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The Outrigger Way: 20 Years of Hallmark Hospitality

A culture and values-based hospitality program, Ke 'Ano Wa'a acts as the foundation of all management decisions at Outrigger. The process has expanded to seven countries in the last 20 years

This year, Outrigger Enterprises Group celebrates an exciting milestone – the 20th anniversary of the company's Ke 'Ano Wa'a process, or "The Outrigger Way." Developed in 1993 working with Hawaiian scholar and historian, Dr. George Kanahele, the Ke 'Ano Wa'a process was designed to advance the company's corporate culture and fundamental business strategies.

The values-based process intricately connected three core elements of the hospitality industry: the employees, the guests and the destination. It also deepened Outrigger's understanding and appreciation of the local host culture – a distinct hospitality style that is recognized across the globe. Now in its 20th year, the process has been introduced in seven countries and languages, with the Outrigger Way in China and Vietnam coming soon, touching more than 20,000 current and former employees worldwide, and millions of guests.

"Since Ke 'Ano Wa'a was first developed with guidance from Dr. George Kanahele, the process has taught us the importance of relationships that exist between a host, a guest, and a place visited," said David Carey, president and chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises Group. "As a company, the process has helped us to define our key points of differentiation, and has allowed us to become the hotel brand for guests seeking a unique, culturally authentic vacation experience."

In the Hawaiian language, Ke 'Ano Wa'a is translated as The Outrigger Way. Today, this business model has enabled the family-owned and -operated Outrigger to grow from a local Waikiki business into one of the most successful, global hospitality management companies in the world.

"The Outrigger Way serves as the guiding light for every decision we make. In addition to setting a high standard for the way we interact with guests and employees, it also serves as the foundation for all of our management decisions, including marketing, communications, and brand management," said Sean Dee, chief marketing officer for Outrigger Enterprises Group.

Outrigger has found measureable success through this strong and long-held cultural focus. In a recent guest satisfaction survey by Market Metrix, Outrigger Resorts was awarded the highest score – 97.8 – in "can do attitude" – receiving notably higher marks above major global brands including Hyatt, Westin, Marriott, Aston, Hilton and Sheraton.

"Ke 'Ano Wa'a is a profound cultural approach to the art of hosting guests that takes the visitor experience to another level, for both the host and the hosted," said Peter Apo, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee. "David Carey's substantial commitment in adopting Hawaiian visionary Dr. Kanahele's training model is now the stuff of Hawaii tourism legend."

The first core element of the process was designed to create a corporate culture of caring. Each employee that walks through Outrigger's doors is provided with introductory training either from, or guided by, Outrigger's manager of cultural experiences, Kaipo Ho. This training helps employees understand how Outrigger's values relate to the staff, visitors and international properties.

Transforming lives though authentic, localized experiences is the second element of Outrigger's strategy for success. For example, in Fiji, Outrigger on the Lagoon offers meimei nanny service. "Meimei" means "to take care of" in the Fijian language. Here children are engaged in fun learning experiences customized to their age and introduced to many aspects of the Fijian culture such as arts and crafts, traditional fishing methods and more. 

The final element in Outrigger's Ke 'Ano Wa'a process is the seamless integration of host culture into guest experiences. This includes promoting local experiences through partnerships, preserving the local culture and protecting natural resources. For example, in Thailand, Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort staff members join forces with the local villagers to regularly clean the roadside verges. The activity aims to encourage all villagers and travelers to safeguard the environment and to maintain a mutual understanding and relationship with and within the local community.

In Hawaii, Outrigger Reef on the Beach's Kani Ka Pila Grille offers free, live nightly entertainment by some of Hawaii's most renowned performers, giving guests a front-row seat to the authentic Hawaiian music for which Hawaii is known. The music and cultural activities at the resort are guided by "Aunty Luana" Maitland. Her official title is events and activities manager, but "Ambassador of Aloha" is a more fitting title as she touches each and every guest with aloha and affection sharing her love of the islands and her Hawaiian heritage and culture. "From the warm welcoming greeting curbside, to the cheery registration aloha, to the inviting island room decor, Outrigger employees go out of their way to treat guests like family," said frequent Outrigger guests Randy and Vicki Bahr from Chicago. "When staff members take such good care of each and every visitor, they feel cherished and valued. Outrigger employees make sure your stay is perfect, the Outrigger Way.

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