What it takes to be a (__) executive

Lynda Arakawa, writer for the Business Section of the Honolulu Advertiser, and I had a conversation this past week about different success stories we’ve seen here in Hawaii in the visitor industry, in contrast to the local concerns that we’re losing so much talent to more attractive job opportunities outside the islands. 

She wrote two different articles for this morning’s paper on it, and she quoted me in the second one, “What it takes to be a hotel executive.”

You can fill in the blank of my title with something other than “hotel.” Lynda’s outline provides you with a suggested outline of tips despite the field you’re in:

  • Don’t be shy
  • Be flexible
  • Work in different properties and destinations
  • Broaden your skills
  • Volunteer
  • Hone your math skills

Read the full article here.

Her companion article shares those success stories I mentioned, and it includes a quote from another member of our Ho‘ohana Community, Mike Tasaka, general manager of the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower and Aston Waikiki Beachside hotels: “Homegrown talent preferred.” We’d met Mike here on Talking Story back in December.

As you can imagine, my attention was drawn to this quote;

Walter Jamieson, dean of UH’s School of Travel Industry Management, said the industry in general recognizes it needs to work harder to educate students about the opportunities it offers.

“It’s an incredibly sophisticated industry and while yes, there are an awful lot of people in what might be called vocational positions, there are a lot of jobs in finance, human resources, IT (information technology), sales and marketing,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that the industry recognizes that locally grown talent, people who come from here, are going to be naturals to work in the industry if they have the right kind of training,” he said. “If what we’re selling is aloha, if what we’re selling is a special sense of place, if what we’re selling is this really incredible mosaic of different cultures coming together, then the people best able to sell that and exhibit that are obviously local people.”

But that doesn’t mean those who move here can’t exhibit the same characteristics, or that every general manager must be from Hawai‘i, he added.

Bingo. I was waiting for that last sentence!

Aloha is an attitude, and we offer our aloha spirit as an extension of who we are. It translates into a person-to-person connection of the highest caliber. And fact is, people are searching for those connections, and will pay for the experience of receiving them when aloha is offered in business as the character of your product or service.

The ability to offer aloha is a universal one, and I would maintain that the prerequisite is sense of place, not “being local” by birth or long-standing residency. That, and your willingness to be Mea Ho‘okipa. Works in Hawaii, and works outside of Hawaii.

And it works really really well.


  1. Luana says

    Aloha Rosa,
    This article hit home for me. Some years after leaving the hotel industry as a restaurant manager and catering/convention services manager, I wondered why I never ventured into the other departments that I interacted with. When I look back, I would have loved to spend time in other areas just to learn:
    1)The Main Kitchen – I didn’t spend enough time learning about the art of food. I had my own Food Channel at my fingertips!
    2)The Marketing Department – How did they came up with their great ideas and how did they know they would work!
    3)The Sales Department – What did they do to close that nearly impossible sale?
    What happened was that I really departmentalized myself. I worked in this one area and that was what I concerned myself with. I hoped to get promoted if I did a good job in that area. I had my head down and worked real hard, put in lots of hours, and then I went home. The nature of the work had something to do with that, of course, but I bet that when I went into the marketing department to see how my menu specs were coming, I could have asked them what other projects they were working on and could have learned something new. I know they would have been happy to share. Having different perspectives would have made me better at what I did, too, and hopefully I would pass that on to others.
    I had a huge, successful worldwide corporation at my fingertips with a wealth of knowledge and I didn’t take advantage of a lot of what it had to offer. What was I thinking!
    Hope that the article hits a chord with those in the industry now and gets them to lift their heads up and see and learn about all the wonderful things going on around them.