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When traveling to Oahu there are plenty of options of places to stay in Waikiki. As exciting and fast-paced as Waikiki is, some travelers desire a more relaxed experience for their Hawaii vacation. Especially traveling as a family.

With limited options on the north shore and east side of Oahu to stay, the west side has grown and developed over the past couple of decades. The city of Kapolei is home to a few large resorts in the Ko Olina area. However, there is so much more to explore and experience in the heart of Kapolei.

Opened in the Fall of 2019, The Residence Inn is an extended-stay hotel by Marriott located in Kapolei. On today’s episode, Bryan is joined by General Manager Brian Hunnings and Director of Sales Kelly Kitashima of Residence Inn in Kapolei.
Learn about the city of Kapolei, how Brian and Kelly and their team keep a community focus on all they do, and what you can expect while staying at the Residence Inn on your next trip.


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Unknown Speaker 0:04

Welcome to Hawaii's Best travel podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences, businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host, Brian

Bryan Murphy 0:18

Murphy. Aloha and welcome to Episode 49 of Hawaii's Best where we help prepare you for your next trip to Hawaii. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and I just want to say thank you so much for joining me today on this episode. You know when traveling to Oahu, there are plenty of options of places to stay in Waikiki now as exciting as fast paced as Waikiki is. Some travelers desire a more relaxed experience for their Hawaiian vacation and especially traveling as a family now with limited options on the North Shore, and East Side Oh, wha hoo. To stay the west side has grown and develop really over the past couple of decades. And the city of chapala is home to a few large resorts in the coralina area. However, there's so much more to explore and experience right in the heart of coplay. And the Residence Inn opened in the fall of 2019. And it's an extended stay Hotel by Marriott is located right in coplay. And on today's episode, I am joined by Brian Hutchins, who is the general manager. And I'm also joined by Kelly, Kedah. Shima, who is the Director of Sales here at the Residence Inn in Kapolei. So let's go ahead and we're going to talk story with Brian and Kelly from the residence.

Kelly Bryan, thank you so much for jumping on Hawaii's Best with us today. Kelly, how are you doing?

Kelly Kitashima 1:56

I'm amazing. Fabulous. It's another day in Kapolei. Right?

Unknown Speaker 2:01


Bryan Murphy 2:01

I love that. Brian, what about you?

Brian Hunnings 2:04

Hey, Wes. That is the best side. What can I say?

Bryan Murphy 2:06

Yeah. So Kelly, let's talk a little bit about how you came to residents and maybe a little background and then Brian will hear from you as well. But Kelly, a little bit about your background and what you do.

Kelly Kitashima 2:17

Oh my goodness, do we have 30 minutes?

Well, I'm a local girl born and raised and a proud graduate of Kamehameha Schools if you're familiar with our local rival high schools here, but I went to the ninth island for college, you go rebels had an amazing, super awesome hotel program very hands on. I did come home after college got married to my husband who also was in the hotel industry. I was more of an operations gal. I worked in convention services catering for a long time. We had a five year old son at the time and so I kind of gravitated towards more of a sales role, which is you know, Monday through Friday ish. Fast forward, Brian and I actually worked together in another lifetime when star Woods still existed in Waikiki. I was part of the complex team, their complex sales team that encompass the iconic Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian church and Waikiki. Since then, we've expanded our family had a daughter and I've grown in my role as far as director of sales at different global brands, including the Hyatt also the Kahala, I took a two year little stunt at Expedia. So it was so fun to get to learn the back end technology side of things got to open the modern Honolulu, which is a boutique hotel in Waikiki. And believe it or not, in 2018, I pivoted 180% and actually ran for office because there were a lot of things I was passionate about here in our local actually County. So run for local local. Yep. Council. Yeah, exactly. So 2018 were shy about nine points. And so all meant to be because I ended up here at the residence in Kapolei.

Shortly thereafter, the campaign So Brian and I kind of reunited after not working together for about maybe five or seven years ish. But in Hawaii, it's very rare to open a property from the ground up, meaning wood foundation concrete, usually it's a it's a refurbishment, right? Especially,

Bryan Murphy 4:23

you know, Waikiki, right, it's

Kelly Kitashima 4:26

like a 1950s you're just changing the wallpaper and the painting and the entrance and the exit this one I mean, the plans are already done, but to see it come from ground up and you're putting linen and rooms and you know your job because it's like you're birthing a child because that's how long it's been so to be part of this opening team, but pre pre pre opening, while Brian and I shared a bell closet across the street was super special, but like so rewarding, you know, now that we're here and open for a little over a year

Brian Hunnings 4:58

definitely is bonded us that's for sure.

Bryan Murphy 5:00

All right, what about you what's led you?

Brian Hunnings 5:04

in communications, so and I don't use that degree at all.

actually went into hospitality. I worked in a number of resorts in the mainland. My first real hotel job is at the Venetian resort in Scottsdale. And that was like the birth of Starwood. And then when that happened, I got sent to Vegas, ironically, because Starwood own Caesars Palace for like a hot minute, okay, and I was tapped on the shoulder and told we're gonna go compete with Bellagio go over there. And I'm like, looking at this run.

Unknown Speaker 5:35


Brian Hunnings 5:37

glass, like there is no way. But I was there for two years. And that was like quite an experience. And then I moved to Maui at the beginning of 2000. I've been here in Hawaii ever since and started to grow my laya was on Maui for about eight years, then move to Waikiki, where I met Miss Kelly kirishima. The Curia complex and started the Moana Surfrider, the first lady of Waikiki and an amazing property, and then worked my way up to the Regional Director of food and beverage for all Starwood for Hawaii and French Polynesia. Yeah. So at one point, I had 13 hotels underneath me, I was director of food and beverage, for sure to Waikiki, and then three in Polynesia, or French Polynesia, I should say. So half my life was living out of a suitcase. Yeah. And then basically got an A unique opportunity to go to Turtle Bay, on the North Shore, and become the hotel manager there, and was there for three years and knowing full well that they were trying to sell the property, but it was the longest sale of my life. I said, this is like every week, there's a new set of owners go into this place. Okay. Sure. Thank you. From there. It was like, you know, happenstance happened to meet the ownership group here. And they were like, Hey, what are you gonna do? You know, we, you know, you just sold Turtle Bay to Blackstone, okay, what's the next thing? And I was like, I really don't have any plans. I was just sitting there, like, well, we're building a hotel from the ground up, would you be interested and I was like, What? I was like, like, nobody gets to do that. And so that really kind of intrigued me. And the fact that most of my background have been luxury. I mean, you know, select services, completely different beasts for luxury mindset. But then kind of just looking at, you know, where a couple a was, and everybody was like, you're going to wear? Like, is that cool? Lena? No, no, no, no, no.

Unknown Speaker 7:34


Brian Hunnings 7:36

Kent literally was the very first person in my mind, and I was like, she's been out of it for a hot second, let's give her a call. And see she's ready to jump back in and, and then we spent a year in the bell closet next door at the embassy. And we built this beautiful baby right here.

Unknown Speaker 7:52

I mean, it's like, malaria, right? It's so true.

Bryan Murphy 7:56

So okay, so so then you go to, like, an already established spot, and you kind of jump on and you do your thing, you tweak this and tweak that, and, or whatever. Like, I know what I'm talking about, like, it sounds good. You kind of touched on it, Brian, but like, maybe from both of your perspective, what was it? What was so attractional? I know, you talked about from like, the ground up. But why, like, why is that? attractional? And what what about that kind of drew you to hear?

Brian Hunnings 8:25

For me, I mean, it's just, you know, the the opportunity to put in years and years of best practices, and having been able to be mentored by an incredible variety of Hawaii professionals. And one thing is one thing if you go into an existing property, and you try to change the culture, it's really hard like going into molana Surfrider. You know, 108 years when I walked into the place, trying to change that culture, not so much gonna happen. I mean, we did it took a long time. Whereas if you build from the ground up, you can make an immediate impact, and really kind of set the bar. And the best thing about Kelly and I is we're such a yin and yang, like, she's the polar opposite of me on a lot of things. I mean, we base level we agree on a lot of things, but for what we're passionate about, it's two different perspectives. And to really sit down and go look like you know, if we're really going to be part of this couple, a master plan, and other malls, six new hotels, you know, what does that really look like? What are we what are we going to do? And for me, it was like living in Waikiki for a good four years. It was always like listening to the stories of people that lived on the west side, that didn't get hired in nikolina. And would drive 45 minutes to an hour, hour and a half, from this side to get into Waikiki and waking up at 430 so they could get to work by eight o'clock. And just thinking of the quality of life and what did that mean for them, and then being able to provide, you know, a great quality job. On this side, which when you look at a wahoo, where do the majority of local true local people live? They live on the west side, right? They don't live in Waikiki, and they don't live in Honolulu. They live on the west side, and have that as a true representation of what the culture is like here on a wahoo was for me, we're really intrigued me. And then knowing Kelly and her background, how passionate she is about it. As a man, we got to team up on this.

Kelly Kitashima 10:26

Oh, yeah, community first, but not to echo on what Brian said, though, what was so cool about the culture that, like you said, you can go into Milan, and it's hard to change culture. But Brian was so brilliant at building the culture. It's like, how can you ever say and put on a resume that you've built a team, you've built the culture, and Fun fact, like 98.9% of all of our associates live on the Leeward Coast of Alaska, which was the true intent. And so I think, you know, not going back to my roots, but you know, as a native Hawaiian, as a local girl, I truly think I aside from my servant heart, I always love to learn and I've always just had this like, weird growth mindset that like I love constantly being challenged, I love to learn. And to like Waikiki was Waikiki. Right? It's like turning bird, it was like, What hotel you're gonna go to next. I do live like 12 minutes away. So that was very appealing, and I didn't have to fight. I'm not gonna lie, personally, that was like, very, very attractive. But, you know, to work alongside Ryan, again, to open a hotel, and to build the culture. And that sense of responsibility, like Brian talked about to the community, there were so much I think, the west side is almost I hate to say it has been like neglected in some ways, but I thought, you know, with our shrinks, that we could contribute so much more with this little gem. So, here we are today. Definitely pivoting you know, from COVID. Yeah, putting community first and it's always kind of, like Ryan said Yang Yang, but at the core in our hearts. It's always been community first.

Bryan Murphy 11:56

Yeah. So you guys are proud you major on the majors. And you have those miners where you, you have your strength, you have your strength, you know, I mean, that's just a great team right there. So talking, you mentioned this a little bit about COVID. Because you guys opened up in 2019. December, so late 2019. Yeah. Yeah,

Brian Hunnings 12:13

we're actually we opened October 13. October, ok. October 3 2019. You know, we were going on data from just basically two hotels in Hampton, Everett, Comic Con Anna Lee, and then our sister property embassy. And you know, it's funny, because even the Marriott people were like, Ah, don't worry. You're only gonna be like, 30% for probably the first year. And like Kelly and I were like, what? 30%? What are you talking about? The second week, we're open. I mean, we had a year literally to plan and, like a lot of community connections, making sure that we're very strategic in our decisions. And by the end of November, we were at 98%. Wow. And at the end of December, we had nearly sold out in December. We know

Unknown Speaker 12:55

we remember that.

Brian Hunnings 12:57

Yeah. Christmas week.

Unknown Speaker 13:02

newest kid on the block.

Brian Hunnings 13:04

It was I just remember walking in and Oliver going, be just so you know, we're gonna have to walk 28 rooms today. And I was like, What? Yeah, it was a fun time. But yeah, I mean, we were amazingly successful. Definitely new kid on the block, but very community oriented from the very beginning. And I think that really kind of helped seal the deal. And then March 28, COVID, hit right. You know, Mulligan year. I mean, we always use the word pivot around here we had March 2008 was, like scary. And nobody knew what was going on. And we're an extended stay hotel. And we had so many people that this literally was their home at that point. And a lot of hotels were closing and like, I just remember looking at Kelly and being like, you know, ownerships like, what do you want to do? Do you want to shop or do you want to stay? It's going to be tough here, you know, on a wahoo. And we knew we had to stay open for you know, the 22 plus rooms, that this was their home at that point. Yeah. So there was no guidelines, there was no CDC recommendations. There was a lot of fear and paranoia. And we just kind of went with what we knew. And it's kind of funny, because, you know, cleanliness and sanitation should always be a part of any hotel plan from the beginning. And I felt like we had, you know, a really solid crew, and we knew from the start of that, not knowing how it was transmitted. I mean, we we went the opposite and like the thermometers Did you call I know, you go home, right, come back from the doctor. But I mean, knock on wood this day. I mean, we've had only two incidents of our employees that have contracted COVID. Both were outside of work, both family receptions, and we've managed to keep our guests safe and our team safe. We had to pursue business where there was business, right? And that's where Kelly came in. You know, she used to running this house at like 20 to 40% group. And we had to pivot to be an 80 to 90% group because there is no fit no transient travel whatsoever. So that's been a major shift for us, you know how we have to look at our poucos and our holes and try to fill it in with either special events or community minded activities to get through, but we've been really successful. I mean, if you look at 2020, we finished the year it's 78% occupancy year round, oh, it's kind of crazy. That is crazy. And then looking into this year, you know, our biggest thing, just, you know, being community minded, we just have fear, you know, the fear and the lack of joy. And we were like, man, whatever we can do to help. Stop that mitigate that, yeah, bring some joy back to the community. And then, you know, combine that with, you know, small businesses that were hurting. And that's how we've kind of our philosophy moving forward, really, which ties into the night market, which you were Yeah, witness to see. And that's been slowly that's 100% Kelly's idea. So I'll let her talk about that.

Bryan Murphy 16:08

Yeah, I mean, you kind of before we hit record, I think a lot of us has kind of thrown that that word, pivot around, you know, and new, normal, whatever that means. But normal, I think we should always be striving, like he talked about growth mindset, like you never want to be stagnant. Like you always want me. Absolutely. Yeah. So from your seat, Kelly, what was like 2020. And thinking outside the box, which has probably always been like, 1,000%.

Kelly Kitashima 16:38

I mean, we I think we blew up the box. First of all, but it's, you know, aside from the fear paranoia, in weird ways, I don't even know how to articulate this. But there was so much self guilt, because there were so many other of our colleagues that had lost their jobs, other colleagues that were more qualified than myself, years of experience, master's degrees, I mean, just the the fact that they lost their job overnight. And here, we are bustling, you know, at like, 6070 80% at some point, and so there was some self guilt that you're kind of reflecting on. I mean, I think even like, two weeks ago, I think I didn't want to be his office. And I was like, How in the world did we end up here? How in the world did we stay open? You know, aside from brick and mortar, you know, we are an extended stay hotel. So naturally, we did get the essential worker business, health care workers stranded, a lot of stranded families, believe it or not, local families that see their kitchen burnt on fire, or their restructuring, or, you know, something happens to their home, or there's an emergency, a lot of stranded diplomats, like their families, you know, so with the travel restriction, so a lot of people like, Oh, you must be filled with military now. Like, actually, it's like, very, yeah, very interesting array of guests, but I just kind of had to, like, reflect and just be so thankful, and so grateful that we had the opportunity to one open this hotel, to stay open, stay home, stay open safely, and responsibly. And in little ways, like Brian said, give back to the community, and it was a food drive, if it was supporting a small business, if it was supporting a nonprofit, giving

Brian Hunnings 18:17

hardship program, complimentary

Kelly Kitashima 18:19

rooms, you know, to us vets, or to hospital, you know, workers. So I mean, there were so many programs, you know, throughout the year, it was, you know, definitely give back program that, you know, it's your responsibility are open, you have to somehow give back. And like Brian said, our mix of business definitely changed. I just recently went to a seminar. And it's interesting that our data aligns so much with other mainland extended stay hotels, I did stay open, you know, that are in not necessarily rural areas, but that have to house essential work, which is basically what we're doing throughout the year. So aside from that, moving into 2021, like Brian said, I couldn't agree with that more is that we kind of, we hate to say we call ourselves trendsetters, but being open, you know, we did have that advantage. And we did feel like just another day in the office, but how did we up our game, whether we did a night market, or whether we did internships for the high school, you know, whether we actually I mean, like so many it's like so I mean, even people celebrating it even a drive by birthday, right, just something so simple that great. Yeah, that any little thing we could do, like Brian said to bring joy was our goal. And so I think that's the real goal for 2021 is to start bringing back joy to families. I joke about this all the time, but I want to get ordained I want to get my license. So he wants to be

Bryan Murphy 19:42

a drive thru wedding,

Kelly Kitashima 19:43

weddings out of my office, people married and our families and you know, yeah, this is like crazy stuff that we like we think about but you know, don't tell me because I'll probably do it.

Brian Hunnings 19:53

And again, by the way, so you

Kelly Kitashima 20:00

Just get online in real life. It's crazy.

Bryan Murphy 20:03

You do for past life, I was a pastor, like,

Kelly Kitashima 20:12

give me some tips. I mean, I definitely don't want to do like the financial side, but I definitely do

get on. Always best, though, is a smidgen, right of your portfolio or is that like your main,

Bryan Murphy 20:30

it's, I would say half, you know, like so like Hawaii's Best started about three years ago, really put traction into about a year and a half ago. So looking to even like double down more and, you know, actually, like start hiring people that I helped what's cool is like Hawaii is not a hard sell. But I think people are, are looking more for the true. You're talking about culture, even like on the west side. They want to know, like, where the locals go or where

Unknown Speaker 21:06

not, ya know, so

Bryan Murphy 21:07

it's its own world is his own.

Kelly Kitashima 21:10

It's authentic. Right, right. Yeah. You know, what do you think is so cool about Oahu, I mean, not to snob against the other neighbor islands. But on a wall, you have history, whether it's pro Harbor, you have the only Palace on the in all of North America, Bishop Museum, and then you have the North Shore with Town and Country. So you have Waikiki you have North Shore. So I think you get all these cool elements, and dining, shopping entertainment, with still being able to feel that emphasis of Hawaii by going on a hike on the east side or something. So I don't think you can really get all those components on the neighbor islands with the exception of Big Island, but need to volcano for one day.

Unknown Speaker 21:57

Yeah, I

Brian Hunnings 21:58

mean, all the islands are unique in their own way. But I think definitely a wall who has the largest variety of options for

Kelly Kitashima 22:05

people. But you're right, we skipped over that historic, we skipped over that cultural, we skipped over that. And I know there's a Kulina responsibility, kind of the initiative going on with hpcb and HTA. And so I hope that a lot more hotel partners, and once we start moving into normal C, pre c 19, that that can be an emphasis to visitors, you know, as they come in,

Bryan Murphy 22:30

but really at the heart of it. It's kind of what you guys are already doing, because he's talking about these market nights. And it's about supporting local, and it's about partnering with the community that you're in and I think you guys are in this unique kind of position to be able to do that you kind of have the freedom to be able to partner with this community. And whereas if you know you're Waikiki, you're a little bit more restricted. You kind of have to do the thing there but like here, I mean, you're talking about doing food drives, you're talking about doing the market nights and bringing in local vendors. I mean, really for people to experience that I think that is in itself really what it is all about it's it's really about the people about the culture and obviously selling celebrating the beautiful land and and what it is but talking about those marketing eyes maybe just because we shared a few follow Hawaii's Best we shared a couple days ago, from the time of this recording what that was like we celebrated the Chinese New Year. Yeah, right. And but maybe from your guys's perspective in words, you kind of already spoke about the heart of it, but what can somebody expect? They're coming on the west side. Maybe they're staying here, maybe they're not but what can they expect from a Friday night market?

Kelly Kitashima 23:53

So twofold. Right? So think about it from an entrepreneur standpoint. Once we went into lockdown one than 2.0 there was no avenue for any of these small businesses to showcase their items. So like for example, Merrie Monarch right which is the largest hula festival the Big Island postponed cancelled right made in Hawaii festival baby Expo, I mean every craft fair major craft fair you could like think of where you that would be your major show of the year cancelled. So you know unfortunately everything is so town centric and nothing is really featured here on the west side unless you paid a vendor fee or unless you knew somebody of a somebody right so you know part of our give back to the community was opening up this beautiful venue that we have that you mean look at this dining room right It's gorgeous. And unfortunately because we are in the tier system that we are sits empty and is not utilized. So what better way to utilize it and give the venue some life to it give it some energy by bringing in local leeward side vendors. In addition to of course our popular food trucks. I mean, they have their kind of following. But it was really just to give them a stress free venue. We we did not charge any vendor fees, any Commission's any setup fees, and we handled all the marketing, all the collateral, all the planning all the collaboration, organized entertainment, Brian has great relationships with the live entertainment world, my family really is related to the Chinese Lion Dance Crew. But yeah, kind of just incorporating, you know, all those little things. And it all kind of came together for that particular night. But it's at the end of the day. I mean, we just got an email yesterday, you know, one of the vendors, because of that night was able to pay for her daughter's seven surgery. So it's like little nuggets like that, that you're like, Man, you know, like, there's so much hard work and sweat tears that are on the back end that, like

Brian Hunnings 25:52

night, and we're like, thank you, I can pay my rent, like seriously, like it's well crazy. And to think that we had an opportunity to help them with that is just immense. I mean, not even just that I mean, you like look at our guests, and you know, they don't want to be held captive in their rooms, you know, and I think we've gotten to the point where 2021 wear a mask, wash your hands. Don't be stupid, you're gonna be fine. Right? You know, let's get on with life. Exactly. Stop worrying about it. If you are susceptible, stay away. You know, if you're not come down, be smart. Help support local, because all these people are in the same boat, if not worse than you. And as a community, we can only rely on each other. Kelly's always like, we're gonna get in trouble. They're gonna say that.

Unknown Speaker 26:43

Yeah, like

Brian Hunnings 26:46

the difference between us? Yeah, she's like to the tee. It would be great. The

Unknown Speaker 26:53

Ferris wheel.

Brian Hunnings 26:56

Fernandez is probably fair as well. Yeah, that's what you know what it was all about. And going through like Friday night, it's just overwhelming the amount of people that are just like, Can you do it again. And so kind of our commitment is we'll do it again, until things get back to somewhat normality. Because, you know, it's it's not fair that just target and Costco are open. And all these mom and pop places have kind of suffered. And so many are out of work, and everybody's got a side hustle, everybody's got to make something to do something to pay their bills and have it and if we can help support them in that way. We're gonna do it.

Bryan Murphy 27:35

What's great about it is you felt the community here. Mm hmm. You know, like, it was it

Kelly Kitashima 27:40

wasn't like international marketplace. Like from the

Bryan Murphy 27:46

and I was probably personally in my first experience, like actually being around people in like, a year, you know, like, you felt the energy. Like there's energy that that's the thing I think we've we've kind of, I think at the heart of all of us is that energy of that collectiveness I've been together. And that was something that was really like, yeah, that the the food was great. The vendors were amazing, but like, the energy of like, this coming together was really special.

Brian Hunnings 28:13

You don't you don't recognize it until it's been gone for so long. Right? Yeah. That's the crazy part. I just like live entertainment listening to somebody live doing this, you know, and being able to share their passion. Yeah, you know, yeah, look at all these like zoom concerts and stuff. Like that's, like, you know, the same it's not the same as being right up there and being able to listen to an entertainer tell the story behind it and feel the energy in the room. And

Bryan Murphy 28:40

you know, as crazy like, we were, we're over at, where are we at? We're at monkeypod the other night for dinner. And, like, I get chills thinking about it. The guy performing, like that was the first live sound, and I'm a musician did the whole, you know, music thing. And I that like that's not like, my core is like how I speak is like through music like that just moves especially with the wind culture. For me that's like, so like, he could feel it in the music and what was amazing this guy was performing at monkey pod. And you know, I don't know how many times we've been there. And whenever, you know, I would say you know, pre 2020 someone would you know, in the song and you hear a couple claps but like was so special, like he ended the song and like people were just

Unknown Speaker 29:29


Bryan Murphy 29:29

going crazy. Like to kind of touch on your point, just like collective, you know, energy. So the west side, I love the west side. The west side is the best side like hands down. We fall in love with Hawaii here and this is kind of where our heart is talking a little bit about coplay and I think people are very familiar with Waikiki Honolulu, even North Shore, but capital A is expanding and has grown so much like,

Brian Hunnings 30:03

Yeah, I remember when I moved here in 2000. And I drove all the way out here, it was like, desert and the waterfall. I was like, Oh, my God was like in the middle of nowhere. And now you look around and you're like, what the heck happened out here. It's crazy. It was always a plan

Kelly Kitashima 30:19

right? There was always supposed to be a second city. And I'm so glad that it's finally coming to fruition. But if we're part of the couple a chamber of commerce, and every year, they do kind of like a year and recap, and you know, James Campbell, obviously, kind of, they oversee kind of the master plan of Kapolei. But if you see the 510 year plan, it is completely great. almost feel like it's Vegas. But I'm going because I lived there for five years. And so it's so funny seeing these, like empty parcels of land. And then like six months later, boom, there's like Kaiser, you know, high tech, you know, their new high tech, medical facility. And so just the outlook, the 510 year outlook, they're not stopping, it's going to expand, it's going to look like a actual city, but

Brian Hunnings 31:08

better infrastructure.

Bryan Murphy 31:09

I was gonna say, yeah, the infrastructure of it all. Yeah,

Kelly Kitashima 31:13

I was gonna say that, but I think we've had time to plan and it's not like we're trying to, you know, build so many high rises on high rises. But there is something so special and historic, actually about couple a and so a lot of people don't even realize there's a Heritage Center here. A lot of people don't realize that the airport is still being utilized, you know, they're actually going to be utilizing it as a major refueling station for a lot of airplanes. So I mean, regardless of that, though, just between Campbell industrial, there's like 10,000 plus homes on the Hawaiian home side, plus new rental. So of course, there's a lot of working families here. So looking at a segment that nest can actually put 20% down but can rent. So a lot of the projects that are up and coming are going to be rentals for locals. So all that in addition to the rail, that perhaps maybe just add to it, no, but I mean, it just I mean, gosh, the two year lesson, yeah, in the two years that we've been here, the

Brian Hunnings 32:16

dirt lie over here with Kelly and looking at it. She's like, wait, this is gonna be the hotel and then you know, is us and then boom, UPS re hella, and then Boom. Boom, weirdos raising Cain. And Anna, you know, the Kidney Foundation is building their holiday. And then sneak peek. Our owners are building a third hotel here getting ready. So I mean, it's it's quite incredible. But I think the important part, like tying it back to the original thing, like providing opportunities for local families, so they do not have to drive. You know, it's huge quality of life. Like it's the one thing in life, you can't put $1 amount on time. Like, what is your time worth? Yeah. Would you rather spend an hour with the kids? Or would you rather spend an hour sitting in traffic. And like for our staff, I just remember, like the week we opened, we went to this beach cleanup to give back to the local community and I had like three of the housekeeper's in the back of my car. And now these ladies all live, why and I all worked Waikiki hotels. And I didn't realize that the bus ride from Waianae into Waikiki was three and a half hours, one way. So these ladies were working eight hour shifts, and then basically sitting on a bus for six hours. And like, would bring their kids with them and enroll them into schools near Waikiki just so they could make it work. And just remember driving to the beach, like them sitting in the back of my truck, crying their eyes out

Unknown Speaker 33:48

my eyes,

Brian Hunnings 33:50

you know, but it like it didn't really sink in until that moment, like how life changing. This was for a lot of them, a lot of them. And now to look at them. And they're like, you know, they all go into soccer practice with the kids and like this was never on their agenda before. You know. And that's really where you look at, like how we've made an impact on families and local families. And, you know, I, you know, I credit Kelly, all the world for getting us back up so quick. I mean, we hit a little bump in March to mid April, but we brought back 80% of our staff within a month. So a lot of other hotels still don't have ourself back in even our hotel. I mean, other than our bartenders and our f&b team, every single person's back. So I mean, that's incredibly like we pride ourselves on that. Even the fact that even those that haven't are still laid off, we're still paying their medical insurance, you know, just because it's the right thing. So,

Bryan Murphy 34:49

as honorable if someone's not familiar with the west side, what are some things is really right in the heart of coplay here. What are some things people what they're planning You know, a trip, what can they look forward to over here on the west side, even though you can drive in the Waikiki is 40 the or, you know, it's so but like from your guys's perspective,

Brian Hunnings 35:11

I mean, for me, like, what you just said is like the key proponent, I think for being here is like, it's so centrally located to everything, like you literally can be anywhere on this island within 40 minutes. But as far as Kapolei, like, there's so I mean, the beaches around here are amazing, like, and everybody. I mean, it's so funny to me, like everybody talks about going to colina and like, the math, like to he just feels artificial. Like that's the whole Disney thing. Like I'd much rather go to the beach literally right across the street. Just because it's just stunning and it's natural. Nobody goes there because they don't know about it. Those are like the kind of little hidden gems, the trails up in the mountains behind us. The lodge up there is fantastic. Let alone there's shopping galore. And you don't really feel like it's all the the fenders, the Gucci, the you know, the Harry Weinstein or what is it a Harry Winston?

Bryan Murphy 36:16

You got to target five minutes away. No.

Brian Hunnings 36:19

Everything's here. I mean, it's so great. Like, you're just like, Oh, yeah, I can really I can be there in five minutes. We

Kelly Kitashima 36:24

use it a survey. I clicked onto your server, you're like, Where's the best then set in a wall or something? And I was gonna type in Kapolei. But then I was like, oh, like maybe people don't get it right. So I'm still self like, I still self doubt myself. But I think it's twofold. I mean, there's so many secret hidden gems and like you said, it's real true community. at its finest here. I'm on the board of Allah and Allah a formed out of hudl Hello. So a hula class gal that was working as a teacher then formed a hula, hula, and then now has like little different pillars that make up this organization. And one of them is the Kapolei hula festival. I had no idea until I was part of the board. There's a couple ladies festival. She also puts on a mock the HIKI. So makahiki in Hawaiian is like traditional Hawaiian, like almost like the Olympics for the I guess, traditional war games. And she does it on the corporate side. So a lot of other hotels and for season and all any you know, she'll do that for but she'll also do it for the community. So there's so many, little, like I said, special little nuggets that I was even completely unaware of. Did you know there was a train that took residents from ever to town that train tracks still exists here.

Brian Hunnings 37:35

lava tubes on a wall, right here in Kapolei. And the EVO my

Kelly Kitashima 37:38

parents actually live in the older side of a beach. And so if you go down kind of more yet to kind of cut through, but kind of closer I guess maybe to Pearl Harbor side, but those are like just some old school natural beaches that nobody really knows about. And so this site is I love how it's still not fully developed, you know, like a Kakaako. Or, or as we wake up and it's funny, we actually get a lot of guests that move out of Waikiki because it's, it almost feels like a little claustrophobic. And they want the openness and the style of hotel you know, we have here it's kind of like your Hawaiian home away from home. And so, from a brand standpoint, our tagline is travel like you live. And so we really want to make it as most comfortable. And as most homey feel as we can.

Brian Hunnings 38:24

Yeah, it's a little raw, it's a little wild. It's you know, it's not highrises everywhere. You know, you actually feel like you're in a residential community surrounded by true natives. You know, I mean, I can't tell you how many of our employees have brought guests back to their baby's first luau, or like, graduation parties like Lizzie constantly amazes me how giving our team is of like, Oh, yeah, I'll take you around North Shore. I'll take you up, you know, Ali Eva. And like, it's just natural, like just the fact that they give themselves so freely on their date. Like they're like, you know, they have two days off a week and they'll take our guests around because they just bond with them so great. And you don't really see that a lot of other hotels, particularly in Waikiki. I mean, don't get me wrong. I worked in Waikiki, a long time and fantastic people there, but it's a different form of Aloha. That's spoken there than it is here, I think.

Bryan Murphy 39:21

Yeah, no, I mean, I can definitely attest to that. And if someone's coming for the very first time or maybe has come year after year, you know, experiencing that sunset in Waikiki is is a special moment too. And, and I think, personally, I think some of the best sunsets on Oahu are right here, you know, so, someone's planning a trip right now. And you listen to this right now, of course, you're listening to this because you're listening to this.

But from your guys's perspective, if someone's planning a trip, just maybe let's stick was thick on Oahu. What are like some like, you got to make sure you do that or glitter does sound like some tips that you would you know, give someone planning a trip.

Brian Hunnings 40:10

My number one don't do is like, yeah, I get it like Florida, I get it Texas, I get it some parts of California, you don't like to wear your masks, but you know, here we wear our masks. And we do it for you. Like I can't think of any better definition of aloha we're doing. It comes from our hearts to keep you safe and healthy. Please respect that respect the culture. I think that's like the definite thing. The number two is for things to do definitely come by couple a

Unknown Speaker 40:42


Brian Hunnings 40:42

I mean, our team? Absolutely,

Kelly Kitashima 40:45

I think I'm gonna really keep it simple. I mean, like you said, like we kind of talked about just a wahoo is such a blend of cultural, historic nightlife, shopping, you know, everything that you kind of want on one island. But I just bring it back to like a simple concept of Mullah mocha, I know, which is just take care of the land. And it'll take care of you. But you know, especially if you're a visitor, of course, educate yourself, there's just so many resources, you know, between your podcast and online resources. But I think now more than ever, we have a responsibility to take care of, you know, if I'm coming to visit, whether a particular Island whether it's Maui, Big Island, Oahu, Hawaii, Hawaii, that you are a visitor, that you have to be mindful that people do call this place home. So like simple things, like pick up your rubbish, say thank you. And like you said, be respectful of the culture. And like perhaps things aren't done the same way as it is done in your part of the country or part of the world. But really, we have a responsibility to the island that we live on, because resources are so limited here, and you're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But I do encourage anybody that comes I think also should have a partial, I would say maybe need or want to give back some wind somehow. And there's so many awesome programs. I know HTA as a malambo program, basically. So a lot of the hotels are are partnering with a local nonprofit organization that is Malema kinda so like ours is with a local nonprofit here where you can go, you know, to camp for a day and learn about you know, different cultural practices, you can go and plant a tree on behalf of your family or your organization or yourself. It's tracked its GPS, you get a certificate for planting the tree and the carbon offset of that is like phenomenal. And so like how cool is it just to you know, be able to give back to the aina, then to also, you know, have something to take back with you knowing that you're leaving, you know, an awesome carbon footprint here. But there's just so many other things to do, whether it's from the keiki, or kupono or the children or the elderly standpoint to that it's been negatively impacted in 2020. So I would highly encourage anybody just to again, melomakarona, and come with a growth mindset to come and learn. And give back. You know, if you have two hours of your time during your trip, what better way and what feel good way to go home is to give back.

Bryan Murphy 43:06

Those are the things that you'll take with you and will impact you for years to come. Absolutely.

Kelly Kitashima 43:12

Right. I mean, you can eat a shave ice and remember that in a photo right, but like How awesome would it be to deliver a meal to a right. And an elderly family? Sure,

Bryan Murphy 43:22

yeah. To find those opportunities. Yeah. For us, you know, it's felt like home staying here. So I just want to say thank you guys, publicly. Just thank you so much for your hospitality and for welcoming us here. Pleasure.

Brian Hunnings 43:37

I mean, that's the important part. You know, we wanted this to feel like everybody's home. You know, it's not stuffy. It's not something that it's not meant to be It is literally like your a Cal's house here at Brian's house and take your shoes off, feel comfortable. Can we get you something? Okay, do you need help with something perfect, like we're there for you. And just relax. It's not overly stuffy. It's going to be comfortable. Particularly Now, during the times that we're in when everybody's so anxiety is running rampant amongst people fears running rampant around people, like our team, like God bless them, they all smile, it's always Aloha. Obviously valid everybody in the hallways, that goes a long way in making that whole feeling that we talked about in the very beginning building the culture.

Bryan Murphy 44:30

Yeah. So appreciate you guys. Thank you so much. Well, Kelly Ryan, thank you so much for coming on today. appreciate both of you guys. Thank you.

Kelly Kitashima 44:37

No, thank you this fall.

Brian Hunnings 44:39

That's right. We'll book you now.

Bryan Murphy 44:44

Well, I just want to say thank you so much to Brian and Kelly for their hospitality, and to the team here at Residence Inn. It really is and has been such a cool experience. That market that we talked about. Quite During the interview, was a really cool experience because you got to see and feel the community come out and just have a good time together. That's something that you don't get to experience a lot in some of the kind of resort areas. So definitely check out resonance in in Coppell A is, especially if you're traveling as a family, we're a family of five, and we stayed in their two bedrooms suite. And it was just the right amount of space with a couple rooms, little kitchen and it's great you know, there's a target right here is Costco right here. So if your family you probably totally, you know, get all that on next week's episode, I'm going to be talking about how to travel to Hawaii right now, specifically, what it all means doing the Safe travels program and filling out all the questionnaires and getting tested and how to fly and, and where to get tested and where not to get tested. So stay tuned for that one. You're gonna want to to hit subscribe so you don't miss it. And I just want to say thank you so much for your time and listening to today's episode. And until next time, be well below.

Unknown Speaker 46:18

Thanks for listening to Hawaii's Best travel podcasts. To stay up to date on future episodes. Be sure to subscribe. For more information to help you plan your next trip to Hawaii visit Hawaii's Best traveled.com

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy is the owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel and is a recognized authority on responsible travel to Hawaii. Combining years of on-ground experience with insights from the top-rated podcast, Hawaii’s Best, he connects with a broad online community, offering a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.