Keauhou Beach Hotel has become a mainstay in the Kailua-Kona district for nearly four decades, as the home to the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Ironman Triathlon, Slack Key Festival and hundreds of guests who keep coming back for its genuine island hospitality. But by end of October, the Big Island landmark will bid aloha to all of that when it closes its doors for good.

The Big Island hotel will close on Oct. 31, 2012.

Kamehameha Schools (KS) announced plans to close and demolish the hotel because of “substantial” financial losses during the past six years, according to a KS news release. The school will restore the “cultural footprint at this site for future educational programming” and proceed with the prior decision to build a Hawaiian cultural learning center at this location.

There’s no doubt that tourism and culture can coexist; we see this more frequently with hotels providing free hula, ukulele and lei-making workshops. But when the cultural component involves learning the history by way of the landscape, it can get a bit tricky. That’s the same dilemma KS faced while working with a team of analysts. In addition to it not being economically feasible to renovate or repurpose the hotel, their research showed that restoring the land would be the most beneficial “next step.”

Once the hotel is demolished, the land will be used for cultural learning purposes.

I’ve always appreciated KS’ desire to spread cultural knowledge beyond its campuses and into the community of locals and visitors. From what I’ve been seeing, the Native Hawaiian school is very land, or aina, based when it comes to making connections to the culture and its people. The current site of the hotel will no doubt be put to good use. I’d much rather it be used for cultural learning rather than another shopping center. Shutting it down is, indeed, very sad news, but KS has made it clear that it plans to help employees find new work and honor all reservations currently booked up to Oct. 31, 2012 (the closing deadline). Unfortunately, this is yet another negative effect of our economy, but life goes on, and we can look forward to a new chapter at this historic Big Island site.

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