We chatted about inspiration and innovation with Russ Kembel, director of industry relations for Hilton Waikoloa Village, which will host the FICP Annual Conference in November.
Prevue: What does it mean to be innovative?
Kembel: We look at market trends and think of ways to be more creative while exceeding customer expectations. Customers frequently ask, “Why can’t Hawaii offer all-inclusive meal plans as they do in Mexico and the Caribbean?” Our operational leadership team took on the challenge and agreed, “Why not?” The result, we are now the only resort in Hawaii to offer an all-inclusive dining and beverage plan. It gives us a unique competitive advantage and brings greater value to guests who prefer this option.
In what ways are planners using your services to foster collaboration? A recent example: A major franchise company held its annual conference with over 1,000 delegates. Their annual tradition is to create a “Guinness Book of Records” type of event. A massive collaboration was required, including hundreds of our employees, the group’s attendees, community members and local school children; literally a cast of thousands. Three records were set: The longest human towel chain, largest towel mosaic forming an American flag and longest “high-five” chain. The towels were donated to Fisher House supporting families of military and veterans.
How have you enhanced the guest/attendee experience in creative ways?
In Hawaiian, “makai” means “toward the sea.” It is also a new hotel-within-a-hotel concept we created for those seeking an exclusive, intimate stay. Located in the newly renovated Lagoon Tower, guests feel they are in a true oasis, with some of the resort’s best ocean views combined with preferred access and privileges including a dedicated concierge, preferential seating for our dining options, a private MAKAI pool area, complimentary spa access and more.
Are there any local venues whose design and ambiance seem made for inspiring new ideas?
Two significant facilities are available to open the minds of our visitors. Imiloa is a futuristic facility whose mission is to honor Mauna Kea by sharing Hawaiian culture and science to inspire exploration. I also recommend Mauna Kea star-gazing at the summit, 13,976 feet above the sea, which opens a galaxy of inspiration to guests.