Richard Kelley: A Legend In Tourism

Mufi Hannemann
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November 02, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

If you were asked to name the leaders of Hawaii’s visitor industry, to identify the hoteliers who had the courage and vision to take the risks and make the investments in our future, whom would you choose?

Dr. Richard R. Kelley, without a doubt, comes to mind.

Known to friends and associates affectionately as “Doc” Kelley, he took over a family-owned hotel business founded by his parents, Roy and Estelle. The local-born Kelley is a graduate of Punahou School, Stanford University and Harvard Medical School, established a medical practice and taught at the University of Hawaii. But he eventually found himself immersed in the hotel business to the point that he joined the company full time in the early 1970s.

He excelled as a hotelier, strengthening the Outrigger holdings in Waikiki. And in collaboration with his son-in-law, David Carey, this local company moved into new neighbor island markets and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, all the while competing against the major international hotel chains. Carey, who succeeded Kelley as head of Outrigger, has built on that record through the continued growth of the company and new projects like Waikiki Beach Walk.

Despite his achievements, Kelley was not content to mind his own Outrigger business. He recognized that Hawaii’s visitor industry needed to compete, to evolve, to change, if it was to continue to contribute to the state’s economy.

He was a tireless marketer and promoter of Hawaii in new markets. Kelley was one of the earliest proponents of a convention center, staying the course over many years despite public opposition.

He coined the phrase, “Tourism Is Everybody’s Business,” capturing in those four words the impact and importance of the visitor industry to the state’s economic well-being. He pushed for more public support for destination marketing, led an effort by the World Travel & Tourism Council to study the impact of tourism on Hawaii’s economy, and continues to promote tourism and Hawaii in his role with that organization, to name just a handful of his innumerable accomplishments, which span not only tourism but in civic affairs as well.

Hawaii’s business community recently honored Kelley with a well-deserved lifetime achievement award, adding to a lengthy list of honors he has received over the years. Kudos in past years have come from the Sales and Marketing Executives International, American Marketing Association’s Hawaii Chapter and the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management, to name just a few.

Others in the visitor industry recognized by the business community at the same time included Mike McCartney, president and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, for his leadership; Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa, led by managing director Jerry Gibson, for its business model; Westin Maui Resort & Spa, headed by Gregg Lundberg, for its community service; and Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, headed by Jerry Westenhaver, also for its community service.

As we prepare to welcome the world’s leaders for the APEC summit in November, much of what we have today, our infrastructure, our people, and our ability to accept such a major challenge, can be attributed to people like the Kelley ohana, who helped create and build our modern visitor industry.


Dennis Arimoto

Position: Bell Captain
Location: Waikiki Resort Hotel

Bell captain Dennis Arimoto has been with the Waikiki Resort Hotel for 40 years, distinguishing himself throughout his career by going above and beyond the call of duty.

As head of the bell desk, he places a priority on customer service and efficiency. When a guest shipped heavy oxygen tanks ahead of her visit, Dennis made sure that the tanks were delivered and connected, stayed until everything was tested, and declined a gratuity from the grateful visitor, telling her that her enjoyment was all the appreciation he needed. He and his staff have accommodated the luggage demands of a large student group, to the point where the group leader completely trusts the bell staff to meet their needs. Dennis takes service so seriously that he’s been known to run out in the rain to a nearby hotel’s taxi stand to summon a cab for a guest rather than making a phone call and having the guest wait.

Front office manager Adam Miyasato says Dennis “really shows the aloha spirit,” adding that these caring acts “perpetuate the true essence of Hawaii all over the world.”

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