Delivering a truly bespoke and lasting memorable experience for customers is a challenge for anyone in the hospitality industry. One hotel in Okinawa is redefining what this means with its unique fusion of Hawaiian atmosphere and Japanese hospitality orchestrated by a dedicated team ready to co-create lasting memories for its customers. The Nagaoka Review speaks with Oana-Mihaela Dumitru (OMD), a member of the Guest Services team at Halekulani, to learn how the hotel creates impactful impression and lasting memories to its visitors.
NR: As one of the newest resort destinations in Okinawa, how is Halekulani different?
OMD: As many people may already be aware, Halekulani Okinawa is a hotel originally from Hawaii. Adding this to its essence, Halekulani Okinawa presents a mixture of the Hawaiian atmosphere with which our guests are being accustomed to, and the Japanese hospitality.
In addition to this, Okinawa is not similar to the main island of Japan. It has a very rich history, used to have its own kingdom called Ryukyu, and was considered to be an important commercial point in East Asia thanks to its geographical position. Because of that, Okinawan people tend to be different than the typical Japanese, making them closer to the image of an Oceania island. In my opinion, this also adds to the special atmosphere and the unique experiences provided by our hotel.
NR: Halekulani is a Hawaiian word which means ‘house befitting heaven.’ How do you make your guests feel that way?
OMD: In my opinion, I believe that the first step to create this impression is to focus on the atmosphere that our guests might feel once they step in the halls of our hotel for the first time. To impute this feeling, we had to create a new world different from our daily lives. Guests entering the hotel will see architectural pieces that convey the island’s culture and heritage and comfortable furnishings that offer a sense of spaciousness, luxurious conveniences, and memory-making ocean views.
While appearance is important, the way we offer services to our guests is also part of the overall experience. Guests want to feel pampered during their stay, forget about their worries, and go back to their homes with a long-lasting memory in their hearts. This is where we think and pay close attention to what is in front of us, make connections in our heads, and imagine what would we have wanted from Halekulani if we were the guests to make this happen.
NR: Will I feel more like I am in Hawaii or I am in Okinawa?
OMD: I think you will find elements from both worlds. You will feel as if you were in Hawaii, because of the facilities and services that we are offering, even though you are in Okinawa! In addition to this, the mindset here is quite different from the main land of Japan, giving our guests the sensation of being in an exotic place. Of course, our main mission is to offer people who are coming to our sanctuary a little bit from both islands, Hawaii and Okinawa. As I have met with many Japanese guests and had the chance to hear their opinions, they have told me that once they stepped in our hotel, they did not feel like they were in Okinawa anymore. Many of them are loyal guests to the hotel in Hawaii.
NR: You mentioned memory-making ocean views earlier, what other memories linger for guests who come and visit Halekulani?
OMD: I believe that the memories that remain in our guests’ hearts would be the unique fusion of Hawaiian atmosphere and Okinawan hospitality.
They will remember the sweet therapeutic fragrance from our hallways, the stunning view from the orchid pool, the romantic sunset viewed from our Sunset Wing, the exotic treatments from our spa, the exclusive taste of our dishes, all orchestrated by a dedicated team who unite their passions to offer the most unforgettable memories.
NR: How would you describe the DNA of the people working at Halekulani?
OMD: The best team I have ever been part of. They are the definition of teamwork. Before coming to Halekulani, I had a little bit of experience when I came to this hotel and honestly, I was really nervous, because it was a completely new environment and I had to get used to so many different aspects of the lifestyle here and the way of doing things at the workplace. But the team has helped me a lot, showed me the patience that I needed in order to understand the ways of our hotel. And I am not talking only about the ones from my department, but also from other departments as well.
Our staff is composed of not only Japanese, but also foreigners, adding to our unique hospitality. I am really grateful for what they have done for me and I want to repay them by also giving my best at what I am doing and to surpass myself.
NR: Close to one year of operations, what has been the successes and challenges so far?
OMD: I consider that one of our biggest successes is that despite the fact that we are still a new hotel, we welcomed more guests than our specialists have expected. We have become popular among the Japanese population and that might be due to us keeping the true meaning of ‘Halekulani’.
One of our challenges was and still is to make ourselves known worldwide. As we are always happy that many Japanese people are drawn to our hotel’s concept, we wish to also welcome many foreigners as well. We consider that not only can we offer the most relaxing stay to our foreign guests, but also to show them the true experience of Okinawa.
NR: How do you make guests fall in love with Halekulani?
OMD: By establishing genuine human connection. We always like to put our guests on top of the priority list. We always listen to their stories, their needs, and their opinions. We also co-create with them and provide personalization so they can have memorable experiences. For example, we prepare either in advance or during their stay some surprises. We have had guests who had their weddings at Halekulani Hawaii and chose to visit us to keep the tradition alive. We become part of these moments and we are always prepared to offer them any help to make these moments even more memorable.
NR: Finally, how does Halekulani envision the future?
OMD: We aspire to be one of the best luxury hotels in the world, by providing our guests not only with great service, friendly staff, relaxing atmosphere, but also with fond memories. We aim to be recognized as a five-star hotel on Forbes Travel Guide, pushing ourselves into new horizons of hospitality and to overcome the limits that we are having at this moment.