Saluting The Best In Visitor Industry

Each year for the past 22 years, the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA) has honored the men and women who provide the exceptional service, professionalism and aloha that have distinguished the state’s visitor industry from its inception.

This has been accomplished through the annual Na Po’e Pa’ahana (“the hard-working people”) awards program, which recognizes the employees who are the heart and soul of our top industry, tourism, and contribute in so many ways to a strong economy, to their families and communities, and to a better Hawaii.

HLTA member organizations from throughout the Islands nominate employees in eight categories: 1) bell/valet person, 2) engineering/maintenance person, 3) food and beverage person, 4) front office person, 5) housekeeper, 6) manager, 7) security officer, 8) outstanding lodging employee.

Kaua’i resorts and hotels nominated a number of their top employees this year: Aston Islander on the Beach (three employees), Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages (one), Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort & Spa (eight), Kaua’i Beach Resort (one), Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club (eight), Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club (seven), Sheraton Kaua’i Resort (eight), St. Regis Princeville Resort (eight), and Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas (six). We will be featuring these employees individually in upcoming editions of MidWeek.

The top three in each category were announced at the Na Po’e Pa’ahana luncheon held Jan. 13 at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, and HLTA chairman Kelvin Bloom and I had the pleasure of presenting awards to these terrific people. They are as follows:

Bell/Valet Person of the Year: (first) Ronald Casallo, Service Express attendant, Westin Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina; (second)

Chad Nakamura, parking valet, Royal Hawaiian, Honolulu.

Kaimi Kaneholani, a door attendant at the St. Regis Princeville Resort, placed third in this category.

Engineering/Maintenance Person of the Year: (first) Richard Coloso, head irrigator, Grand Wailea, Wailea; (second) Nelson Galano, Engineer 1st Class, Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina; (third) Virgilio Ganal, carpenter foreman, Moana Surfrider-A Westin Resort and Spa, Honolulu.

Food and Beverage Person of the Year: (first) Guy Becicka, bartender, Westin Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina; (second) Terry Harris, server, Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, Kihei; (third) Pilipina Flores, hostess, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast.

Front Office Person of the Year: (first) Hiroe Yanagisawa, Royal Hawaiian, Honolulu; (second) Michelle Aquino, front office agent, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina; (third) Brad Momohara, guest service agent, Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, Kapolei.

Housekeeper of the Year: (first) Marylou Raquel, housekeeper, Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, Honolulu; (second) Shufen Ng, housekeeper, Waikiki Resort Hotel, Honolulu; (third) Cristiana Mamuad, housekeeper, Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Honolulu.

Manager of the Year: (first) Lynette Eastman, area general manager, Aqua Waikiki Wave and Waikiki Pearl, Honolulu; (second) Kelly Zane, banquet manager, Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu; (third) Brendan Tsukiyama, director of front office operations, Westin Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina; (honorable mention) Virginia De Guzman, executive housekeeper, Aston at the Executive Centre Hotel, Honolulu.

Security Officer of the Year: (first) Larry Triplett, security officer, Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa, Kailua-Kona; (second) Matthew Neely, security officer, Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu; (third) Harvey Keanoano, safety and security officer, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, Honolulu.

Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year: (first) Masako McCarter, administrative assistant to the controller/food and beverage director, Royal Hawaiian, Honolulu; (second) Roy Yokoyama, bell captain, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, Honolulu; (third) Chris Kiaha, bartender, Beach Bar, Moana Surfrider-A Westin Resort and Spa.

Hawaii’s top employee will be submitted for consideration in the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Stars of Industry national competition. Hawaii has produced the top employee in the entire nation for three consecutive years; we hope to make it four straight.

We can have the best of everything: a beautiful tropical setting and hotels with the plushest of furnishings and every modern convenience. But all of this would be for naught if not for the thousands of dedicated workers who provide the outstanding service and share the aloha that bring visitors to our shores.


Chanda Raylene Takamura

Position: Celebrations/Sales Manager
Location: Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages

As the celebrations/sales manager for Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, Chanda Takamura is the go-to person for weddings, celebrations and events deserving that special touch to make a special occasion “magical.”

In addition to directing special events, Chanda works closely with the hotel’s reservations team and general manager Stephanie Iona to generate room sales for this unique property, recently named one of the top 100 hotels in the world by Fodor’s, the travel publisher. This past year, Chanda and Stephanie assisted the West Kaua’i Business and Professional organization as sponsors of the first-ever Christmas Town-Lighting Ceremony for Waimea, a family-centered holiday gala that was welcomed enthusiastically by the community and looks to become an annual celebration. The dynamic pair also coordinate events that benefit schools in Waimea and Kekaha, such as a science fair exhibit for Waimea Canyon School students, an art exhibit with proceeds assisting Niihau children, and the annual Taste of Waimea honoring the military, with funds benefitting Waimea High School’s Project Graduation.

Stephanie gave Chanda the title of “Poster Child of the Cottages” because Chanda grew up on the grounds as the grandchild of a couple who worked for the Faye family, owners of the Kekaha Sugar Mill and Cottages. Chanda lights up and speaks with pride when she shares the history of the property, and it’s this spirit of aloha that’s in every hug she shares with guests, everything she does at the hotel and, of course, the flower she tucks by her ear.