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What do Maui’s Hoteliers do for fun on and off their job?

July 24, 2011
By CARLA TRACY - Dining Editor ( , The Maui News

At their day jobs, they're always perfectly coiffed, impeccably dressed, smiling and full of aloha.

Yet they are constantly hounded for free rooms and upgrades. They deal with high-maintenence movie stars, take conference calls, meet with department heads and oversee up to hundreds of employees, while still helping to maintain Maui as the "No.1 Tourist Island in the World."

Let's take a look at how some of Maui's hoteliers blow off some steam and have fun in their time off. Since community service is so important to them, we'll look at that, too, as well as throw in some juicy hotel happenings.

Article Photos

Kimokeo Kapahulehua (left) and Chris Luedi get ready to embark on a voyage of a lifetime.



For a self-described "Swiss mountain boy," Chris Luedi sure is making a splash in Hawaiian waters. He's paddled from the Big Island in the south of the Hawaiian Island chain to Kure Atoll, 1,500 miles away, in numerous canoe voyages. He also offers soulful Hawaiian chants to entire ballrooms of onlookers, giving everyone chicken skin.

His day job: "Mr. Luedi," as everyone calls him, is regional vice president for Fairmont Kea Lani Maui in Wailea and Fairmont Orchid Mauna Lani on the Big Island and general manager for the latter. He's also involved in future growth prospects in the Pacific basin for Fairmont. He's in charge of 450 suites and villas on Maui and 540 rooms on the Big Island, as well as 1,400 employees at both of the properties.

His credo: "I'm just a simple, ordinary man, working in a somewhat ordinary job, but trying every day to create and live an extraordinary and exciting life," says Luedi, whom many of you may have seen as one of the paddlers in the film "Family of the Wa'a" (canoe) at this year's Maui Film Festival at Wailea. Talk about endurance. This GM has it.

The voyages: "It really started one day, when we paddled from the Kea Lani to Molokini and thought, wouldn't it be great to paddle from the Big Island to Maui?" he says. "In 2003, we did it, and it was so symbolic to connect the hotels, from one Fairmont to the other."

In ensuing years, he paddled from Maui to Molokai, raced in the Molokai Hoe from Molokai to Oahu, then from Oahu to Kauai. Then he and his pals started to set their sights on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"In 2004, we paddled from Kauai to Nihoa, which was 52 hours round trip. In 2005, we went from Nihoa to Necker Island. But you can't get on land as it wouldn't be pono or 'rightgeous.'" In 2006, they braved open-ocean conditions to paddle 460 miles from Necker to Laysan.

The big dot connector was in 2008, a grueling 18-day paddle from Laysan to Kuri Atoll. The phenomenal feat was featured in the film "Family of the Wa'a."

"How humbling it is to be out there, in a 40-foot canoe, just bobbing above the surface of the water, 1,200 miles away from Kauai, the nearest inhabited island," says Luedi. "You think you're in control. But you're not. The universe is. We all get caught up in our daily lives and forget what's important. It makes you appreciate what's real.

"Today, four days a week, I'm out here on the beach in my board shorts, getting ready to paddle. My employees hear me chant. They warm up to me because they know I care about Hawaii and Hawaiian culture."

Holo holo: "Kimokeo Kapahulehua and I also walked all the way around Maui. It's like, 183 or 186 miles. It was a cultural and a spiritual thing. The purpose was to walk as much as we could on the King's Trail. The most spectacular part was from Hana to La Perouse Bay."

In addition, since Luedi is also in charge of Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island, he's starting to trek in increments from "Upolu Point in the north all the way to Kalae in South Point, the most southern point in the United States. It really connects you to what Hawaii is all about."

Hawaiian chants: "The first chant I learned was for a company Christmas party. Kimokeo put it in writing and recorded it and I just practiced and practiced."

For the community: Fairmont Kea Lani supports the Maui Culinary Academy "in a big way, hosting the Noble Chef event and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars." They also hire the students in their kitchens and all proceeds from Executive Chef Tylun Pang's book goes to the college. Luedi's other interests are nonprofits Women Helping Women and Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society.

Fairmont happenings: "August 15 will mark the beginning of a $5.1 million renovation to Fairmont Kea Lani's signature restaurant, K?. It will reopen in February 2012 as a world-class destination restaurant, celebrating the people, the stories and the history of Maui through innovative cuisine."


His day job: His title is cluster general manager (and not "General Cluster!") for Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Maui with 544 rooms and 400 employees, as well as Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island with 400 rooms and 325 employees.

His background: He's got over 35 years in management with Marriott and started off as a sous chef. He's also been to the late Bill Marriott's house a dozen times. It would take a book to list all of his accomplishments with so many years in the biz. He's been married to Dianne for 28 years, and his children are Chapin, Chandler and Chaney.

For fun and enjoyment: "My family and I do a lot of travel. That's really our passion," says Countryman. "Our last trip to Asia, we took a private sampan up the Mekong River from Saigon toward Cambodia. Took a hydrofoil across the river to Phnom Penh. Saw Angkor Wat. Cool trip.

"We really like Midway Island. Been there twice. Nothing to do but scuba dive and fish. Only about150 people are allowed on the island at any one time. You see millions of Goonie Birds, Layson Albatrosses. We rented golf carts and bicycles. No cars. We chased sharks around from our dive boat."

A world traveler, Countryman has also ridden elephants in Phuket, jet boated in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, and toured the Great Wall of China. "I like educational travel. So we've been to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, the Killing Fields in Cambodia, that kind of thing."

Community service: He was this year's chairman for Maui Hotel Association's Charity Walk and raised more money than even Oahu. He founded AYSO in West Maui and coached his sons, and he's on the board of Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

Marriott improvements: "We'll renovate the kids' pool and the fitness center by the end of the year. We're also putting in new turf on our 22-acre property."


His day job: The general manager of the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Kaanapali has 806 rooms and suites and 861 employees. "The Hyatt is the largest resort on the island and was one of the first fantasy resorts ever built in the world, when it opened in 1980."

His background: A native of Ohio, Jokovich completed his management training in college and was hired at Hyatt Regency O'Hare in January 1984. He continued to climb the ladder of success, working at Hyatt Regency Maui in 1985 as executive housekeeper and again in 1990 as rooms director. He returned here in 2008 as the "top dog." He and his wife, Debbie, are the proud parents of two sons, Justin and Nicholas.

Timeout: "I enjoy playing golf, tennis and exploring the island with countless family members and friends that visit us. Most recently, my wife, Debbie, and I left Kaanapali for Makawao - to spend the night in an Upcountry cottage."

"We go to the West Coast to see our son Justin and to take in new restaurants and sporting events in Los Angeles. We also just traveled to Shanghai and Beijing to see our son Nicholas who is interning at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, at 88 stories one of the highest-built hotels in the world."

Community service: "I am very involved with Maui Hotel & Lodging Association Charity Walk. This past year, our hotel raised $33,000 for island-based charities."

Jokovich is also chair of a golf tournament Aug. 26 at Royal Kaanapali. Event proceeds will provide scholarships for Maui students.

At the Hyatt: "We have the largest collection of wildlife in the islands next to Honolulu Zoo. We also have the only rooftop astronomy program at a hotel with our sophisticated, $25,000 telescope called 'The Edge.' "


Her background: Hotel Wailea's managing director has a bachelor's degree in art from Kobe College in Japan, and then she ventured to New York's Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. She's got 24 years' hotel experience, and chairs and sits on numerous boards.

Her day job: Kimura's office is at the Hotel Wailea, a luxury, all-suite resort with the upscale Capische? restaurant and full-service spa. She's responsible for 72 suites with 45 employees under her command.

Hula mom: Some mothers are "soccer moms." Kimura is a bonafide "hula mom" in her time off. "I don't know if I do it for fun or if being a hula mom is becoming my second job," she laughs.

"My two daughters both dance serious hula with Halau Kekuaokalaaualailiahi. As an example, one Saturday before the competition, we got up at 2 a.m. and drove to Haleakala summit to see the sunrise with my girls and three others from the halau.

"After kumu's pule (prayer) and the children's dedication of hula at the summit, we drove down to King Kamehameha campus and started sorting 5,000 ti leaves to make 27 hula skirts. I deboned at least 1,000 leaves this day until 5 p.m. The last skirt was finished at about 6:30 p.m."

She then spent three more hours shredding it right before the competition. Now, that's hula mom dedication!

"But it was worth it. At this year's Queen Lili'uokalani Keiki Hula competition, the halau won numerous prizes, including first place in the girls' kahiko."

But does the hula mom take time for herself?

"I am trying to get my golf game back," she says. "King Kamehameha Golf Club is my incentive to practice so that I can bocha (bathe) in the luxury tubs in the woman's spa area afterwards."

Community service: Her main interests are the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Pacific Cancer Foundation and Maui's children. Hotel Wailea awards scholarships of $1,000 each to seven students annually.

At Hotel Wailea: "After hosting two major events for Maui Film Festival, the hotel is still in the mood for movies. In addition to weekly film night poolside, we just hosted a fundraising movie night at our Sunset Lawn. With Capische? our 'Best Restaurant' Award winning restaurant, we are planning more."


His day job: As the general manager of the new Travaasa Hana, Stebbings is overseeing the transition from the Hotel Hana-Maui days. He's got 70 rooms and sea-ranch cottages and 80 employees.

"The most fun part of my day is meeting guests from around the world at our manager's reception."

His background: Stebbings received a degree in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management in Bournemouth, England, and was raised near the white cliffs of Dover. He's worked at the Hotel Biltmore in Paris, Hotel Angletree in Switzerland and The Point luxury property in upstate New York.

Off hours: A lover of the outdoors, Stebbings regularly jogs down to Hamoa Beach and hikes with his dog through trails in and around Hana. He and his wife, Kim, enjoy travel, cuisie and art.

"I love to travel and take in new experiences," Stebbings says. "My most exotic vacation was going to South Africa for a friend's wedding. It was the newlywed couple, my wife and me. It was intimate and lovely, just the four of us hanging out in and around Cape Town. We visited the local wineries -oh, I love good wine! - and we just had a blast. It's also fun to visit lovely restaurants, especially in New York City. I'm all about chocolate!"

Community: Travaasa just set up a $2,000 scholarship contest for students at Hana High School, who must have a family member who works at the hotel and wants to pursue further education. "It's a small way for us to give back to our dedicated employees and our Hana community."

At Travaasa: The hotel's Sea Ranch Cottages are now adults only and all-inclusive, offering three meals a day plus snacks, daily spa treatments and activities such as guided coastal walks, standup paddling, landscape photography and bicycle tours.


His day job: His title is vice president and general manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua with 463 rooms and suites and 745 employees. And, he's in charge of The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences with 146 luxury owner units and time shares with 97 employees. His Ritz credo is, "certainly, it's my pleasure."

His background: Donovan's been with the Ritz hotel group for more than 20 years, serving as GM at Bachelor Gulch near Vail, Colo., and in Phoenix. He is also only one of a handful who teaches Leadership Center seminars sought by Fortune 500 companies.

For fun: He's an avid golfer and accomplished skier. He and his wife, Brandy, and their two dogs, Lulu and Dude, along with two cats, Koele and Hana, enjoy outdoor time.

"Most who know me, know that I love playing golf. I'm grateful it's a hobby that allows me to foster business/personal relationships around the world -and it also enables me to support causes dear to my heart - such as charity events that ensure our local children will be afforded an excellent education."

Community service: For the Relay For Life fundraiser recently, Donovan let countless people throw pies at his face. He's also involved in Lahaina Intermediate School's afterschool Tutor Project as well as the Board of Maui Prep.

Garden tours: At 10 a.m. every Monday, you may joinresort chefs on complimentary interactive tours.

* Carla Tracy can be reached at



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