Disney Resort A Boost For Jobs

Aulani, Disney’s new resort at Ko Olina, is amazing in its attention to detail and impressive in its contributions to our economy.

Aulani managing director Elliot Mills, a local boy who had been in the hotel industry for 25 years before joining Disney, recently gave me a preview of the property, as construction workers labored to complete last-minute features and employees were put through their paces.

While I’ll return later to the topic of jobs, Elliot Mills is emblematic of Disney’s commitment to hiring locally.

As further indication, the company retained the expertise of West Oahu resident and my former colleague Todd Apo and longtime island hotelier Kimberly Agas. They complement the terrific groundwork laid by Disney veteran Djuan Rivers, who’s helped lead Aulani to this point and in the process immersed himself in our local culture and lifestyle.

For anyone familiar with the wonders of Disneyland or Disney World, Aulani brings the Disney touch to our islands, with a unique emphasis on Hawaiian culture.

Guests will enjoy a kalo patch fronting the hotel, a front-desk collage of photos taken by local children, murals adorning the towering reception hall and other creations by local artists and artisans, a Hawaiian language immersion-themed restaurant, lamps replicating burning kukui nuts, a family-oriented spa and myriad other features.

Disney certainly did not scrimp on creating a unique Hawaii visitor experience. I can’t do justice to Aulani and will leave it up to you to discover it for yourself. I can, however, speak to the contributions this development has made to our economy. In addition to adding to our hotel room inventory, creating a new attraction, and spurring growth in West Oahu, Aulani generated more than $600 million in spending, $59 million in state and county tax revenues and 4,800 jobs during the construction phase.

Elliot told me 900 employees are already on board, with up to 1,200 expected to be employed as the resort grows.

Aulani will produce up to $270 million in salary income and general economic activity and $33 million in tax revenues a year.

Disney projects that the fully realized resort will create 2,400 jobs in Hawaii, half at Aulani.

Aulani, when complete, will have 359 hotel rooms, 481 Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas, restaurants, a conference center, event lawns, a kid’s club, and a family-friendly spa unlike anything seen in Hawaii.

While the jobs and spending are welcome, more significant is having Disney select Hawaii for its first stand-alone resort, which sends a powerful and influential message to travelers and investors alike that our state is as great a place to do business as it is to enjoy the sun, sand, sea, surf and spirit of aloha.


Jolynn Tsukamoto

Position: Human Resources Manager
Location: Kaua’i Marriott Resort

When Kaua’i received a tsunami alert in February 2010, human resources manager Jolynn Tsukamoto immediately reported to the Kaua’i Marriott Resort at 2 a.m. as a member of its crisis team. She called key employees to work, kept guests informed, made sure her office staff was out of harm’s way, helped the banquet team serve food to guests and filled in for housekeepers when they left to look after their families. Only after ensuring that everyone was taken care of did she leave the hotel late that evening.

That’s the caliber of work that’s earned Jolynn the sobriquet of “Wonder Woman” around the hotel. She has filled in for fellow human resources directors at other Marriott properties in the state, juggling their duties with hers, but also can be found volunteering with the banquet staff to prepare food.

Jolynn is very active in supporting area schools and leads the hotel’s participation in the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, United Way and Kaua’i Food Bank.