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  1. #1

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    June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Lots of new photos of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai‘i.


    Please discuss it here.
    Werner Weiss
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  2. #2

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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Aulani stands out. As I wrote in my first article about Aulani (before it was called Aulani), a Polynesian or Hawaiian theme may not seem particularly unusual for a resort in Hawai‘i—but, surprisingly, it’s a theme that other lodging companies avoid (with very few exceptions).
    I'm not sure what you mean by that. Of the resorts I've been (Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, Yes, I've been to all four islands), they all have the Hawaiian theme. It should be said that there are varying degrees of Hawaiian theming ranging from the artwork (most have it), Hawaiian naming (to some degree), hotel exterior decor (a mixed bag), themed landscaping (almost by default, these plants grow very easily here).

    Aulani seems to be taking it quite far, but it could still be off. Remember, it is a hotel complex. The newer resorts have it down pat. The older resorts have that 70s influence that seem to be popular with the Hawaii-5-0 crowd.

  3. #3

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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenW View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by that. Of the resorts I've been (Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, Yes, I've been to all four islands), they all have the Hawaiian theme.
    Resorts in Hawaii — whether older, newer, or in-between — usually reflect the era when they were built, architecturally (and there's often Mediterranean influence too). The resorts have "tasteful" Hawaiian decor in their rooms and open-air lobbies. The buildings may even have some ornamental touches influenced in some way by Hawaii, but the buildings could just as easily be in modern Florida or modern Italy (except for the open-air lobbies).

    To me there's a difference between decor and theme.

    Theme is about telling a story, immersing guests in another place and time, and having all the parts form a cohesive whole.

    Aulani has a Hawaiian theme — even though there are no such things as real 15-story grass huts. The story of Hawaii permeates every aspect of the resosrt.

    By the way, I'm not a big fan of the word theming which is often applied to attractions and other things at regional theme parks. Theming, as commonly used, suggests applying some decorations. To make up an example, you could paint a roller coaster green, and you would supposedly have a Kermit the Frog theme. To me, that's not a theme; it's just decor.
    Last edited by Werner Weiss; 06-28-2011 at 07:53 AM.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Weiss View Post
    Aulani has a Hawaiian theme — even though there are no such things as real 15-story grass huts. The story of Hawaii permeates every aspect of the resosrt.

    By the way, I'm not a big fan of the word theming which is often applied to attractions and other things at regional theme parks. Theming, as commonly used, suggests applying some decorations. To make up an example, you could paint a roller coaster green, and you would supposedly have a Kermit the Frog theme. To me, that's not a theme; it's just decor.
    I still don't get what you mean by "it’s a theme that other lodging companies avoid".

    The Hawaiian theme is very much played up in ALL RESORTS. The Disney difference with Aulani is the story. To me, theming encompasses all these definitions including story, decor, artistic representation, and idea.

    You can say other resorts do not feature a story. Stories are a very Disney element, but I consider this aspect to be device to help Disney design, plan, and realize the full immersiveness and completeness of its resorts. However, I think, at times, Disney's stories within its attractions are mere frameworks (guidelines). They don't necessarily make the attractions cohesive. There are times where I go into the Haunted Mansion and Pirates and still think it doesn't make sense in parts and it certainly has many plotholes.

    Aulani is certainly the Hawaiian experience; however, it is a resort. The Hawaiian story is really outside the gates and it doesn't require much effort to experience it. Just walk outside your room to get it.

  5. #5

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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenW View Post
    I still don't get what you mean by "it’s a theme that other lodging companies avoid".
    I think we're using the word theme differently. Nearly all resorts in Hawaii have decor that somehow relates to Hawaii, such as hibiscus plants outside and paintings of tropical flowers hanging in rooms, even if the building is a simple, modern white box. To me that doesn't mean a resort has embraced a theme.

    A theme makes a statement. A theme has a point of view. A theme goes beyond the carpet and bedspread that an interior decorator selects.

    Very few hotels in Hawaii try to capture the history and culture of Hawaii. And, when the do, it often involves the Plantation period. It's very rare for a resort's architecture to use a vocabulary of traditional Hawaiian forms.

    Aulani looks completely different than the other three resorts at Ko Olina. I'm not saying that any of the other three turns its back on Hawaii, and I'm not being critical of them. In fact, I think the two Marriott properties are great.

    I guess if I had used the term architectural elements instead of theme, I would not now have to explain what I meant. But my view of Aulani goes beyond its architectural elements.
    Last edited by Werner Weiss; 06-28-2011 at 01:54 PM.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    I went back to your first article. I should have read it first. What you defined as the Hawaiian theme was the tiki bar look of bamboo and grass thatched roofs.

    There's good reason to avoid it especially if the hotel resort can be confused as low rent. To be fair with your remark that some avoid it, maybe some do, but some don't. I've been in some resorts where they pay it up and it looks quite cheap.

    I certainly think Disney is capable of doing it with an upscale approach, but let's not confuse this theming with what is considered "Hawaiian". Since I live in Southern California, I really don't know what it means to be authentically Hawaiian. At Oahu, I stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This is one class act. It felt like Hawaii to me.

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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    I've now changed Hawaiian to traditional Hawaiian in the article.

    As this thread shows, not only can two people interpret the word theme differently, but also the meaning of Hawaiian. If someone reads Hawaiian as being anything related to the modern state of Hawaii, then my words don't make sense. Fair enough.

    I hope that nobody will think that traditional Hawaiian means International style skyscrapers that just happen to have plumeria trees growing by entrance.

    The tiki hut architecture that was popular in Southern California is the 1960s took traditional Hawaiian shapes, artwork, materials, and colors, but divorced them from their cultural and historical significance. It was fun to some but disappointing (and even offensive) to others.

    With Aulani, all indications are that Disney will be very respectful of Hawaii'a past and how this culture is still alive today.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: June 28, 2011: Two Resorts Opening in Two Months

    Nice article, Mr. Weiss.


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