By Christina O'Connor – Reporter, Pacific Business News
As Outrigger Hospitality Group President and CEO Jeff Wagoner phrases it, the Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger “has been reborn” following a $35 million modernization project.
The project was completed April 1, and the updated property made its official debut at a grand opening ceremony Monday evening. The Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, which is also home to Maui Brewing Co.’s Waikiki brewpub and a Hawaiian Aroma Caffe, marks the first lifestyle property for the brand.
“This is just a fabulous location being on Kalakaua right next to International Market Place, and it was just screaming to be a lifestyle property,” Wagoner told PBN. “To be able to come in and modernize the property the way we have, it has really created a special, special hotel.”
“We felt like it was appropriate for the Waikiki market — it was a missing element for the market, and there are plenty of travelers that are looking for a unique experience and a product that has the art and the artesian vibe that we have been able to create.”
Updates to the property include a complete revamp of all 498 guest rooms, renovations to the lobby and other public spaces, in-room technology including 55-inch flat-screen TVs with streaming capabilities, and a refreshed pool area with new furniture. Plus, exterior changes have also been made to give the hotel a new presence from the street, including the addition of a multi-floor green wall displaying the hotel name near the entrance.
When asked what he is most excited about in the modernization, Wagoner said it’s the Beachcomber Originals, a collective of 12 local artists, photographers, musicians and restauranteurs that played a key role in curating various elements of the property.
The group, Wagoner said, is “really taking the spirit of Hawaii and Waikiki and bringing it into the property.
“It’s photography, it’s painting, it’s music, and all the things that can really create a very tangible mark on the property and create the kind of DNA and the culture and the authenticity that we’re looking for,” he said.
The Beachcomber Originals features an eclectic group of creators that includes muralist Erin Ibarra, who created hand-drawn flower murals at each floor of the hotel; print, collage and installation artist Margo Ray, whose work appears along a wall at Maui Brewing Company; musician Makana, who created new music specifically for the hotel; and internationally known surf photographer Zak Noyle, whose photography can be found in all of the guest rooms.
Ibarra, who is perhaps best known for her elaborate chalk illustrations at local bars, says that her floral mural project at the hotel aims to “give some love to some under-noticed species and little Hawaiian treasures.”
“My niche is in wayfinding and signage, so this is like a really radical, oversized take on that,” Ibarra said.
“We blew up all of these tiny flowers on this massive scale and kind of gave every floor its own identity,” Ibarra explained. “We arranged the flowers by the elevation in which they grow, so it’s got all these layers of information and meaning. And it helps — when you come off the elevator, you know which floor is yours because every one is different.”
In conjunction with the physical updates, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger also has hired several new staff in key positions, including a new general manager, hotel manager and a Japanese guest service manager.
“It was important for us that as the property transitioned into a lifestyle property, we had the appropriate team and talent as we moved the hotel into the future,” Wagoner said. “There are things that are upgraded in the property that it is important that we have got the right team members there to handle.”
Plus, all staff has gone through additional training on service and Hawaiian culture.
“You can’t go through a renovation like this and just allow everything else to sit by,” Wagoner said. “The service piece is really important.”
The modernization was a part of the vision that hotel and resort management company KSL, which purchased Outrigger about two years ago, has for the brand, Wagoner explained. The company has plans to put $200 million in modernization projects for Outrigger’s Waikiki portfolio. Next up is the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, which will begin at the end of the year.