Kapalua Villas to be Managed by Outrigger

A Sit-Down with GM TJ Oesterling on the Changes to Come

Kapalua Villas to be Managed by Outrigger

Those that have been following the developments at Kapalua know that here, in one of the most spectacular locales on Maui (and the entire island chain), things have been evolving for the better part of two years. The Ritz Carlton is rejuvenated; Kapalua mauka has a new arboretum with hiking trails and zip lining; and the resort itself is slowly unveiling super high-end villas and a custom spa for it's guests and residents. Last week, the venerable resort announced it has turned over management of nearly 400 condo-villas to Outrigger, the Hawaii-based operator that has recently been making moves in the luxury market overseas.
We caught up with the incumbent general manager T.J. Oesterling on his third day on the job. Read on to hear about the changes afoot at Kapalua.

B on Hawaii: You've worked with Outrigger in various locales, as well as with other companies on the mainland. You last resided in Waikoloa on the Big Island. What was it like arriving in Kapalua for the first time as a manager of one of the most reputed properties in all of Hawaii?

TJ Oesterling, general manager, Kapalua Villas: I hadn't really been to Kapalua in about five years. Arriving here as an operator of this place launched me in to, well, let's say a 'favorable orbit'. Mind you, I worked at Princeville for a time; but with Kapalua as the highest profile golf destination in The State, and the weather so much more amicable, not to mention the access to the beach... it's far better here. It's unparalleled.

B on Hawaii: One thing that's always impressed us with Kapalua is the mauka to makai nature of the resort, and especially now, with the Arboretum, how it makes use of everything in between.

Osterling: You really hit it on the head. I was standing in front of an aerial map of the property my first day here, and I got a scale of how grand this resort is. From the zip line trails and access up there, I realized something: This is a summer alpine destination for people.

B on Hawaii: And what makes that so unique for visitors?

Oesterling: There's a long horizon of offerings here. Whether you take a shuttle from the pool to one of the top-rated restaurants, or you stroll along the beach paths for 4 hours en route to a hidden snorkel spot; it's an amazing resort destination with so many options. There's golf and adventure happenings, the spas for relaxing, and so much more. And don't forget about the rich history of this land.

B on Hawaii: How will Outrigger market the villas, going forward?

Oesterling: First, we intend to come and meld with the ohana that's already here. This place is steeped in a service culture; you can't really say that about a lot of places in Hawaii. Kapalua is married to the destination, to the land. Likewise, we were completely—and happily—surprised at the level of commitment the service staff had here when we arrived. We will nurture and cultivate the island hospitality that's already here.

B on Hawaii: What would you say is one of the perks of staying at the villas at Kapalua, that perhaps you couldn't do elsewhere?

Oesterling: There's a seamless ability for our guests to go from one venue within Kapalua to another and sign everything to their room. It's spectacular, and besides Kona Village Resort, I can't think of another place in Hawaii where you can do so. Plus, with the shuttle system, you don't need a car to come here. That's a huge offering that makes it so user friendly.

B on Hawaii: Maui Land & Pineapple seems to be going through some interesting times, selling off parts of the golf product, moving away from the service aspects and so on. How do you see them involved with the operations going forward.

Oesterling: I'll say this: Maui Land and Pine's commitment to the growth and development of Maui is amazing.

B on Hawaii: Who is the ideal guest for the Kapalua villas?

Oesterling: Couples. The gentrified. The active. Two couples sharing a vacation. Families. You would not believe how many families have checked in during the last 36 hours.

B on Hawaii: So you don't see many changes coming, per se?

Oesterling: There are a few. We'll be moving the villas headquarters up the road in to the building that the Adventure Center is located in. It will be much higher-profile than the past. We're streamlining the organization, getting everyone under the same roof. Then we'll focus on getting the 50% of villa owners who are not currently affiliated with the rental pool program onboard. We're going to 'wow' them with our service, and try to increase the number of villas [currently about 200] we can offer. Then, we'll focus on making sure all the villas are converted to the Gold level villas, which have the top-of-line amenities and appliances, so on.

B on Hawaii: Outrigger has really been making it's presence known in Australia, New Zealand, Bali and other Far East destinations as of late. Will this affect the manner in which you approach service at Kapalua, that perhaps attracts a more affluent genre of clientele than other Outrigger collections?

Oesterling: We've always had a good presence in the Far Eastern market. I think that now we have an even better opportunity to reach out to the Japanese and Korean travelers who have always wanted to come to Maui. Both those cultures are very interested in golf travel, so we'll try and bring them here through those channels, and others.

"This place is steeped in a service culture; you can't really say that about a lot of places in Hawaii. Kapalua is married to the destination, to the land."