Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Ritz-Carlton officials last week announced Douglas Chang, who was born and raised on Oahu, as the new general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach, a condo-hotel currently under construction that will consist of two high-rise towers when complete.

According to Chang, work is scheduled to finish next year on the first of those two towers, which will house about 307 total units.

“The plan we are moving forward with is that in the late spring of 2016 we will be welcoming the first owners and guests to the property,” he explained.

The new condo-hotel will be the first Ritz-Carlton property on Oahu and just the second in Hawaii, joining the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui. Chang said the Waikiki property’s second tower will likely open in the “first or second quarter of 2018” and feature about 250 units.

Although Chang has an extensive Hawaii hospitality resume, including time as general manager at the Hotel Hana Maui as well as similar management roles on Kauai, he served most recently as GM at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. While insisting St. Louis is a terrific city, Chang did note that he and his family missed one particular element of living in Hawaii.

“The biggest challenge for us was no ocean,” he said. “The mighty Mississippi, although it’s a great body of water, it’s just not the same as having an ocean.”

The new Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach won’t be an oceanfront property, sitting several blocks northwest from the Pacific, but the condo-hotel developers say the resort will feature unobstructed ocean views in each residence, some looking out over Fort DeRussy Beach Park.

The property will also offer guests a large resort terrace with two oceanview pools along with a bar and grill. Other on-property dining options will include Dean & Deluca, BLT Market and Sushi Sho. Guests will also have access to a full-service Ritz-Carlton spa, fitness center, a Ritz Kids lounge and an entertainment center.

Meanwhile, residences in the hotel reservation pool will range from studios to four-bedrooms and penthouses, with current sale prices beginning around $970,000 and topping out at $25 million.  

Chang noted that he expects to welcome a high percentage of repeat Waikiki visitors at the new Ritz-Carlton property, in part, because the room product features so many familiar comforts of home.

A founding member of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and of Hawaiian descent himself, Chang added that he hopes to also create a collection of experiences for guests to enjoy that offer a more in-depth understanding of what makes Oahu so unique, including the destination’s rich host culture.  

“I think we will appeal to that visitor who wants to get a deeper look,” he said, noting that he’s still working out what those experiences will entail.

“For a visitor who has been here several times — who loves Hawaii, loves the culture, loves the people — how do we get them an experience that continues to strengthen their relationship with the destination?” he said.

Some of Chang’s early ideas include behind-the-scenes tours at Honolulu’s fabulous Bishop Museum along with time at events like the recent children’s Hula Festival and exposing guests to a building buzz associated with the renaissance of downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown.

“Chinatown is awesome right now,” Chang said. “I love what’s going on down there with some of the redevelopment. But it’s still a fairly local place right now. Are there appropriate ways for our guests to go in and [be a part of] what’s going on there?” 

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