Honoring Stars Of Kaua‘i Tourism

“Tourism Matters” this week is about excellence and achievement in the visitor industry.

On Kaua’i, the stars of our visitor industry were honored at Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Kaua’i chapter Malama Awards. This year’s theme was “Haupu Mauna Kilohana I Kala’i” or “a mountain outstanding in the calm.”

The 15th annual ceremony featured 90 honorees in a number of job categories: outstanding lodging employee, administrator/accountant, bell person, concierge, engineering/maintenance, food and beverage, housekeeper, security officer, supervisor/manager, allied member and allied super-visor/manager. There are no individual awards; all the Malama honorees are deemed exceptional contributors to the hotel and visitor industries.

Special recognition went to Eric Fujimoto of Young’s Market and the outstanding chefs from Kaua’i Community College’s culinary arts program. They included Martina Hildorfer, Mark Oyama, Steven Nakata and administrator Duane Miyasato. Young’s Market and KCC have been generous in their support of our HLTA Kaua’i chapter through the years, including the Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

Kaua’i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. participated in the program to present honorary certificates to the employees, and each person also received a miniature outrigger canoe with the HLTA Kaua’i chapter logo on the sails.

Brad Snyder, general manager of Kaua’i Marriott Resort, hosted the gala dinner, which featured the culinary creations of Marriott chef Guy Higa. Snyder reminisced about the beginnings of the Malama Awards when the late Mark Heinzelman, then general manager of Hyatt Regency Kaua’i (now Grand Hyatt Kaua’i), proposed an awards ceremony much like HLTA’s statewide Na Po’e Pa’ahana Awards. Now concluding its 15th year, the Malama Awards have proven the wisdom of that decision and the consistently high caliber of the Garden Isle’s visitor industry workers.

And from Waipahu High School’s Todd Nakayama comes news that the school’s Lodging Management Program won the third-place trophy in the national competition held during spring break. The students earned second-place honors in the Knowledge Bowl and Hospitality Project portions of the competition. Waipahu also has earned awards at past national events.

The Marauder effort is one of 155 nationwide that uses our parent AHLA’s Lodging Management Program. Locally, Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association provides support, while several hotels and tourism-related businesses offer internships, job shadowing and on-the-job involvement in event planning. The learning component has in-depth studies of the travel industry, with coursework in hospitality, communication, management, sales and marketing, food and beverage, event planning and community service. The work experience has the added benefit of creating networking and relationship-building opportunities for the young people. Students can earn college credit upon completion of two national exams, or can receive a certification in several hotel-specific fields.

Nakayama, who heads Waipahu’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, has been recognized for his academic leadership, earning the AHLA’s national Lamp of Knowledge Award and the state’s Lodging Management Program Teacher of the Year honor, both in 2010.

Waipahu is one of six public schools that have an Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. The program combines a classroom curriculum with hands-on experience to stimulate learning and problem-solving skills, develop good work attitudes, and even pave the way for a fulfilling career in the travel industry. Other high schools with academies are McKinley on Oahu; Baldwin, Maui; Lahainaluna on the Valley Isle, and Kaua’i on the Garden Isle.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Kaua’i’s Kathy Morishige, in conjunction with last year’s Visitor Industry Charity Walk in Lihu’e. (Leah Aiwohi has since taken Morishige’s place.) Academy students from Kaua’i High have been very active in broadening their knowledge by participating in numerous civic events in the community or in charity affairs held at hotel properties on the island, visiting hotels and attractions on Oahu, and joining the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk, where I met them.

Our visitor industry is in excellent hands – the hands of exceptional employees like those honored by HLTA Kaua’i chapter in the Malama Awards, and the future leaders being developed in programs like the state Department of Education’s tourism academies.


Burt Kubota

Position: Bell Attendant
Location: Sheraton Kaua’i Resort

Bell attendant Burt Kubota has been a mainstay at Sheraton Kaua’i Resort for more than 26 years, consistently going above and beyond the call of duty to serve the hotel’s guests.

Burt is known for taking immediate action to resolve problems and please guests, adding an ample measure of aloha in the process that earns their praise and gratitude. He also can be counted on in difficult times, as when he stayed on duty during last March’s tsunami warning to ensure that guests were safe and secure. When the hotel’s parking lot flooded during heavy rains, Burt’s quick thinking enabled him to move many cars away from the area and prevent certain damage.

Burt Kubota’s compassion and willingness to help others are reflected in his service to the community. He volunteers to drive senior citizens on errands and to doctors appointments, teaches tennis to children and teens, and helps maintain the Koloa ballpark.