When Patricia Tam was named general manager of Halekulani Corporation’s Waikiki Parc Hotel in 1987, she was the first woman in the state to hold the title. But it isn’t a message about breaking the glass ceiling that she wants people to remember.
“I don’t like to look at it as a female being a female general manager, but being a local general manager for an international tourism industry right here in Hawaii,” she says.
“I thought that was the bigger message … that there was room for local people to participate right in the hospitality industry in a big way.”
This July 5, Tam celebrated 31 years with Halekulani Corp., having first joined the company a year before the resort’s official reopening under then-new owner Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd.
“There is nothing like the experience of opening a brand new hotel,” she says. “Not only the excitement, the newness, but the legacy and tradition of the business going forward — nobody can take that away from you and you can’t build that, you can’t buy that.”
She began with Halekulani Corp. in middle management before working her way to her current corporate position as chief executive adviser, to which she was promoted earlier this year. Beyond the relationships she has formed with those she works with (about 85 of whom began at Halekulani the same time), her loyalty to Halekulani lies in a shared belief of its business values.
“I want to say easily that it was their core concept and philosophy of always striving to be the best for others and for yourself,” she says.
Officially, Tam, who appeared on MidWeek‘s Aug. 7, 1996, cover, assists Halekulani’s corporate officers and works closely with COO Peter Shaindlin. Her extensive background and experience with the company, however, really enable Tam to support all facets of Halekulani Corp.
In her current position, she focuses on enhancing the company’s relationships with community partners, including Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii Theatre, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and others, in addition to relationships with nonprofits such as Aloha United Way, Hawaii Foodbank and American Red Cross, Hawaii chapter.
“I think it’s a natural part of our DNA of what we stand for,” she says. “At the end of the day, to do good business in the cultural environment that we live in is critical to success.”
Up next for Tam and the luxury resort: In 2017, Halekulani will celebrate 100 years since its historical inception in 1917.
“Like all good luxury properties, you have to continue to evolve, but evolve in a way that speaks to the continued legacy of what you’re trying to accomplish, or what you set out to accomplish when you were starting,” she says, “and yet be relevant and be competitive and be important to the guests, and be respectful of their new needs, because that’s evolved.”
Right in the heart of Waikiki, Halekulani is surrounded by a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from. But other than friendly staff, she feels it’s Halekulani’s ability to connect with guests that allows it to stand out.
“(There) is that intangible spirit that actually, I feel you can only have if you understand what hospitality stands for,” she says. “And I think Halekulani is the epitome of what hospitality stands for.”