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Tourism's New Reality: Back to the future

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Livin' the Aloha 

 If every hotel in Hawaii had a Dorinda “Kanani” Okuda there would be no tourism slump. Okuda is a general cashier at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, but most folks know her by her unofficial title, “Miss Aloha.” Okuda’s been praised for going above and beyond to provide visitors with the most memorable Hawaii experience possible, treating them just as she would if they were guests in her own home. And that’s exactly what tourism leaders are saying will help make Hawaii top of mind once the national and global economies begin to recover.

Fred Orr, general manager at the Princess Kaiulani, says, “[Okuda] incorporates genuine and authentic Hawaiian culture in everything that she presents to her guests and gives them an experience that they can’t find in any other destination.”

Ask Okuda why she takes so much pride in her work and she’ll tell you, “This is not just my job, this is who I am; this is what our culture is all about. It’s all about personal interaction with the guests, creating memories and treating them like ohana.”

She’s not kidding.

Okuda refers to the Princess Kaiulani as her “house,” and everyone in the house, from fellow employees to hotel guests, is family.

Take, for example, the time Okuda encountered a visitor who was frantic about losing a bag of omiyage for his son in Seattle. He had stood in line for hours to purchase University of Hawaii WAC Championship football memorabilia, which was now nowhere to be found.

“I saw how upset he was, so I knew I had to do something,” Okuda says.

That night, she went home and asked her husband to sacrifice a UH shirt and hat that he had purchased that afternoon. The next day, Okuda waited at the front desk for the gentleman to check out.

“When I saw him, I asked him if he found his bag and he hadn’t,” she says. Okuda handed the stranger the shirt and hat and asked him to accept her small gift.

“When I went around the desk to give him a hug, he started to cry,” Okuda says. “It’s the little things that make the difference in our lives. Before you knew it, all of the girls behind the [front] desk were crying. It was definitely special for all of us.” –SE 
 

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Hawaii Business,January