Define Aloha

As a person who lives on a vacationers paradise, when it comes to resorts, I know my stuff. I spent my teen years pool hopping and my adult years throwing all my money at them (thats an exaggeration, okay mom?) I can talk in detail about the price, family friendly scale, landscaping, pool bar menu, efficiency of service, pillow quality, check out time and don’t forget the ever important valet versus self-park debacle. I could start a whole blog category on this in fact maybe I will…

I have my favorites and I know I’m lucky and lucrative to be able to enjoy these kinds of places within miles from my home.

But I can say in my thirty-something years on Maui, I’ve never stayed at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. It’s a low key spot with a decent Kama’aina Rate (discount for locals) but for some reason it never really fell on my radar.  Dubbed “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” it appears to be out of the pages of Ka’anapali’s early resort years with visual details reminiscent of that South Pacific, Elvis Presley, Blue Hawaii kind of vibe. It lacks the roaring fake waterfalls, exotic animals and the ritzy jungle atmosphere of its neighbors and instead hosts local artisans and decor seemingly unchanged from decades past.

I like this switch up. The slow pace. We ended up staying there with the entire family; all the cousins, grandmas, grandpas, aunties and uncles. As a convenience and celebration for my nephews graduation out in Lahaina. It was so fantastic to have us all together like that.

I have to tell you though we had a pretty crummy experience with some of the staff, which pretty much ruined the special occasion of being in a special place together for probably the last time ever and shortened our trip substantially as we were made to feel very uncomfortable.

As a white woman with my white children, I was able to enjoy the pool side amidst a sleepy stretching lawn shaded by large happy plumeria of every type. This was perhaps the best part of the resort and I spent quite some time appreciating this while hanging out, unbothered and a little buzzed off the poolside maitais–just how its supposed to be.

But once my Hawaiian family showed up to this Hawaiian hotel, things changed and we were treated very differently. We were an obviously local and very humble family coming to support a local business and were treated  with no sense of Aloha or respect. We didn’t need a red carpet, but hospitality in the hospitality industry is not too much to ask?

So after I wrote my unsatisfied customer survey, this all got me thinking…

Words like Aloha and Hawaiian are the hottest terms in island marketing right now. In fact Aloha is pretty much the one word visitors know before arriving. They think it means Hello and Goodbye but its so much more than that. Almost every business in Hawaii promises it, promotes it and sells it. Without getting into the appropriation of indigenous language, which would have to be its own blog and probably conferred by experts, I just want to ask companies to make sure that they if they use the terms Aloha and Hawaiian, to do so with great honor and privilege. To take the time to define that, for themselves, and to spread it thick in their every operation. Appearance, training, core beliefs and especially, how they give back to the very community from which they acquired that term from. Its not just an SEO item, its a practice, a principal and its important. You know it when you see it and you know it when you don’t.

So from now on I have a new agenda in my resort review criteria, more important than the pool bar and how long you have to wait for your room and thats the quantitative and qualitative value of Aloha.

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