This Tuesday, a group of U.S. travel advisors enjoyed a virtual preview of the $80 million renovation at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, which is slated to welcome guests again starting April 30.
Outrigger Hospitality Group officials, including Jeff Wagoner, president and CEO, hosted the event over Zoom, and offered the mainland-based advisors a sneak peek at improvements to the guestrooms of this now 658-key property, plus a virtual walk through the resort’s new Navigator penthouse suites, which are located on the Pacific Tower’s 18th floor.
Closed since last March, Outrigger Reef’s entire inventory of guestrooms was overhauled, according to officials, and the property now features a new spa and fitness center. Twenty-three entirely new rooms and three brand-new suites were added in the Diamond Head Tower, where a number of floors were tacked on to the existing building during the renovation.
Although it will be temporarily located elsewhere on property, the Voyager 47 Club Lounge is slated to open in the Diamond Head Tower this September. According to Outrigger officials, guests staying in either a suite or Voyager 47 Club room will be treated to oceanfront views and “gourmet bites and beverages, as well as bespoke concierge service.”
Christina Turrini, a California-based Frosch travel advisor who’s sold Hawaii for 25 years, said she was impressed by what she saw during the virtual preview, noting that the Voyager 47 Club Lounge is an offering that appeals to many of her clients.
“It’s kind of like a hotel within a hotel, where you get the additional care and the additional amenities,” Turrini said. “If you’ve been out all day hiking or surfing, and you just want to get something quick to eat, you can pop in there. It just offers peace of mind, and you feel like you’re really well taken care of, with more things included.”
The resort’s Kani Ka Pila Grille, which is well-known for its nightly Hawaiian music performed live by many of the state’s most popular artists, has also been expanded. It now features additional open-air seating and a larger performance stage. The full-service, pool-side eatery will reopen with live music on April 30.
On the other hand, Outrigger Reef’s signature beachfront dining venue, MonkeyPod Kitchen, run by Hawaii culinary icon Chef Peter Merriman, won’t open until December. The modern, chef-driven concept will take over the open-air location fronting Waikiki Beach that some may remember once operated as The Shorebird bar and restaurant.
Laura Lukasik, a longtime Hawaii expert who manages Viking Travel in Westmont, Ill., was also impressed by what she saw during the virtual preview, saying that Outrigger appears to have incorporated Hawaiian cultural and historical elements throughout the redesign.
“Clients want contemporary; there’s no doubt about it,” Lukasik said. “But they also want to feel like they’re in Hawaii, and I don’t think the property has lost its Hawaiian flair and feel, even with this new contemporary twist.”
Waikiki: A Recovering Destination
Outrigger’s Wagoner said that Hawaii’s most popular visitor destination has been through an astonishing transformation over the past year.
“When you look back about seven or eight months ago, in Waikiki, the streets were deserted – not a soul. It was the eeriest feeling,” Wagoner said. “But at the same time, we knew at some point we were going to recover, and we were going to recover in a big way, and we’re starting to turn the corner.”
We knew at some point we were going to recover, and we were going to recover in a big way, and we’re starting to turn the corner.
Wagoner said Outrigger has seen its Hawaii business surge over the last couple months. Thanks to increased demand and bookings from the U.S. mainland, the company has recently been operating at about 80% of its pre-pandemic levels. He also noted that airlift to Hawaii is expected to jump in May and June this year.
“We’re probably going to be at 150% of the pre-pandemic flights coming into Hawaii,” Wagoner said. “United Airlines has added flights, Southwest Airlines has added flights, and we really believe when we get into summer, we’re going to see a pretty significant uptick in travel coming from the U.S. mainland.”
An Update to Hawaii’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Wagoner also discussed a forthcoming change to interisland travel restrictions announced by Hawaii Governor David Ige on Tuesday. Starting May 11, Hawaii residents who’ve been vaccinated in the Aloha State — and can provide proof they’ve been inoculated — will be able to travel between islands without first undergoing a COVID-19 pretest to bypass the otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Ige and other state officials indicated during a Honolulu press conference Tuesday that the state isn’t yet ready to extend the vaccine exemption to those vaccinated outside of Hawaii, or to immunized visitors traveling to Hawaii on transpacific flights.
“The state is also working to develop a vaccination process for travelers who received their vaccination out of state,” Major General Ken Hara, director of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday during the press conference. “Once the process is identified and operationalized, the state will expand the program to include transpacific, continental United States and Alaska travelers. We are targeting this summer for that.”
Hawaii Safe Travels Program
Outrigger Hospitality Group