KAHULUI - The 138-room Courtyard by Marriott - Maui Airport welcomed its first guests Thursday - a decade after A&B Properties announced plans for a hotel near the Kahului Airport.
The Courtyard brand, Maui's first, is expected to fill a gap in options between the island's high-end luxury hotels and budget accommodations.
Building new hotels from the ground up has been a rarity since the economic downturn. And this project was a gamble, according to the developer and owner.
Guest rooms at the Courtyard by Marriott – Maui Airport are either two-bedroom “family” suites with full kitchens; larger suites; or single rooms.
The Maui News MATTHEW THAYER photo
"We had to take a gamble that the hotel business would recover," said Bob Olson, president of R.D. Olson Development, which owns the hotel. "This was in the planning process for years, and we had looked at developing there over the years, but it never made business sense."
Landowner A&B Properties had obtained county approvals and a zoning change for the site in 2002, but plans later stalled when the economy soured and construction costs soared.
"When construction costs came down, it made it more affordable," Olson said.
A&B last year formed a joint venture with Olson's company for the project. Olson now owns the site and the hotel, while Marriott manages operations.
The four-story hotel cost $30 million to complete, including $16.5 million in construction costs, he said.
Olson said that Bank of Hawaii came through with financing when no other banks would lend money for the project.
"Bank of Hawaii typically doesn't finance hotels. But we saw this as something good for the community, given the location, and we had a track record with Mr. Olson," said Kevin Baptist, a senior vice president with Bank of Hawaii and regional and island manager for Maui. "It made sense for the bank and for the community."
Marriott executives expect the hotel's central location near the airport - at the triangle formed by the intersection of Haleakala Highway and Keolani Place - to attract visitors and locals alike.
Olson said travelers with business in Kahului or those seeking convenient one-night accommodations on Maui often have to trek out to Kihei, Wailea or Lahaina.
Before the addition of the Courtyard, Kahului's mostly residential, industrial and retail mix offered limited travel accommodations other than the 147-room Maui Beach Hotel and 183-room Maui Seaside Hotel.
Aqua Hotels & Resorts, which runs the Maui Beach Hotel, welcomed the addition of new inventory.
"The Maui Beach Hotel has served kamaaina and visitors looking for a convenient location near Kahului Airport and Maui businesses for decades, and the new interest in the area created by the opening of Courtyard by Marriott Maui is a great boost for everyone in the community," said Elizabeth Churchill, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Aqua. "Maui Beach Hotel can only benefit from having a national hotel brand as our neighbor."
The Courtyard features two-bedroom "family" suites with full kitchens; larger suites; and a mix of single rooms with either king beds or two queen-size beds.
Amenities include a bistro-style restaurant in the lobby, fitness center, pool, lounge, laundry facility, convenience store, and meeting and ballroom space.
"It's a fresh new look for this side of town," said hotel General Manager Kaleo Kenui, who's been with Marriott for 15 years. "It opens up the options for business travelers, local interisland travelers and visiting families."
Patti O'Keefe, regional vice president for Marriott Select Hotels, added: "This Courtyard will be a strategic location serving this community with exceptional service and rooms, but at a slightly better value, and with special Maui touches."
Introductory room rates start at $149 for a limited time.
O'Keefe said, "Maui is a very special place for Marriott," noting that the company opened its first Hawaii hotel on Maui in 1981.
Olson credited Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa for helping streamline the permitting process to get the hotel built.
"What would have clearly taken a year just to get permitted, took two months," Olson said. "The mayor said, 'Do what you say you're going to do, and do it right, and I'll back you up.' ''
Arakawa, who attended a soft opening and blessing Thursday, said that he's confident the hotel will fill a need for accommodations in Central Maui. He also was impressed with the 12-month build-out of the project.
"To see a concept from way, way back when, and see it come to fruition, it's impressive," Arakawa said. "Just a year ago, there was nothing here."
The hotel has 35 full- and part-time employees and is continuing to hire. During construction, the project employed 220 full-time workers.
Marriott has three other Courtyard hotels in Hawaii: Courtyard by Marriott at Waikiki Beach, Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach and Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.