A Natural Fit

Four Seasons Hualalai and its staff celebrate a decade of service

By: Marty Wentzel

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 the world.

“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 destination.”

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 their decor.

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 services.

“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 agents.

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. 15-Dec. 18.

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