King Kyo-Ya

The Japanese Waikiki Hotel owner is Hawaii’s perennial leader of

August, 2003

The Japanese-owned Kyo-ya Co. Ltd. of today has almost double the sales it did in 1983, but about 900 fewer employees. When the subsidiary of Japan-based Kokusai Kogyo debuted on Hawaii Business‘ listings in 1983, its president was Masakuni Osano, who would later make Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people in 1999.

Osano’s brother, Kenji Osano, founded the Hawaii company in 1963. Twenty years later, in 1983, Kyo-ya Co. Ltd. ranked No. 12 on Hawaii Business‘ list of the top companies with $190 million in gross sales and 4,500 employees. This year, Kyo-ya is No. 13, with $466.4 million in 2002 gross sales and 3,638 employees. Today, Kenji Osano’s nephew, Takamasa Osano, is Kyo-ya’s president and majority owner.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ernest Nishizaki assumed those responsibilities last year, after the death of longtime executive Stanley Takahashi. Nishizaki says Kyo-ya’s Hawaii legacy is one of a good (and quiet) corporate citizen.

Nishizaki started with the Kyo-ya-owned Royal Hawaiian Hotel as a busboy, then joined ITT Sheraton Corp.’s management training program in Waikiki in 1970, after graduating from the University of Hawaii. He has met all three Osanos during his 32 years with Sheraton and Starwood hotel chains.

He says, “I think Mr. Takamasa Osano, who is our president now, looks at it much differently than Mr. Kenji Osano, who originally founded the company perhaps more related toward a Japanese-type culture. I think Mr. Takamasa Osano is a little bit more worldly and travels a lot more and looks at things a lot differently, so that’s good.”

With decreasing revenues and a declining Japanese visitor market, Nishizaki is in the process of looking for ways to improve the customer experience at the company’s four Waikiki properties as well as increase market share. A marketing study is being done with longtime Kyo-ya partner Sheraton, which is now part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Inc. Nishizaki says there are plans to completely renovate the guest rooms at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, where Kyo-ya’s corporate offices are housed.

Says Nishizaki: “I think profit is a result of increasing revenues or decreasing costs. After 9/11, frankly, our Sheraton hotels have done a good job of getting to the optimum cost levels. I think there were some reductions done there that were needed and they’ve maintained those. Today, what the important thing to do is just to increase revenues. I think we need to increase share and how do we do that? We’ve got to make guests say, ‘We want Sheraton.’ There are a lot of good products down the street and they can choose any one of them. What’s going to differentiate our product is when people say, ‘We can’t get that anywhere else. We can only get that at the Royal, or we can only get that at the Princess Kaiulani.'”

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Kelli Abe Trifonovitch