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Luxury Hawaii hotel midnight transformation

In a management change as dramatic as as its views, the luxury Waikiki Edition hotel has turned into The MODERN Honolulu overnight. The official news release says the hotel owners selected a new management company and the hotel is now a flagship property of Aqua, “Hawaii’s premier boutique hotel chain.”

The news release quotes Damian McKinney, principal of ownership group M Waikiki LLC, as saying “We believe that Aqua will realize the vision on which this hotel was developed – becoming the leading lifestyle hotel in Hawaii.” It’s a big vision and the management change is a bigger story than the news release reflects.

The hotel ownership group has sued former managers Marriott International Inc., saying that bad management is to blame for the hotel’s poor performance since its opening just less than a year ago. In addition to mismanagement of the hotel, the lawsuit says performance was damaged because Marriott never developed a promised series of EDITION hotels. The news release from Aqua recites much of the language from the lawsuit, saying the change was necessary to protect the owners’ interests in the hotel.

A management change amid litigation is risky enough, but it was apparently accomplished in a midnight move. A Wall Street Journal story fills in some details. According to WSJ, the new management was installed “in the early morning hours” today. The attorney for owners hand-delivered a letter to the night manager on duty, and the signs and locks were changed on the renamed hotel. It quotes a Marriott representative as saying the move is “deeply unfortunate, regrettable and illegal.”

The Aqua release says it is committed to a smooth transition for both employees and guests. It offers continued employment to hotel staff members with their current pay rate, seniority and accrued vacation. The release continues: “All hotel facilities, including the world-renowned Morimoto Waikiki, the Lobby Bar, the Bar at Sunrise Pool and the nightclub remain open under the hotel’s new management. Hotel guests also have uninterrupted access to the property’s full-service spa, state-of-the-art fitness center and retail shop.”

The hotel website already reflects the new name and management, and the opening paragraph of the Aqua news release names both the website and the toll-free number for reservations.

Regardless of how the court battle plays out, it seems three things are clear: this is truly a beautiful, stylish, luxury property; keeping it operating smoothly is in everyone’s best interests; and Aqua has a proven reputation in Hawaii. While I’m not in an income bracket sufficient to keep the hotel in business, I would be sad to see it close. I’m hopeful the change will buy some time for others to experience a stay at this hotel, whatever it is called.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Aug 28, 2011