Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

As work on a $500 million renovation and rebranding effort at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina shifts into high gear, officials overseeing the project named Sanjiv Hulugalle the property’s first general manager earlier this month.

Raised in Sri Lanka, Hulugalle has worked at a range of Four Seasons properties around the globe over the past 20 years, serving most recently as the general manager at the company’s Beijing hotel.

“For me, Hawaii is like coming home,” he said. “The feel, the touch, the palm trees, the air, the breeze is exactly what I was brought up with.”

Hulugalle offered an update on the construction underway at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu, which will ultimately include not only a 358-room beachfront hotel but also a 150-unit luxury residence tower.

“We’re working toward a February 2016 opening,” he said, noting that renovation work on the former JW Marriott Ihilani property’s guestrooms is now in full swing.

“We’ve taken all the old furniture out, and we’re in the process of stripping all the rooms,” he added. “And it will be a layer-by-layer approach to getting them back together again.”

Hulugalle said the renovation has included work to increase the hotel’s suite inventory to 60 units, knocking down walls and reconfiguring floor plans to combine a number of the former property’s existing 387 rooms. But the original layout of the Ihilani has apparently provided a lot of room for designers to spread their wings.

“In all of my time at the Four Seasons, these are some of the most spacious bathrooms I’ve ever seen,” Hulugalle said. “It’s incredible. The hotel was built 22 years ago, but they were so generous with space.”

Describing each of the new guestrooms as “a personal sanctuary by the ocean,” Hulugalle noted that about 85% of the property’s rooms have an ocean view and that each features a private lanai.

All of the guestrooms will also be outfitted with a range of new technology, including an iPod for every unit, smart TVs enabling guests to easily recast streaming video content from their personal devices, and a soon-to-be-released app that will provide guests with all sorts of on-demand access from their handhelds.

“Four Seasons will pretty soon launch its own app where you can pretty much do everything, from having your room service order taken even before you arrive at the hotel to even checking in,” he said.

Other major overhauls to the property include new concepts for three different restaurants, improving the spa facilities, and dramatically renovating the lobby and arrivals experience. Hulugalle also indicated that the new management is interested in hiring qualified former employees of the JW Marriott Ihilani.

“We want to hire the best,” he said. “And we want to hire as many locals as possible. I think this is really important for our guests to enjoy a true Hawaiian experience.”

Hulugalle added that work on the 150-unit residence tower will begin early next year after the hotel has welcomed its first guests. He expects the luxury residences will be an 18-month build.

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