Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightHawaii tourism mainstay Chip Bahouth took over as general manager at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in early January 2011, starting work just days before the 394-room Poipu Beach property broke ground on a 15-month, $16 million renovation project.



“It was a painful construction phase,” Bahouth admitted. “We really struggled during the renovation because we were open the entire time, and that’s not a fun experience.”

Completed in April, the refurbishment included overhauling the hotel’s porte cochere and lobby, adding an open-air courtyard and ripping out and remodeling the property’s pool. A new [email protected] Cafe, featuring Starbucks coffee and grab-and-go meal options, now complements the 20-acre beachfront resort’s two new, full-service dining options: the poolside, open-air Lava’s and upscale RumFire.

“The objective of the project was really to update the food and beverage facilities and public areas to be more in line with where the market is today,” Bahouth said, noting that the [email protected] Cafe gives guests more flexibility to take less expensive meals, and even wine, up to their rooms. “And at RumFire, we’ve got probably one of the best restaurant locations in the state of Hawaii right on the point of Poipu Beach.”

Looking to compete with some of Kauai’s well-known destination restaurants, such as Roy’s or Merriman’s in Poipu, RumFire not only features 180-degree views of the Pacific but also makes use of Kauai seafood, produce and products to craft dishes designed for family-style sharing and to encourage lots of sampling.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, and years ago you didn’t have the competition you have today with restaurants,” Bahouth said. “We in the hotel industry have had to wake up and become more competitive with these independent, branded chefs and these outside restaurants because if we don’t, people are just going to walk out of the hotel and go and eat there. And now with RumFire, we’re not only able to compete but also attract visitors staying at Kiahuna Plantation or Kaloa Landing or even the Hyatt.”

According to Bahouth, it took a couple of months for word to get around that renovation work at the Sheraton Kauai was finished, but business has picked up rapidly. The property had a banner summer season.

“Occupancy has been doing very well,” he said. “We’re about 20 points ahead of the previous year. I think we’re going to run 87% in October, and November is going to be great.”

Bahouth credited increased lift to Kauai, which was up nearly 12% year over year through August, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority statistics, and crowding in Waikiki as the major factors bolstering visitor business in recent months to the Garden Isle, which along with the Big Island has lagged behind the rest of the state’s tourism recovery.

“I think that we’re beginning to enjoy some of the compression from Waikiki, but I also think we’re beginning to enjoy some of the people that have gone to Maui and said, ‘You know what, this is a rat race over here,’” said Bahouth, who spent 15 years as G.M. for the Sheraton Maui before moving to Kauai in 2011. “Maui’s crowded. It’s expensive. When you look at the cost to go to Maui compared to the price to go to Kauai, Kauai is a good deal.”

For more on the updated Sheraton Kauai, visit www.sheraton-kauai.com.
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