Right Back Where He Started

‘I’m a people person and this is a people business,’ says Chip Bahouth. ‘We’re not splitting atoms here.’

If the name of the new general manager at the Sheraton Kaua’i sounds familiar Bahouth, Bahouth, I know that name! it’s because his late father Nick Bahouth was once the Sheraton GM. Chip left the Islands, built a reputation for fixing troubled hotels and now he’s overseeing a $16 million renovation at Poipu, including a new restaurant that opens this month

As general manager of Sheraton Kaua’i Resort, Chip Bahouth is following in the footsteps of his dad, Nick

Chip Bahouth started his career as a young boy jumping off cliffs for visitors at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. Now he’s Sheraton Kaua’i Resort’s new general manager, responsible for overseeing some $16 million in renovations.

It is no coincidence Bahouth chose the visitor industry his father Nick served as general manager for several of the state’s hotels during his childhood, including Sheraton Kaua’i Resort.

Although his father Nick has been gone 10 years, ‘He’s still here,’ says Chip Bahouth

So Bahouth has come full circle from living at Sheraton Kaua’i Resort as a child to managing its operations several decades later.

“Everybody who worked at the hotel was just an extension of my family,” he reminisces.

The best part about living in hotels from Moana Surfrider on Oahu to Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa as a kid was inviting friends over to order ice cream and soda at the restaurants.

But the transient lifestyle wasn’t always fun and games. Bahouth always had to be mindful and on his best behavior.

“… because my behavior was a reflection on my mom (Nancy) and dad,” he says.

But acting like a grownup allowed Bahouth to mature quickly, and by the time he was 16 he moved out on his own.

“I felt that I needed to grow up quick and achieve results … to start climbing the corporate ladder,” says Bahouth, who is married to Molly and has a 19-yearold son Chasen. “I felt at 16 years old that it’s a competitive world out there. Every day that goes by, if you’re not taking steps forward, somebody else is.”

With wife Molly and son Chasen. Photo courtesy Chip Bahouth

Recognizing that the state’s economy is dependent on tourism, Bahouth knew that if he wanted to continue living in Hawaii, he needed to place himself in a field that provided ample opportunities.

So he left Kaua’i, moved to Honolulu and rented a studio in Kahala. He managed to graduate from Saint Louis School despite working various positions such as busboy at Sheraton Waikiki. He still found time to paddle on weekends and evenings.

After graduating from the University of Denver’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, and completing a management-training program in a quarter of the amount of time it usually takes to complete, Bahouth landed the corporate sales manager position at Sheraton Palace in San Francisco.

He made his way back to Hawaii after approximately a year and became the head of area sales at Sheraton Waikiki. A mere six months passed before he was propelled to director of sales and marketing for Moana Surfrider.

“It’s a huge thing to have happen, being in charge of a $900 million machine,” he says of the job he was hired to handle in his mid-20s.

By the time he was 27, Bahouth was director of food and beverage for the hotel.

Bahouth is still fostering the family atmosphere he knew as a boy at the Sheraton. Coco ZIckos photos

Some years later, Bahouth had an opportunity to move to Los Angeles, becoming Sheraton Town House’s resident manager.

“If I took this job and took the challenge of what the job had, if I did a good job, then there would be a reward at the end,” he says, explaining why he chose to leave Hawaii to help the underperforming hotel get back in line. “I’ve always looked at it that way. You take on the challenges and the tough assignments, and that’s how you further your career.”

Two years later, another hotel back home needed him to “straighten it out,” he says. So in 1992, Bahouth went from downtown Los Angeles to Hana, Maui.

“That hotel was bleeding,” he says.

The young general manager got to work focusing on sales and marketing and bringing customers to the destination by building a sales team.

“It was quiet,” he says regarding life in Hana.

The 93-room hotel also operated the only three restaurants in town, as well as the town center, cattle operation and water company. It wasn’t long before the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa where he originally began his career as a young cliff diver knocked on his door, also seeking a face lift. Bahouth oversaw the hotel’s $160 million redevelopment and served as general manager for 14 years.

His experience turning hotels around financially led to Bahouth’s latest transition to Kaua’i Sheraton Resort. He started in January 2011 and is directing an ongoing series of improvements at the 397-room Poipu hotel, including a new restaurant set to open this month.

Though living at a hotel might seem like an adventure to some, for Bahouth it feels like he’s always working. To escape from what can be a demanding schedule, Bahouth spends his time fishing and golfing. Still, Bahouth loves what he does.

“I’m a people person and this is a people business,” he says. “We’re not splitting atoms here or building rocket ships to go to the moon it’s about people, and providing service and taking care of your customers and your associates, your employees, your team.”

Having just purchased a home in Lawai, Bahouth feels like he’s actually growing roots on the island for the first time.

“I really think that here on Kaua’i there is a genuine sense of aloha, family and cultural,” he says, adding that his favorite thing to do is sit on his lanai at home, watching the ocean.

“I believe this will be the best of all the experiences we’ve had.”

Bahouth has an uphill battle to fight with a currently “spotty” visitor industry.

“It’s totally different on Kaua’i than on Maui. The demand and the compression is less on Kaua’i than it is on Maui, so you have to manage your pricing and positioning in the marketplace a little bit differently,” he says. “Our biggest challenge is getting the customer to commit to coming to the island.”

He plans to change the hotel’s financial course regardless.

And although his father passed away from Alzheimer’s disease 10 years ago, Bahouth says, “he’s still here.”

And it was because of his influence Bahouth found his true passion so early in life and continues to pursue it.

“If you’re not doing what you love to do, change lanes,” says Bahouth.