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Grand Ohana

A group photo of some of the more than 130 people who have worked for Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa since it opened its doors Nov. 15, 1990 PHOTO COURTESY OF GHKRAS

A group photo of some of the more than 130 people who have worked for Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa since it opened its doors Nov. 15, 1990 PHOTO COURTESY OF GHKRAS

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa celebrates its 25th anniversary this month with its dedicated employees, who are key to its longevity

While many hotels remained closed after Hurricane Iniki ravaged the island in 1992, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, which celebrated its 25th anniversary Nov. 15, was back in business just six months later. As one of the island’s largest employers, Takenaka Corporation of Japan made sure its employees were still able to earn a living.

“It was a difficult time for us and the entire island of Kauai,” says Toichi Takenaka, chairman and CEO of Takenaka Corporation, during a video presentation at the hotel’s recent anniversary celebration. “Still, I made a decision to open the hotel as quickly as possible.”

It was unusual for the resort to reopen so soon, as the economic forecast after the hurricane predicted that tourism would be impacted significantly for at least a year.

“Despite the devastation, this event (reopening) created a greater sense of grace and ohana,” says Takenaka.

Prior to opening the resort, it didn’t take Takenaka long to discover the beauty of the island.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa COCO ZINGARO PHOTO

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa COCO ZINGARO PHOTO

“The untouched nature (of Kauai) was calming and peaceful. It was the perfect place for the resort we had in mind,” he says.

He teamed up with Mel Ventura, president of Ventura Development Corporation, to create a hotel with a “classic Hawaiian touch” that is “comfortable, yet elegant,” says Takenaka.

That ambiance, along with the “outstanding staff,” are what “make this place very special,” he adds.

In fact, some 130 of the hotel’s approximately 900 employees have remained committed to their jobs since 1990, thanks to this sense of community.

Rupert Rowe, a landscaper for the hotel, appreciated that quick commitment. Rowe, who began working there as a security officer in 1990 and also was an engineer and bell captain, feels noble actions like this have provided him with the job security he needs for his family: wife Malaika, who works at the front desk, and their three kids Kalaea, Makala and Kamalei.

“It’s a big ohana, really,” says general manager Keith Butz. “They see their friends and family here, and it has a wonderful heritage and tradition, where they feel welcome and a part of something bigger. Our associates love each other, and our guests and want everyone to enjoy Kauai as much as they do.”

Ligaya Ansagay, a seam-stress in the laundry department, has worked for the hotel since it opened because she loves the ohana and the feeling of aloha her co-workers exude. She also shares this sentiment with guests.

“The guests are our priority,” says Ansagay.

Guests also are a priority for Claire Christian, a server at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Ilima Terrace.

“Anything I can do to accommodate them,” says the Kapaa High School graduate about the position she’s held since 1990. “I love serving.”

Meeting new people every day also keeps the job fun for Victor Ascuena.

“Being a doorman, I get to interact with a lot of people; with my personality, I like to interact with them,” he says.

He even gets to meet celebrities, like Carlos Santana.

“He’s, like, one of my idols, especially growing up,” says the guitar player.

Ascuena vacationed at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa one month after it opened in 1990, and made a decision right then and there to transfer from his post at Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the south shore of the Garden Isle.

“The Hyatt’s always treated me really nice, and I’ve always enjoyed it. I love this hotel, the beauty of it and the ocean. I just love the whole atmosphere of it,” he says.

What also sets the resort apart is its commitment to sustainability. It diverts about 15 tons of recyclables from the landfill each month, in addition to green waste and construction materials. Moreover, it has a photo-voltaic-covered carport that produces 465,000 kWh per year of clean energy; the pools are warmed by heat reclaimed from the A/C system; and a hydroponic farm on-site produces about 300 pounds of lettuce each week.

Plus, the hotel’s award-winning Poipu Bay Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., was the home of the PGA Gram Slam of Golf from 1996 to 2006. This was one of Adriane Ceria’s favorite events to plan for since she started working at the resort 25 years ago.

“Anything in this department is interesting; everything is different,” says Ceria, the event department’s administrative assistant, who helps put together conferences for companies such as Toshiba and local celebrations including Wilcox Memorial Hospital’s recent fundraising gala.

It’s employees like Ceria who continue to make Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa so special.

“We have a beautiful resort, but it’s the people who make it warm and make our guests want to return year after year,” says Butz, who started working there last year. “They love this resort as much as our guests do. Since day one, when someone comes to work here, it’s almost a calling. Everyone who comes here to work already has formed an opinion of our resort. The majority of our associates have a family member or friend who works here, so they know the property and all the great things we do here.”

Visit kauai.hyatt.com for more information. cocomidweek@gmail.com

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