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Hawaiians don’t say goodbye when travelers leave the islands. Instead, they say, “A hui hou,” which means “Until we meet again.” Nobody could have predicted that COVID-19 would delay those reunions for more than five months, but clients can be sure that everything they love about the Aloha State is waiting for them upon their return.
As of press time, the state of Hawaii is imposing a 14-day self-quarantine requirement for all travelers. Hawaii’s reopening date has now been delayed to Oct. 1, according to Hawaii Goveror David Ige.
However, properties across the state are eager to welcome travelers back.
One of those is Maui’s 432-room beachfront Kaanapali Beach Hotel — often called “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” — which had just begun an extensive $75 million renovation as the pandemic hit. The Kealaula (meaning the light of early dawn and the glow of sunset) property enhancement project is expected to be completed by the time travelers are able to return to Maui. It includes a new 5,000-square-foot oceanfront restaurant themed around Hawaiian wayfinding, as well as the upgrade and redesign of 264 guestrooms in the Papaku Wing (formerly known as Kauai) and Kauhale Wing (formerly known as Lanai).
“The focus of the project is to reflect and respect the Hawaiian culture, and enhance opportunities to provide the exceptional and culturally enriching experiences for which Kaanapali Beach Hotel has become known,” according to general manager Mike White.
We spoke to John White, sales and marketing director for the property, about what clients can expect as the Kealaula project nears completion and the hotel prepares to reopen post-COVID-19.
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What are the changes that guests can expect from the Kealaula project?We are very excited to have ramped up our renovation from just one wing and an oceanfront restaurant to two wings plus the restaurant. So, the “glass half full” side of things is that we were able to tackle these projects during this shutdown, and just over 60% of our rooms will be fully renovated by the fourth quarter of this year.
Are there new experiences clients can look forward to?The new oceanfront restaurant, Huihui, will open this December. The definition of Huihui is a place where things intersect together. So, whether it’s the food, people coming from all over the world to gather here on Maui or paying homage to Polynesian voyaging — those three different elements have been wrapped into the new restaurant concept.
We will also be announcing a space to house the hotel’s Hawaiian paddling and sailing canoes, and new activities including a family-friendly sailing academy on a small sailing vessel that we will launch from there. We will also continue our outrigger canoe program, which we started about a year and a half ago. Two of our staff have sailed with Polynesian Voyaging Society on the voyaging canoe Hokulea, so these are real watermen and women who practice what they preach on a daily basis. I always learn something when I go out with them.
What health and safety measures will be in place when the hotel reopens?The safety of guests and employees is paramount, so we began to prepare early for this new reality from a health and safety perspective. In April, we partnered with the Maui Department of Health and were a respite hotel for frontline workers and those who tested positive for COVID-19, so we learned valuable information from that. We have implemented all the CDC guidelines and the guidelines from the Hawaii State Department of Health on both the restaurant side and the lodging side. But, we know it’s a fluid situation, so we continue to update our policies as needed.
(Editor’s note: Because the property is very open, guests will have plenty of options for social distancing. In addition, group sizes will be limited for all activities, including The Aloha Passport kids’ program. The one thing that won’t be offered at the initial reopening is the hotel’s award-winning Sunday brunch buffet.)
The hotel has earned a lot of devoted fans over the years. What’s the secret?One of the key things about our hotel is our employees. Mr. [Mike] White has been our general manager for 35 years, which is the longest-serving general manager in the state of Hawaii. Our bellman, Uncle Bobby, and Dale, our bartender, have been here 51 years. So, the reason that a lot of guests come back year after year is our employees. When we do open, we want our employees to continue to have that sense of aloha, and to say thank you to every guest that is ready to come and travel to Maui. Our general manager and our owners wanted to make sure that what makes Kaanapali Beach Hotel special will be there when the governor allows us to open back up. The DetailsKaanapali Beach Hotelwww.kbhmaui.com