Experience Required

Kauai Marriott creates ‘Epic’ program for guests

By: Marty Wentzel

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Employees at the Kauai Marriott are
participating in “sense-of-place” training.
When Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club general manager Bill Countryman uses the word epic, he doesn’t mean cinematic, literary or even heroic. Instead, he sees something as epic when it surpasses the ordinary, and that’s exactly the kind of experience he aims to provide his guests.

Throughout this year, the Kauai Marriott will be repositioning its approach to guest services by launching what Countryman calls the Epic Hawaiian Experience program.

“We want to share a deeper meaning behind each activity,” he said. “For instance, most every hotel offers lei-making classes. But when our guests take part in lei-making, we want them to learn the meaning behind each strand, the etiquette of stringing a lei and the lei materials specific to Kauai. Eventually we hope to start the classes by taking clients into the garden where they can even pick their own flowers.”

As it strives to immerse its guests in the Hawaiian culture, the Kauai Marriott has established itself as the host hotel for Halau Rohotu, a hula troupe that calls the resort its practice studio. Far from polished shows, the group’s free, open-to-the-public hula sessions give clients a firsthand behind-the-scenes look at the discipline and art involved in learning the sacred Hawaiian dance, which helps them take hula more seriously.

Another innovative Kauai Marriott program focuses on the rare Niihau shell, prized for its gem-like appearance. Harvested on the private island of Niihau, the shells hold great meaning to Hawaiians. For $15 per person, clients learn how to turn the tiny shells into fashionable earrings, which normally command top dollar at retail stores.

Plenty of hotels designate a time when guests can feed the colorful koi that swim in their ponds. Countryman, however, wants to be able to invite youngsters to actually wade among his hotel’s 1,500 colorful creatures during the event, creating splashy photo opportunities and cementing island memories. This program will begin in the next few months, he said.

The east Kauai hotel has received the go-ahead to host a farmer’s market in one of its parking lots, which will bring guests and residents face to face over local produce, herbs, arts, crafts, flowers, plants and homemade foods. And, the property recently started its Hawaii Word of the Day program at the concierge desk.

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The Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club has
a new program to enhance guest experiences.
Meanwhile, guests can take a step back in time during the Kauai Marriott’s free History and Legends of Kalapaki tour, focusing on the importance of the area surrounding the hotel. And, on the guided walk through the resort’s native and indigenous gardens, clients find out about such rarities as the canoe plants that the Polynesians brought to the islands over 2,500 years ago.

While guests partake in these epic Hawaiian experiences, the hotel’s employees are getting their own immersion course. Acclaimed cultural expert Ramsay Taum has created a sense-of-place training program to make sure staff members embody the authentic spirit of the islands.

“Ramsay effectively works with Hawaii’s development, travel, leisure and retail industries, where he integrates native Hawaiian cultural values and principles into the contemporary business setting,” said Countryman.

It’s fitting that the Kauai Marriott would create extraordinary guest experiences, because the 356-room, 52-acre resort is an epic in its own right. Its swimming pool one of Hawaii’s largest boasts 26,000 square feet of water surface and 1 million tiles. For groups, the hotel features more than 80,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 16,500-square-foot Kauai Ballroom the largest on the island and more than 60,000 square feet of tropical gardens and beachside grounds for outdoor functions. And, it’s the only hotel with its own private drive between Lihue Airport and the porte cochere.

For the bride- and groom-to-be, the Kauai Marriott recently unveiled its Wailele Terrace, a new outdoor chapel on the top of a hill. Rising above waterfalls and ponds, the 950-square-foot venue is reached by a lava staircase and flagstone path. A sprawling banyan tree embraces couples as they exchange their vows. Wailele Terrace accommodates up to 60 people for receptions and 50 guests for banquet dinners.

A sense of place permeates the Kauai Marriott in a number of ways. Kukui’s Restaurant is displaying a new Hawaiian sea salt station on its buffet. Hotel guests can start their mornings with Kauai coffee, and they can drink Kauai Springs Water out of environmentally friendly bottles. In the spirit of aloha, employees pass fresh tropical fruit around the pool twice daily, and a lei hostess sells a variety of aromatic strands to the resort’s guests when they’re ready to celebrate another epic moment in Hawaii.


Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club

Nightly Rates for 2008: Rooms from $359-$524, suites from $694-$2,600

Through Dec. 20, clients can book the Hawaiian Sand Dollars package providing daily breakfast for two and the fifth night free (from $359).

Commission: 10 percent