For Oahu hotels, a state of flux

Several hotels as well as the International Market Place have been rebuilt on Oahu.
Several hotels as well as the International Market Place have been rebuilt on Oahu. Photo Credit: Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority

For those who've not visited Oahu in some time, the destination has undergone a substantial transformation lately as a collection of hotel brands opened their doors for business there and others announced plans to set up shop on the island in the near future.

The long-hyped luxury newcomer Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach, a 307-unit condo-hotel located a few blocks from the ocean, welcomed its first guests last month, and the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, a $500 million redevelopment of the former JW Marriott Ihilani property on the island's west coast, officially opened in late June.

And while those high-end heavy hitters have generated all sorts of headlines in recent months, the midlevel Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach, an impressive $115 million repositioning of the former Ohana Waikiki West, also welcomed its first travelers in June. Oahu's first Hilton Garden Inn,  a 623-room property, was gutted and improved right across Kuhio Avenue from the International Market Place, which will wrap up a $475 million redevelopment of its own on Aug. 25.

"The International Market Place, with Saks Fifth Avenue now being the anchor tenant, is very, very positive," said Jack Richards, the president and CEO of Los Angeles-based tour wholesaler Pleasant Holidays. "Oahu is redefining itself."

The 4.5-acre shopping center was once best known as a place to pick up inexpensive souvenirs at a collection of open-air bazaar shops under a massive banyan tree. Developers have preserved the banyan, according to general manager Michael Fenley, but also built a 360,000-square-foot, multistory facility on the site, which will feature around 100 tenants, including an array of luxury retailers and 10 chef-driven restaurants.

"The 165-year-old iconic banyan tree is well-preserved and healthier than it has been in decades," Fenley said.

"And we not only have the final touches on the shopping center being done right now but also the restaurants and merchants are finishing their store build-outs and getting ready to start adding merchandise," he added. "So it's a very busy and exciting time." 

Other big-name hotel brands have also recently announced redevelopment plans in Waikiki, such as a 230-room Hyatt Centric product scheduled to open later this winter in a former office high-rise. Marriott's Autograph Collection will make its Oahu debut in the first quarter next year after a major renovation and repositioning at the 250-room Aqua Waikiki Wave property.

And the Pacific Beach Hotel is now undergoing a $115 million redevelopment, transitioning from a midlevel property to a four-star, high-end hotel known as the Alohilani Resort at Waikiki Beach, located right across from the ocean on Kalakaua Avenue. Meanwhile in 2018, the Ritz-Carlton hopes to open its second high-rise Waikiki tower.  

"Oahu is definitely moving upscale," Richards said. "People are betting a lot of money through these development projects, and I think we're starting to see some [market] shift occur from the other islands."

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