More than 100 people will lose their jobs when the Keauhou Beach Hotel closes its doors Oct. 31, enabling the resort's owners to move forward with plans to demolish the building and restore the many Hawaiian cultural attractions at the 11-acre site.
Managed by Outrigger Hotels & Resorts for nearly a decade, the 309-room Big Island hotel has been owned since 2006 by KBH, a for-profit subsidiary of Hawaii's Kamehameha Schools that announced its plan to permanently close the property in late August.
"Despite the good work of many committed and talented people, financial losses at the hotel over the last six years have been substantial," said Dee Jay Mailer, the CEO for Kamehameha Schools. "To return the Keauhou Beach to possibly compete in the Kailua-Kona hotel market would take tens of millions in further investment that would be very difficult to recover."
A 125-year-old educational trust founded and endowed by the legacy of Hawaii's Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameha Schools operates a statewide school system educating about 7,000 students of Hawaiian ancestry and is the largest private landowner in the state.
Longtime owners of the larger 2,400-acre Keauhou Resort, which is located about 15 miles south of the Kona Airport and includes the land originally set aside for the Keauhou Beach Hotel, Kamehameha Schools designated the region for resort development back in the 1960s but has shifted its focus in recent years.
Greg Chun, the vice president of the Keahou-Kahaluu Education group, the Kamehameha Schools subsidiary now charged with managing the restoration of the property's historical sites, said there is no precedent for razing an oceanfront Hawaii hotel to preserve and ultimately promote the destination's host culture.
"It's very much a back-to-the-future kind of thing," he continued. "It's such a special site from a cultural and historical perspective, and re-establishing it as a place of learning ... and then looking at how those learning programs can be extended to reach the broadest possible audience will be challenging."
Still home to the physical remains of a number of heiau, or temples, and royal residences, the site was also a place of education for the children of Hawaiian chiefs, and Chun said developing programs and facilities for today's students at the location is a primary focus. Later projects such as guided and self-guided tours and possibly a visitor center are all future possibilities being considered.