Kona’s Crown Jewel is Restored

Media Release:

It takes a lot to invest millions into any project at any time, much less during a recession. But the team at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel knew that the time was right for the iconic hotel to get a much-deserved “face-lift,” and began the initial planning in late 2007. With plans in hand by 2008, the project began. Today marks the completion of a two-year, $35 million renovation – the largest, most expensive, comprehensive enhancement undertaking in the hotel’s 35 years of operation.

Renovation

While a portion of time/investment went into things not readily visible (internal systems upgrades – fire, safety, energy-efficiency, plumbing, etc.), improvements to the things you can see are quite impressive. All 452 rooms, including five oceanfront one-bedroom suites, have been completely re-done. Everything is brand new. Contemporary in feel, island in vibe, soft good patterns mirror nostalgic Kona – with burnt red, brown, and celadon green hues and coffee motifs to celebrate Kona’s coffee history. Hardwood furnishings are enhanced with embossed Polynesian tattoo patterns. And subtle hints of the colors and texture of lava complement the overall design.  Spacious bathrooms have brand new bathtubs, sinks, furniture and fixtures. New in-room amenities include Bath & Body Works® bath products, iron/ironing board, flat screen television, complimentary coffee (and coffee makers), complimentary wireless Internet, and new mini refrigerators.

A brand new lobby and reception desk await guests, as does a new infinity-edged pool with Billfish Bar, lava-rock whirlpool, renovated dining room, and a selection of new retail shops.

Restoration

Nestled at Kamakahonu Bay, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel sits adjacent to Ahu’ena Heiau, Kamehameha the Great’s personal and final residence, and the center of political power in the Hawaiian Kingdom. Kamehameha used this site as a gathering place for his kāhuna (priests) and advisors to counsel and guide both he and his successor, Kamehameha II (Liholiho).

Sitting in such close proximity to an important cultural/historic site comes with much honor, respect, and responsibility. Ahu’ena Heiau, a National Historic Landmark, was last restored in 1999. Toward the end of 2008, Ahu’ena Heiau Inc. began a project to restore the roof of Hale Mana, one of the buildings at Kamakahonu. The completion of this project is slated for the end of May.

Several original portrait paintings of Hawaiian royalty that have graced the lobby of the hotel for decades, a treasured feather cape ahu’ula, feathered helmet mahi’ole, feather lei, war weapons, and lei niho palaoa (whale or walrus tooth necklace, usually made with human hair and worn only by royalty) are being restored as well. And, an original oil by notable Historian/Artist Herb Kawainui Kane that depicts Kamehameha I, his family, and advisors at Kamakahonu, is being restored by the artist himself.

Today, the grounds of Kamakahonu are still regarded as a gathering place – for meetings, planning sessions, training, events, luncheons, weddings, reunions, concerts, and more. Four meeting rooms located within the hotel have been fully refurbished to accommodate modern-day gathering needs.

Rediscovery

“A resort renaissance has happened at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, and it’s time for rediscovery. Our repeat visitors are overwhelmed with the changes. We have received tons of positive ‘WOW’ comments,” says Jak Hu, the hotel’s general manager. “The renovations have not only generated a lot of excitement from our guests, but they have had an incredible impact on our employees. This transformation is the start of a new beginning for our hotel and has restored a new sense of pride in our staff.”

“Pacifica Hotel Company has a history of purchasing hotels, renovating them, and bringing them back to life. The owners view King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel as a wonderful asset with a great location of historical and cultural significance,” added Hu.

E hele mai … come, rediscover King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Special introductory rates and promotions are being offered celebrate the project’s completion. For more information or to enter your name in a three-night stay giveaway, visit www.konabeachhotel.com, or find us on Facebook®.

Mayor Kenoi Convenes Tourism Strategy Initiative in Response to Japan Air Lines Flight Suspensions

Media Release:

Mayor Billy Kenoi today said he is disappointed that Japan Air Lines has decided to halt direct-flight service from Narita to Kona, but said that he is convening a special meeting between the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the County, the State Tourism Liaison and other major stakeholders such as the hotels and tour wholesale companies to pursue a strategy to respond to the flight suspension.

“Direct flights are critical to the well-being of our working families and small businesses, and we will work with all of the major players to preserve this vital component of our economy,” Mayor Kenoi said. “Kona is the only airport outside of Honolulu that receives international direct flights, and it is important that we develop a strategy that helps us preserve the federal infrastructure that is now in place in Kona to serve international arrivals.”

“The early warning that JAL plans to suspend flights to Kona in October gives the stakeholders an opportunity to collaborate with other airlines that may be interested in the Kona route,” Mayor Kenoi added.

HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney said JAL has been an excellent partner and participant in Hawai‘i’s tourism industry, providing direct flights to Kona since 1996. McCartney said he hopes the airline will re-evaluate its decision and restore its long-standing direct-flight service to Kona soon.

“We understand that the suspension of the Narita-Kona route was a difficult business decision for the airline.  JAL has been a loyal partner and friend to Hawai‘i.  While saddened by their difficult decision, we will continue to stand by and collaborate with JAL,” McCartney said.

“Like airlines worldwide, JAL is facing difficult market conditions and financial challenges,” said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.  “Fortunately, JAL’s decision comes at a time when the tourism data demonstrate there is still demand in Japan for travel to Hawai‘i.  Japanese arrivals to the County of Hawai‘i were up 1 percent year-to-date through March 2010 over arrivals during the same period in 2009.  In fact, JAL’s flights to Kona brought 69,175 visitors to the County of Hawai’i last year, a 4.4 percent increase over 2008 arrivals on the same route.  These are positive indicators that may encourage other airlines that are looking at Kona.”

JAL considered suspending service to Kona last year, but state, County and tourism industry officials urged the airline to reconsider and continue providing service. The latest announcement that JAL will halt service to Kona in October comes in the midst of a company-wide restructuring that will eliminate 16,500 jobs at JAL.

Leaders in the County of Hawai‘i visitor industry will gather in Kona today with HTA leadership and State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert to plan the next steps forward. Attending that meeting will be Mayor Kenoi; HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney; David Uchiyama, who is HTA’s vice president of brand management; and Big Island Visitor Bureau Executive Director George Applegate. Other participants will include representatives of major hotels, tour companies and other interests with a stake in the direct flights.