.”
On a recent visit, Horrigan talked about what keeps her at the
243-room Big Island hotel, which consistently boasts the highest
year-end average occupancy of all Four Seasons properties around
“When we opened one decade ago, Four Seasons chairman Isadore
Sharpe told me that our hotel would set the tone for a new
generation of resorts,” said Horrigan. “Our decentralized design,
with its low-rise bungalows and multiple water features, has
contributed to our success. Another big selling factor is that
every room has an ocean view, a real plus in any tropical
Just as Horrigan is a natural fit for her job, Four Seasons
Hualalai looks and feels like it belongs in its surroundings, with
lava rock walls, hundreds of coconut trees and meandering walkways.
Guestroom interiors take their influence from the environment as
well from earth tones to the use of bamboo, thatch and slate in
As Horrigan describes it, Four Seasons Hualalai will always be a
work in progress. It recently transformed an underutilized private
dining area into the Lava Lounge, now a popular gathering spot for
signature cocktails, snacks and live entertainment.
Its Hualalai Sports Club and Spa has grown to meet demand,
building a climbing wall and adding a resistance gym with weights
to its cardio and aerobics facilities. Additional improvements of
late include new furniture at the resort’s Pau Ia restaurant and
thatched roofs and matchstick blinds on the poolside cabanas.
“I’m proud of how we’ve constantly upgraded the product,” said
Horrigan, noting that all guestrooms and suites recently got new
soft goods and 42-inch plasma-screen televisions.
In the past 10 years, Four Seasons Hualalai has kept one step
ahead of each client’s needs through thoughtful tinkering of its
“My goal is for every return guest to see new things each time
they arrive,” said Horrigan. “It’s the little touches that make the
difference with the guest experience, from the aromatherapy candles
in the bathroom to curbside check-in for repeat clients, who are
ushered directly to their room. We want guests to know that when we
raise our rates, we’re adding more and more value, too.”
By way of example, she pointed to the many gratis amenities now
offered by the Sea Shell and Beach Tree pools, two of the resort’s
five distinct swimming holes. Employees stop by cabanas and chaise
lounges on a regular basis with complimentary sunglasses cleaning,
Evian spritzes, cold towels, flavored iced water, chilled eye gels,
pre-loaded iPods and twice-daily servings of fruit kebobs and
popsicles. Based on demand, the hotel now provides full food
service by the pool, so hungry clients can enjoy a meal without
leaving their lounge chairs.
With 70 percent of its market coming from California, Four Seasons
Hualalai works closely with Western U.S. travel agents to keep
their clients happy.
“We want to exceed expectations by keeping in constant
communication with agents,” said Horrigan, “and we’re always
looking for ways to reward our travel partners.”
This month, the hotel launched a program for top-producing travel
agents, providing their clients with a free appetizer sampler at
the Lava Lounge, courtesy of the agent and the resort.
Horrigan isn’t the only member of the Four Seasons Hualalai team
to have worked there for 10 years. Of its 650 employees, 106 boast
one decade of service at the resort.
“This core group of employees embodies the Four Seasons culture,”
said Horrigan. “They pass on their passion, skills and knowledge to
new employees and guests. Our property is physically gorgeous, but
it’s the people who work here who make the difference.”
Clearly, the dedication of the hotel’s employees begins at the
top, with Horrigan herself.
“At a Four Seasons resort, the relationship with the customer is
more intimate than at a city hotel,” she said. “This property is my
baby, and I’ve watched it grow up. I hope I’ll be here for the next
10 years and beyond.”
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
72-100 Kaupulehu Dr.
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
For 2006, nightly rack rates range from $625-$925 for rooms and
$1,050-$8,350 for suites, with 10 percent commission paid to travel
A 10th Anniversary package from $625 per night includes breakfast
for two and a fifth-round-free certificate for Hualalai Golf Club’s
Jack Nicklaus course. The package applies to stays from Sept.