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Friday, April 14, 2000

Marriott touts
major investments
in Hawaii

Its isle properties are
booming, executives say

By Russ Lynch


Boosted by aggressive mainland marketing, Marriott International Inc. says its Hawaii business is booming and top executives see a strong future here.

Marriott International While Marriott is spending money on marketing, the company and the owners of the properties it manages are also planning to invest about $100 million, mostly this year, to improve the Hawaii properties.

At the 721-room Maui Marriott, renamed the Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club to reflect the creation of time-share units, $63 million is going into renovations, said Stan Brown, Marriott International vice president for the Pacific Islands area.

Brown was speaking yesterday at a media briefing at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina. Marriott took over the management of the 387-room Ihilani in mid-November, after a subsidiary of Japan Airlines Co. sold it to a mainland-Hawaii partnership.

The hotel was full yesterday and the Ihilani's occupancy is averaging well over 20 percentage points above where it was last year, Brown said.

The new owners of the other Oahu hotel that Marriott manages, the Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki, are putting $27 million into renovations over the next two years or so.

But the biggest capital investment Marriott itself is doing on Oahu is more than $300 million to develop up to 750 time-share units as part of a separate Marriott division, Marriott Vacation Club International.

Brown said construction of the two-bedroom units will begin next spring and assuming sales go as expected, the project should be completed in 2002.

"We'll build them as we sell them," he said.

As soon as a model unit is available for showing, Marriott Vacation Club will start bringing in potential customers on tour packages made possible through discount deals with Marriott's travel partners, such as airlines and rental car companies. That will result in thousands of new visitors to Oahu, probably about 7,000 this year, Brown said.

"Kauai will do 10,000 this year" just to preview Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club at Poipu, which will open in 2001 as a primarily time-share operation, Brown said.

Geoff Garside, Hong Kong-based senior vice president for the Asia, Pacific and Australia region for Marriott International Operations, said that while most of the improvement in the Marriott-connected properties in Hawaii is coming from the mainland, the company is experiencing a definite improvement from Asia.

"We're seeing a positive improvement after three very ugly years" in the Asian economies, Garside said. "We're in very good shape here in the islands and we're looking for more growth."

Marriott is in talks with hotel owners for possible management deals, including on the Big Island's Kohala Coast, where the company has nothing now, and Lanai. It also could bring to Hawaii its Courtyards brand, which it so far has applied to smaller, moderate-priced business hotels on the mainland, he said.

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