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Hawaiian culture places a strong emphasis on family and hospitality. The Hawaiian term for family, ohana, encompasses this spirit of welcoming. For employees at some of Maui’s oldest resorts, ohana plays a key role in everyday life.
Over the years, some Maui resorts have made a point of hiring family members across multiple generations. As a result, many employees have a parent, child, aunt or uncle who works at the same property. The family dynamic within each of these resorts creates a distinct and welcoming atmosphere for employees and guests alike.
Below are just a few examples of the ohana spirit in action at Maui resorts.
Sheraton Maui Resort & SpaLaurie DeCoite’s family is one of many with multiple family members working at Sheraton Maui. DeCoite was hired in 1988 as a telephone operator, and her mother Cheryl Takahashi has been a housekeeper at the resort since 1971.
According to DeCoite, many employees are proud to work at Sheraton Maui due to its rich history — the resort celebrates its 50th anniversary this year — and are loyal to the resort because of its family atmosphere.
“The associates genuinely care and notice what is going on with each other. It’s a loving, caring, friendly place to work,” she said.
According to Lee Otaguro, Sheraton Maui’s human resources manager, the employees’ strong ties to the resort directly improve the guest experience. Staff members are able to share insider stories about the resort’s history and develop long-lasting bonds with repeat guests who, as a result, feel more at home.
Royal Lahaina ResortAt Royal Lahaina Resort, it is common to find relatives among the employees. Of the resort’s 363 employees, 133 of them are related.
For example, June Pagdilao, an employee since 1984, met his wife Cara while working at the resort. At the time, Cara managed the hotel’s Royal Ocean Terrace restaurant. Their two daughters grew up on the property and also worked at the restaurant.
“It’s a true family tradition at the resort,” said Gary Hogan, chief executive officer of Hawaiian Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Royal Lahaina. “We have second and third generations of families here serving our guests. Their great loyalty, pride and sense of family carries over and makes the guest experience truly special.”
Hogan believes that the ohana spirit goes beyond creating a pleasant stay for guests — it inspires them to return because they feel a connection to the resort.
Travaasa Hana, MauiTravaasa Hana general manager Danny Mynar is a third generation employee of the resort, formerly the Hotel Hana-Maui which opened in 1946.
Mynar’s grandmother, grandfather and mother all were employed by the resort, and he grew up on an old plantation camp where the resort’s Sea Ranch Cottages now stand.
Mynar joined Travaasa Hana in 2002. He and many other staff members have multigenerational ties to the hotel.
“I continue to be proud to manage this iconic hotel that has been at the heart of the Hana community and my family for multiple generations,” Mynar said.
According to Mynar, the resort’s connection to its community helps to maintain its spirit of hospitality and authentic feel.
Kaanapali Beach ResortAt Kaanapali Beach Resort, Hanalei, Peters and his family have created a legacy. Peters, who has worked at the resort for more than 40 years, helped to choose the tree used to build the waa (sailing canoe) now displayed in the hotel courtyard.
Peters’ wife, daughter, son-in-law and nephew have all worked at the resort. His daughter, Lani Moala, even recalls her parents befriending guests and welcoming them into their house.
“By having family working together at the hotel, guests can feel the ohana spirit as soon as they walk through the doors,” Moala said.
According to Wendy Munetake, the hotel’s director of human resources, a multigenerational staff creates an atmosphere of pride and loyalty, which translates into a more intimate and memorable guest experience. She said that many employees have made special connections with repeat guests, sometimes meeting with them outside the resort to trade stories and catch up.
With multiple generations of staff and ties to local communities, these resorts on Maui exhibit a unique brand of hospitality that goes beyond the typical business model. By treating everyone like family, they keep employees and guests coming back for generations.