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Outrigger has proclaimed its determination to return to the Australian market, with an eye on the Gold Coast but an open mind about re-establishing a presence in some other idyllic Australian beachside location.

Outrigger Hospitality Group’s vice president hotel operations Hawaii/Guam, Mike Shaff, defined Outrigger’s intentions last week.

“Our objective is very simple,” Shaff said. “It’s to become the premier beach resort brand in the world.

“We started as a beach company. Our first property was the Waikiki Beach resort. In Australia and other parts of the world, we are looking for properties that are either on beach, near the beach, or part of a beach community. That’s our focus and expertise.”

The plan for Australia, Shaff said, was to acquire “a property we own and manage; it could be a property that we put the Outrigger name on or it could be ‘by Outrigger’ brand on.”

Outrigger’s ‘by Outrigger’ portfolio comprises the new Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, OHANA Hotels by Outrigger and Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger – including its newest condo resort Honua Kai Resort & Spa. Plus, the all-suite resort, Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk, which is managed by Outrigger.

Mike Shaff, Outrigger Vice President Hotel Operations – Waikiki/Guam

Shaff visited Australia last week as part of a 21-strong Outrigger Hospitality Group delegation that met the industry in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

“We do some management, but we would want to keep that in Hawaii,” he said.

“Our focus [in Australia] would be more on finding an existing property that we could acquire and put the appropriate capital investment into it. With our partnership with KSL, a private equity firm, we have excellent resources to go out there and look for premier properties. The Gold Coast is very desirable. Surfers Paradise is just perfect.”

Outrigger team in Sydney last week

Outrigger wasn’t limited to the Gold Coast,” Shaff added. “Sydney is a water city, with some great properties out there on the coastline.”

Outrigger once had 19 properties in Australasia. In 2006 it sold its entire Australian and New Zealand portfolio to Mantra; then it returned with the Outrigger Surfers Paradise and other branded properties in Queensland. The Mantra group took over those as well – before being itself taken over by Accor last year.

Now Outrigger is on track to return to Australia for the third time.

Outrigger Hospitality Groups’ head office executives and representatives from Hawaii, the Maldives, Fiji and Thailand joined their Australian counterparts for the Outrigger Global Showcase last week.

Leading the delegation was president and chief executive, Jeff Wagoner; executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Sean Dee; vice president hotel operations Hawaii/Guam, Mike Shaff; and vice president sales and marketing Asia Pacific, Andrew Gee.

Globally, Honolulu-based Outrigger spans six countries, with 38 properties, 6562 rooms and 28 sales and marketing offices.

Andrew Gee, Outrigger’s vice president sales and marketing, Asia Pacific, with Karen McMillan, Hawaiian Airlines Director of Sales for Australia and Partnerships Manager for Australia and New Zealand.

The delegation met key wholesalers and product managers, specialist travel agents, tourism industry partners, airlines and travel media in the three Australian cities.

Wagoner, named as Outrigger Hotels and Resorts’ president and chief executive in April 2018, oversees the day-to-day running of the company as Outrigger plans for future global growth and enhancements.

In Hawaii, Outrigger is currently executing a Waikiki modernisation masterplan involving a USD 200 million investment in capital expenditures for its core Hawaii-owned assets over the next 2-3 years.

This includes a USD 35 million modernisation of Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, the highly anticipated transformation of the group’s flagship Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, new food, beverage and retail offerings and premier Voyager 47 Club Lounges.

Part of the Global Hotel Alliance since August 2016, the company’s beachfront brand, Outrigger Resorts, is part of the DISCOVERY loyalty network program that includes over 30 independent hotel and resort brands across more than 500 properties in 75 countries.

Zak Noyle, one of the world’s most recognised surf photographers and a member of ‘The Beaachcomber Originals’.

Outrigger recently changed its name from Outrigger Enterprises Group to Outrigger Hospitality Group. The focus was now very much on hospitality, Shaff said.

In the Asia Pacific, Outrigger last year sold six of its beachfront hotel and resort properties to Singha Estate of Thailand for USD 310 million. Outrigger continues to manage the properties under the Outrigger brand. Singha is known by many travellers through its connection with Thailand’s famous Singha beer.

Shaff said Outrigger continues to do great business out of Australia.

“Australians love going to Hawaii and they love going to Waikiki. We are seeing strong year-over-year growth.”

Speaking of Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, Shaff said the group had put USD 35 million into the property, the first in its “by Outrigger” portfolio. It’s already open and the renovation wraps up this month (April).

The property is very much into art – and also into electronics, with plenty of electric outlets and USB ports.

The average traveller has three of four different devices, Shaff notes.

Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger has assembled an alliance of talented artisans known as “The Beachcomber Originals” – who contribute to the hotel’s look, sound and taste.

Collaborators include celebrated craft brewers, a Hawaiian fibre artist and an internationally acclaimed slack-key guitarist. With the property’s central location, just steps to Waikiki Beach – Outrigger says partnering with iconic beachcombers, from surfers, photographers and models to printmakers and painters, was a natural fit.

Zak Noyle, arguably the world’s most respected and celebrated extreme-surf photographer, is the Beachcomber Original most prominently featured in the hotel; his dramatic underwater imagery welcomes guests up the 23-metre escalator tunnel and fills the wall behind the headboard of every guest room.

Written by Peter Needham