In addition to being a general manager, I’m also an observer. I observe everyone — from the grocer to the ticket agent at the airport, to our staff and, most importantly, our guests. I’m always observing. I’m consciously aware of what our guests are doing, experiencing and, ultimately, what brings them back to our island paradise time after time. Sure, the warm climate, luxurious setting and pampering service are an instant draw, but what really keeps guests coming back for more? In my observations, it’s the people and the culture. Guests want to connect with the destination and feel immersed and invested in the landscape. This is, after all, why the majority of us travel, wouldn’t you say?
Whether you are in a metropolis or a remote island such as Lanai, culture abounds. The culture can be woven into the experience in a variety of areas — from food, health and wellness to activities and music, and it’s integral to capturing a destination’s unique sense of place.
Our Ho’okipa program, for example, offers guests this experience. The program, meaning “hospitality” in Hawaiian, is an ongoing series of interactive cultural classes created by Lanai kupuna, or Hawaiian elders. As with its namesake, the complimentary program’s goal is to enrich and inspire visitors while allowing access to the island’s most revered elders. While we pride ourselves on innovation and forward thinking, the Ho’okipa program reminds us that sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back. The Lanai kupuna are incredible ambassadors for the island, and the one-on-one time with our guests is genuine, candid and exactly the experience guests seem to be in search of.
I’ve watched guests of all demographics — kids, tweens and couples — to kupuna themselves participate in the program. The feedback is incredible, and the look on their faces says it all. From ukulele jam sessions to hula and lei-making, I’ve witnessed guests stand in our Great Hall and perform an impromptu recital with the kupuna as a result of their excitement. A recent guest shared his experience with me, noting it was one of the most memorable visits due to this program. The guest had never played guitar — let alone a ukulele — before, and by the end of the session Aunty had him playing and singing to Hawaiian tunes. The enthusiasm from the guest was infectious.
The authentic glimpse into the culture, combined with the general warmth of the instructors, allows the program to be authentic and, most of all, real.
Take a look around your hotel, destination and surroundings. While not always obvious, there’s most definitely culture to share everywhere we look. Those that capture these curious moments of our guests tend to capture success as well.