Tuesday, November 24, 2015         


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Mickey's magic

Disney's new resort provides construction jobs that are giving way to 1,200 full-time positions

By Alan Yonan Jr.


Walt Disney Co.'s Aulani Resort, nearing completion at Ko Olina, already has provided a boost to the state's struggling construction industry and is poised to bring long-term economic benefits to Oahu's Leeward Coast.

Disney's much-anticipated foray into the Hawaii vacation market is set to open Aug. 29 with a mix of 840 time-share and hotel rooms, two restaurants and a host of other features, including a wedding lawn, kids club, swimming pools and a tube-floating water course.

The estimated 3,000 construction jobs generated since groundbreaking in late 2008 are winding down but will give way to more than 1,200 permanent positions as the resort is opened in three phases.

A study conducted last year by CBRE Consulting and the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization estimated that Aulani could generate roughly $270 million in annual economic activity, including jobs at the resort plus direct and indirect economic impacts.

Interest by local job seekers has been strong at a time when the local labor market is still shaking off the ill effects of the recent recession. Disney said it received 2,000 to 3,000 applications for the 800 jobs available for phase 1.

"Our local hiring efforts over the last few months have been highly successful," said Djuan Rivers, vice president of Aulani. "Aulani's new cast member ohana has continued to grow on a daily basis preparing us for our Aug. 29th opening."

Rivers said Disney's hiring strategy focused on finding local people who can convey a "sense of place" in their interaction with guests.

"We looked for people who are genuine and have the heart to deliver the Hawaiian story and to deliver great service," he said.

"Coming from Hawaii they know the stories of Hawaii. Our cast members will be the ones that have the ability to bring stories to life, to be able to draw our guests into an experience. And to be able to do that, it is important to be from the place."

Aulani, which is operated by the company's Disney Vacation Club subsidiary, represents a departure from the Disney tradition because it is the only major resort not connected to one of the company's theme parks.

RIVERS said Disney imagineers have collaborated with local architects and cultural experts to ensure the resort accurately reflects the customs and tradition of Hawaii. Disney commissioned 70 Native Hawaiian artists to create works for the resort.

That effort was recognized by the Hawaii Tourism Authority marketing director, David Uchiyama, who said he was impressed by the work done by Disney to connect with the Hawaiian culture.

Aulani also will include a bit of Disney's usual fare. Characters such as Mickey Mouse will make daytime appearances at the Makahiki restaurant. Mickey also is featured in the base of carved wooden lamps inside the rooms, and guests can search for hidden Mickeys within the pineapple-patterned Hawaiian bedspreads.

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