Supporting Our Sister Relationships

Hawaiian Airlines introduced its new direct service to Fukuoka, Japan, last month with an inaugural flight. More air service always bodes well for our visitor industry because Japanese travelers constitute such a significant part of our tourism market. It is also good for local folks because so many among us have ties of family or business in that part of Japan.

I’m confident Hawaiian Airlines’ continuing expansion, which brings us closer to the rest of the world with every city added to the company’s list of destinations, will be successful.

Kelly Hoe

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Royal Hawaiian GM Kelly Hoen (second from right) with Mufi Hannemann HTLA staff members Tina Yamaki (far left) and Karen Kakaoka. Photo from Mufi Hannemann

This new service to Fukuoka reminded me of some work we did more than 20 years ago when I was part of a Hawaii delegation that visited that city to commemorate the 10th anniversary of our sister-state relationship. I was director of the Hawaii Office of International Relations at the time, and our group included Ruth Ono and two legislators I remember with great respect and fondness: the late Sens. Mamoru Yamasaki of Maui and Richard Matsuura of Hawaii Island. It was also the heyday of Hawaii’s prominence in Japan’s sumo ranks, so local boys Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru came to the city to add a celebrity aura to the proceedings.

That Hawaii-Fukuoka bond, and the groundwork we began in 1991, became a model sister-state relationship. While it was rooted in history and culture, like all of our sister-state and sister-city relations, it morphed over time into economic ties. Many of our tourists have come from Fukuoka, and now Hawaiian Airlines will stimulate and support the business relationships between our countries.

These sister relationships, and we have many, should be more than ceremonial. We should use the opportunities to meet, exchange ideas and find ways to develop and promote commerce and trade, be it in tourism, education and training, technology, or any of a number of areas where we can find common ground and mutual benefit.

* Kelly Hoen, general manager of The Royal Hawaiian, was recently named “Businesswoman of the Year” by a leading business publication.

As head of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, I’ve had the privilege of working with Kelly. She is chairwoman of our Oahu chapter, and her leadership has sparked the revitalization of the group.

This Kailua native and alumna of La Pietra has been a fixture at hotels Islands. She held executive positions at the Westin Kauai and Kauai Hilton, Hyatt Regency Kauai, Kapalua Bay, and Princeville Resort, before taking the reins of the Royal in 2008.

She recently oversaw a massive $60-million renovation of the Royal, introducing new features for the famed “Pink Palace” on Waikiki Beach. She was a major contributor to the success of last November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu. Her creativity resulted in the first and very successful Dine-Around, where foodies had a chance to sample the fixings at a number of top restaurants in Waikiki.

This was a well-deserved honor for one of the leaders of our visitor industry, and I know many more awards await her in the years to come. Congratulations, Kelly.

Roy Yokoyama

Position: Bell Captain
Location: Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

Bell captain Roy Yokoyama is one of a kind. A mainstay at Hawaiian Regent and now Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa for 40 years, Roy is the consummate professional, the first to volunteer, the first to help a guest and truly a unique member of the Marriott team.

Roy will take the extra step to make guests feel welcome and special. When he noticed two elderly guests, one in a wheelchair and the other with a walker, he asked if there was anything he could do to make their stay more enjoyable. They confessed that they had never seen a beach up close, so the next day Roy accompanied them to Waikiki Beach. Every day for the next week, he would pick them up and take them to their favorite spot, go back to pick up beach chairs and towels, and pick them up after their fun and return them to their rooms. The guests were so grateful they couldn’t stop thanking him for his kindness. But that’s all in a day’s work, and a reason he was honored at the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards ceremony as an outstanding lodging employee of the year.