HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sandi Maruyama helps guests at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa with questions they might have about what to do or where to go while they're vacationing in the islands. Early last year, the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association named her "2004 Concierge of the Year."
Sandi Maruyama's friendliness makes her a natural to be a hotel concierge
Job: Helps guests at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa with questions they may have
Sandi Maruyama enjoys creating art, and originally had wanted to be a graphic artist. She even obtained a degree from Leeward Community College in pursuit of that career. But eventually, she said last week, "I realized there would be deadlines, and I didn't want it to be something I had to do." Also, she added, "I think to progress in that field, it would also involve possibly moving to the mainland, which I wasn't ready to do either." Instead, Maruyama turned to the travel industry, working several years as a ticketing agent for Aloha Airlines
. In 2001 she joined JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa
in Ko Olina as a front desk clerk, and a year later became one of the resort's concierges. She did so well at it that in early 2005, the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association recognized her as its "2004 Concierge of the Year," ahead of 14 other concierges statewide. Winning that award "was very humbling," said Maruyama, who was nominated for the honor by her supervisors. A graduate of Mililani High School, Maruyama is 38 and married to Scott Maruyama, with whom she has an 8-month-old son and lives in Waipio Gentry. "It's a great commute (to work every day)," she said. "I get to see everyone headed the other way."
Question: What is a concierge?
Answer: A concierge is ... well, we work with the guests to service them with whatever they may need, whether it be dining reservations, directions, activities, recommendations, flight information and reservations, car rental reservations. ... We try to service them with whatever questions they may come up with. We try to do our best to answer them.
Q: When you say "we," do you work with some other people?
A: I do. We have a staff of 11 concierges.
Q: And what is your shift?
A: I normally am here from 7 o'clock in the morning till 3.
Q: When you're on duty, are you working alone?
A: No. Usually, two of us open. We have a "mid" (for mid shift) that comes at 10 o'clock , and then our evening shift will start at 1:30 and 2.
Q: So for a little while you're working with several other people?
Q: Who do you report to?
A: We have a guest service manager ... Joy Grace Crisostomo.
Q: What do they make you wear for this job?
A: We have a uniform. It's light blue with a naupaka flower on it, which is our hotel logo.
Q: Don't they have that in the hotel pool?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: Where is your desk located at the hotel?
A: It's on the lobby level, right across from the front desk.
Q: How often do people ask you for help?
A: Oh, the whole day. (Laughter)
Q: What's the busiest time for dealing with guests?
A: I'd say from about 7:30 to 10:30, when people are getting up and getting ready to leave and want to know what to do. And then later in the afternoon, when they start coming back again and start getting ready for what they're going to do in the evening, like go out for dinner.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sandi Maruyama earned the "2004 Concierge of the Year" award for her enthusiasm in helping guests at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, where she's worked since 2001. Above, Maruyama last month helped guests Doug and Ellen Shute, of Boston, find a restaurant popular with residents. She eventually made reservations for the couple at the Willows.
How many guests are there at the hotel on average?
A: We have 387 rooms in the hotel, and with Marriott, they keep our rooms pretty occupied.
Q: Where are most of these people from?
A: Most of them are from the states, the mainland. A few are from Japan.
Q: Do you speak any languages besides English?
A: Unfortunately, no. I wish I did.
Q: Does that ever present a problem -- that you can't speak Japanese?
A: No, I can get away with a little bit, but if it requires more, we have a Japanese answering service.
Q: How does that work?
A: If they're at my desk, we'll use the phone back and forth; if they're in a room, we'll use a conference call.
Q: What kinds of questions do you get asked the most?
A: The most would be probably recommendations for what to do on the island.
Q: And what do you say?
A: Normally it's going to be the top visitor attractions here, so the Arizona Memorial, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Paradise Cove, the drive up to the North Shore ...
Q: How did you learn about everything that you recommend?
A: I was fortunate. The people that I work with at the hotel are very knowledgeable, very sharing. They were able to educate me about things I wasn't sure about. And in the meantime, I was trying to educate myself. I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which I hadn't been to in a long time. But while I was trying to get the experience, I was leaning on my co-workers.
Q: Do they ever come and ask you where's a good nightclub?
A: Not very often. We have a lot of families staying at the resort, a lot of honeymooners that are not necessarily going out clubbing. (Laughter). But I do recommend some great places that offer dining and dancing, and that have live entertainment, like Aaron's in Waikiki
Q: What about on the premises (of the hotel)?
A: On the premises, we have a lounge, and a guitarist that plays. But if they want to venture, we would send them down into Waikiki.
Q: That's kind of far from the Ihilani, though, isn't it?
A: It's kind of relative. For us in Hawaii, it's kind of far, but for people from the mainland, they're used to making trips like that just to get to work every day, so we don't get too many complaints about the drive.
Q: Do you have to do any paper work?
A: Yes. You wouldn't think so, but we need communication between all the concierges. For example, if I left a message for some guests with a question, and they're out for the day, or if a guest forgot where they are dining out, everyone needs to know what the other person does, in case that guest comes by and you're not there anymore.
Q: So what's your favorite part about the job?
A: What I love is the relationships you're able to make with the guests at the hotel. A lot of them, we become friends, because some of them come every year, and you can see their families grow -- they had a baby or they bring their relatives.
As a concierge, you're also able to work with a lot of people in the hotel. You work with dining, because you have to make reservations; you work with housekeeping, because you have to make special arrangements in the rooms; so it's nice that you get to meet a lot of people in the hotel,
Q: Both guests and fellow employees?
Q: Do you spend much time at the hotel when you're off duty?
Q: I do. The lagoons are beautiful; they're great for families. Even before I worked here, I loved the property. I still think it's a beautiful place to take the family. And I think the restaurants are great, so we'll spend special occasions there.
Q: So you're saying the public is invited to stroll through the grounds?
A: The lagoons are all public, and locals are welcome to enjoy the restaurants. We actually have a lot of locals that stay in the hotel. It's kind of like a vacation, without having to fly anywhere.
Q: Going back to the language issue, have you learned any Hawaiian words?
A: Yes, or more so the meaning of things. People will ask you "What does 'Ihilani' mean?" Or "What does 'Ko Olina' mean?"
Q: And what do they mean?
A: "Ihilani" means heavenly splendor, and "Ko Olina" is place of joy. Isn't that nice?
Q: Yes. Hey, wait, I'm supposed to be asking the questions here.