A transitional year for the Hana-Maui Resort

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The 74-year-old property, most recently known as the Travaasa Hana, is becoming part of Hyatt's Destination Hotels brand and will get a refresh.
The 74-year-old property, most recently known as the Travaasa Hana, is becoming part of Hyatt's Destination Hotels brand and will get a refresh.
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

While everyone in the hospitality industry was adjusting to life during the pandemic, the Hana-Maui Resort was going through an additional transition as it joined the Hyatt family.

The 74-year-old property, most recently known as Travaasa Hana, was sold to Mani Brothers Real Estate Group in December 2019. This year, the new owners chose to partner with Hyatt and its Destination Hotels brand for the next era of the resort, and this summer the name was officially changed to the Hana-Maui Resort. More changes are in store: A full renovation is now in the planning stages, and workers are expected to break ground on the overhaul in the final quarter of 2021.

Hana and the resort are known as places to disconnect and find a slower pace of life. The town on the eastern tip of Maui is a two-hour, picturesque but winding journey along State Route 360, commonly referred to as the Road to Hana. Cell phone service and WiFi tend to be spotty at the resort, where the 74 bungalow-style accommodations are television-free.

"It's a simple getaway destination," said new general manager Jon Benson, who arrived in August. "It's never been a place with waterparks and slides or overwhelming amounts of activities. It's a place for laying low, settling in and enjoying the ocean at your doorstep and the beauty of the natural environment. Maybe you go for a horseback ride or a hike, but mostly it's about being happy to be in this amazing place."

Benson said the plan is to maintain the tranquil escape vibe while also providing the increased connectivity and additional amenities for those who want them. Whether or not the rooms will have TVs moving forward is still a matter of debate among management as they balance moving the property forward with maintaining its appeal to a loyal clientele.

"Do we need TVs or not? Should we have clock radios in the rooms or is time irrelevant?," Benson said. "That's the challenge and the opportunity. This place has a great history and some guests who are fiercely loyal. I was just speaking to guests who have been coming for 35 years and will celebrate their 50th anniversary here next summer. I think with this kind of place you have to balance bringing new things forward with learning from the pastwhat worked and what didn't. You have to find a lane to drive in that attracts the loyal person and sustains them but also helps you find new customers and build a bigger audience."

One advantage of the property joining Hyatt is opening up access to the 20 million members of the company's loyalty program who can be introduced to Hana as a destination.

Some upgrades have already been decided, including adding air conditioning to the rooms and rewiring the property for better internet coverage.

The new owners are also upgrading the transportation options in multiple ways. Hana-Maui will have the use of a custom nine-seat Cessna and a six-seat helicopter for transport, tours, and activities, Benson said, and they also intend to host a fleet of vehicles on property for hourly rentals to explore the area.

"We can use [the plane] for guests that don't want to do the Road to Hana," Benson said. "Maybe they checked off that box before. They love Hana but don't need the two-hour drive and all the twists and turns. The helicopter can be used for whale-watching tours, for views of the Molokai sea cliffs, the tallest sea cliffs in the world, or a golf outing to Lanai. The best thing about having our own assets is that you're only really limited by your own imagination."

Since reopening on Nov. 20 after closing due to the pandemic, the resort has seen only a trickle of guests, Benson said. Occupancy has been in the lower double digits, although it's about 50% for the upcoming holiday week, according to the hotel's PR team. While they look forward to busier times, the hotel staff is trying to use the slow period to flesh out their vision for the future of the property.

"We are using the time to our advantage, taking detailed looks at the resources we have and what we would like to add," Benson said. "Some day, when the fog lifts, we'll be able to activate them."

The renovations will touch every aspect of the property from the landscaping and entrance to the restaurants and spa.

One goal is to make the property as zero impact as possible, including sending no waste to landfills, producing its own electricity, and possibly converting some of the resort's 70 acres into organic agriculture plots and bringing in bees to make their own honey.

"We are asking ourselves what we can grow on property and also use," Benson said. "So, if we are doing lei making as an activity, can we grow some of the flowers we use here on property?"

With an official population of fewer than 1,000 in Hana, the resort's roughly 130 employees represent more than 10% of the community, and Benson said management does not take that responsibility lightly.

"The journey over the next couple of years should be amazing," he said. "We are committed to producing something the community can thrive off of for generations to come."

CORRECTION: This report was updated to reflect two corrections: The hotel's helicopter is a Bell 428 twin-engine helicopter, not a jet-helicopter as originally described. And the hotel occupancy percentage has been revised: It is in the low double-digits.

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