How Outrigger completed an $80M beachfront renovation

In July, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort completed an $80 renovation project that began before the COVID-19 pandemic and continued through travel bans, temporary closures and the boom of “revenge travel.”

In July, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort completed an $80 renovation project that began before the COVID-19 pandemic and continued through travel bans, temporary closures and the boom of “revenge travel.” The opening of the Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman marked a milestone in Outrigger Hospitality Group’s $200 million Waikiki reinvestment plan.

The renovation started in late 2019, with plans in place to make all necessary changes without disturbing the guest experience, according to Markus Krebs, general manager of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. When COVID struck, Hawaii’s tourism numbers plummeted as the state blocked nonessential inbound traffic. The management team had to close the resort to guests, but continued the upgrades. “The process was just very, very, very lengthy,” Krebs said.

San Francisco-based design firm Hart Howerton worked with local cultural experts to give the interiors a sense of place while updating the Ocean Tower, the Pacific Tower and the Diamond Head Tower. The latter is a five-story building that was converted into 23 rooms and suites, raising the property’s key count to 658.

The accommodation-focused first phase of the project was completed in April 2021, just as leisure travel began to pick back up and only a few months after Krebs joined the team. “There was this eagerness of myself, the company, all the employees to come back, to open up,” Krebs recalled of the soft reopening and unveiling of the renovation. “What can we do to start the resort running again?”

The second phase commenced after the reopening, reopening the Kani Ka Pila Grille music venue with a new stage, turning the hotel’s lobby into the Herb Kane Lounge with local artwork and adding the A‘o Cultural Center. Now that guests were back, Krebs and the team faced different challenges. “There was dust and there was noise and there were tunnels guests had to go [through]” he recalled. “But every week I saw the progress of the resort becoming what it is now.” The lounge and cultural center officially opened in March 2022, and the property officially celebrated its grand reopening.

As each part of the renovation was completed, the team held celebrations, often incorporating traditional Hawaiian blessings. “That was important—to involve the guests, to involve employees,” Krebs said. Ahead of each opening or reopening, all of the employees participated in a walkthrough so that they would be familiar with the space.

Read the full article in Hotel Management