Gary Seibert is the new area vice president and managing director for Hilton Hotels in Hawaii, and says he won't let the company rest on its laurels. "You have to continuously reinvent yourself ... to make sure that you stay of interest and stay attractive to those you want to attract."

Seibert eager to find
opportunities for Hilton

Peter Schall's successor already is
relishing his role as the company's
isles managing director

Gary Seibert

Gary Seibert, a longtime Hilton Hotels manager on the mainland, has been named area vice president and managing director for Hilton in Hawaii, replacing Peter Schall, who retired. Seibert started in June.

» Age: 56
» Is originally from Germany, and came to the United States in 1965 with his family. He began his career in the hotel business with Hilton in 1973, starting as a front-desk clerk in Indianapolis.
» Will oversee Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Doubletree Alana Waikiki and Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island.
» Previously served as Midwest area vice president for Hilton Hotels and general manager of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

Question: What's it like filling the shoes of Peter Schall?

Answer: It's been tough and it's going to be tough.

Of course, Peter's official retirement was not until this past weekend. He was trying his best to clue me in on the local situation as far as hotels and hospitality are concerned. ... It's been a very busy two months.

During that time, we also took a quick five-day trip to Japan to promote our new development here on the property, the Ocean Crystal Chapel, a wedding chapel.

Q: Do you plan to get involved in the industry?

A: I believe very strongly, in the professional arena you have to be part of what steers your industry. You cannot be a bystander. You have to be a part in the decision-making process. You either become part of the leadership or get our of the way.

From a nonprofessional point of view I also believe very strongly ... if you live in a community, you have to participate. You cannot just be part of a community. You have to be active, and that can take on many different faces.

Q: How are you getting involved?

A: I'm already part of the Aloha Festivals and the Waikiki Improvement Association.

In the first few weeks it's a getting-acquainted situation, listening to what the lay of the land is. When it's appropriate, I will get involved and volunteer for various opportunities.

Q: What kind of occupancy is Hilton Hawaiian Village having?

A: Fantastic. Here I believe the July occupancy may have been a new record. So it's very good, but, of course, we hope that continues.

We see a resurgence in the business from the Far East. We see more domestic interest.

I personally believe people are finding renewed interest for whatever reasons.

Q: Is your room revenue back to 2000 levels?

A: No. If you take the 2000 levels and you add on customary increases, we should be higher than where we are, but we are on the right track.

There's another school of thought there and that's if we are able -- not just this hotel, but the entire community -- if we are able to continuously improve the product we have, we can also justify the price paid for what we offer and achieve higher prices. And that will address a traveler that might be more discriminating and might spend more money.

Q: What else did Peter Schall tell you?

A: I think our philosophy is pretty much the same.

One of the things that he was keen on, and I am, was continued patronage of Hawaii by visitors and conventioneers alike. To do that you can't just rest on your laurels. .... You just can't accept that as being good enough; you have to continuously reinvent yourself as any industry or company would to make sure that you stay of interest and stay attractive to those you want to attract, so whether that's further improvements in the overall entity or the state, I can't put my finger on exactly what that might be.

But I certainly will be around to help when opportunities surface as far as the hotel is concerned.

Q: Several improvements are under way, such as the Outrigger Lewers Street redevelopment and renovations at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

A: That would be a strong component, sure. Is that the end-all? No. But don't ask me what it is because I haven't got to that point yet. (Laughs)

But it really goes back to what I was saying before: continuous improvement. We need to continuously find out what will be attractive to maintain the flow of visitors.

Q: Hilton's latest financial report singled out its Hawaii and New York hotels as being particularly strong. Why?

A: Of course, Hawaii speaks for itself. It's a wonderful resort destination and it's a great location in the middle of the Pacific to address people from all over the Pacific Rim. It's a great gateway.

New York, of course, is a great gateway for the international visitor, as New York is regarded as one of the world's best-known cities.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a weekly conversation with business and community leaders. Suggestions can be sent to business@starbulletin.com

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