The Crew Is At The Helm

By Ronald D. Howard
Wednesday - April 07, 2010
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By Ronald D. Howard
President for Star of Honolulu Cruises & Events

This year, Paradise Cruises (now Star of Honolulu Cruises & Events) is celebrating 53 years in Hawaii, and I am very proud to say that we are now an “employee-owned” company!

The execution of our Employee Stock Ownership Plan was a long-cherished goal for my wife and business partner Mitzi and for me: To reward long-term management and crew with long-term financial security, and provide them with a stake in the company’s success. For not only do we truly care about our SOHCE ohana, but we also understand that every one of them helps us provide lifelong memories for our guests.

When I started with Paradise Cruises back in 1981, we were a struggling small dinner cruise company with more than a dozen competitors, and in the midst of a recession (for instance, our bank loan interest rate was 24 percent!).

Two things were then - and remain - paramount:

1) We must be efficient on costs, and

2) We must offer a noticeably better experience to our guests.

(from left) Ronald D. Howard, president; Layne Wada, vice president and managing director; and Reg White, vice president project and development of Star of Honolulu Cruises & Events

Since then we have grown from 20 employees and less than $1 million in revenue to almost 400 employees and more than $25 million in revenue. But while the boom years of tourism are in the past, as Hawaii has become a “mature” travel destination, we can no longer take growth and profitability for granted. Instead, we must work smarter and harder to continue to thrive in the tough environment we find ourselves in.

For the future, we cannot depend on our longstanding products or sources of business. Instead, we are challenged to constantly develop new sources of revenues utilizing our existing strengths, resources and opportunities. For example, over the past 15 years, we have grown our bus company division by purchasing Grayline Hawaii’s bus license for Oahu, taken on all of our own catering and photography, expanded to Maui, and designed and launched the all-new Hoku Nai’a and its eco-friendly Dolphin Watch products.

We have built on the foundations we established to also contribute to the community. For example, a great program we began in 2008 donates free educational cruises for qualifying Hawaii public school children in grades 2-5.

Yes, we’ve come a long way and will continue to work hard for our ohana and guests. I truly look forward to the future as our coowners/crew take Star of Honolulu Cruises & Events to the next level!


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