KAILUA-KONA — Beginning in October, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel &Bungalows is taking a vacation from being a vacation destination.
When it returns roughly 14 months later and $100 million grander, it will do so with a new name — Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection — that reflects the new management group responsible for implementing a revamped resort experience.
DiamondHead Land, the Mauna Lani ownership company comprised of ProspectHill Group out of San Francisco, longtime Hawaii executive Patrick Fitzgerald and a “major institutional investor,” announced its new affiliation with Auberge Resorts Collection Wednesday.
Auberge offers the formerly independent hotel a place in its portfolio that includes an established international clientele and resorts in Napa Valley, Fiji and Central America, along with several other locations.
“The (Auberge) brand itself is so well known in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and our primary guests will be coming from the West Coast U.S.,” Fitzgerald said. “So we think it (will add) to what’s already in place at Mauna Lani.”
He described Auberge as a “casual luxury brand” that is “really aligned with basically the culture and experience” he said Mauna Lani has cultivated over the years.
While its venture in West Hawaii will be the company’s first foray into the Hawaii market, Chris White, senior director of hotel marketing for Auberge Resorts Collection, said management won’t be coming in blind.
White, along with several top Auberge executives, have several years of experience either living in Hawaii, working in the tourism industry throughout the islands, or both.
Fitzgerald said ownership and its new management group fit together well because Auberge doesn’t have set corporate standards for elements like resort aesthetic, but instead allows the “design motif to evolve from location.”
The company has consulted ownership on its $100 million upgrades, which will include the addition of three new pools, upgrades to the Canoe House and development of a new fitness center, among other changes.
“Auberge is not a brand that comes in like a cookie cutter,” White said.
“It’s not a franchise.”
When ownership announced renovations earlier this month, Fitzgerald said all the resort’s roughly 400 employees would be welcomed back to the staff when it reopened, assuming they were still interested. On top of that, renovations would add roughly 100 positions.
He said Wednesday the addition of Auberge to the equation won’t change any of that.
“There’s going to be no impact to their jobs,” Fitzgerald said of current Mauna Lani employees. “We might do some things a little differently from a management and service (perspective), which is actually only a positive.”