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SPOTLIGHT ON Sanjiv Hulugalle – Vice President & General Manager – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection

17 March 2021
5 min read
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Sanjiv talks about the resort’s $200M renovation and how the destination is the perfect vacation getaway to socially distance and unwind after a long hard year. They are gearing up for group business later in the year with innovative programs to make conferences and meetings successful.

What do you anticipate for the recovery in Hawaii and how have you coped with such an unpredictable market?
We are seeing strong demand from guests on the mainland wanting to visit Hawaii. With the testing protocols becoming more clear, the state and Mauna Lani will come back better than ever. By nature, the resort lends itself well to social distancing: wide open spaces, private, oceanfront dining and beautiful views that can be enjoyed from your balcony.

During our closure this summer we have won numerous industry awards, including Conde Nast Travler’s Hot List and Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best. Most recently we were named to Travel+Leisure’s 500 Hotels. Through this coverage, so many new guests have learned about the resort and are excited to visit Hawaii island when the time is right. While we were only open for 7 weeks after our reimagination in the beginning of 2020, during our closure we were able to add in a robust fitness and tennis program, wellness experiences, as well as reopening one of Hawaii’s best restaurants to locals, CanoeHouse.

We anticipate group business returning later in the year, with programs set up to allow for private experiences and distance meetings. Attendees will be able to attend large conference events virtually by way of their guestroom TV, and incentive programs will take full advantage of wide open spaces and thoughtful experiences.

How have you made guests and staff feel safe at the resort?
By nature, the state of Hawaii provides a haven to those seeking opportunities to be outside, explore nature and enjoy distance. Mauna Lani was designed as an indoor-outdoor retreat. From outdoor dining options and endless activities on our beach, guests feel comfortable and relaxed here, for perhaps the first time since the Pandemic started. Since reopening in November, our goal has been to provide the safest environment possible for our guests, Team Members and locals. In getting to Hawaii alone, guests traveling from the mainland and any other island must arrive with a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel. The island of Hawaii administers a second, rapid test at the airport, so that gives travelers here peace of mind that they are visiting one of the safest destinations in the world. We are one of the first resorts to be Sharecare VERIFIED by Forbes, giving an extra level of confidence. In addition to safety protocols, experiences at Mauna Lani happen where open spaces and nature are abundant.

Your $200M renovation in 2020 is quite spectacular. Can you give us a snapshot of the brief?
People have always loved the elegance of this resort – the simple, beautiful natural spaces, and incredible sense of place, all deeply rooted with history. And all of that remains after our renimagination. Designed by Meyer Davis, the interiors are now brighter and more refined, with ample hardwood, natural fabrics and textures. Furnished lanai balconies offer spectacular mountain and ocean views—each presenting an understated, natural décor, setting the tone for a soulful Hawaiian escape. The ultimate island getaway is reserved for those who reside within one of our five private Residences, each with their own private pool, dedicated service and exclusive dining options. Nestled on sacred shores lined with tropical gardens, secluded warm-water beaches and natural lava plains, Mauna Lani offers an unrivaled, authentic experience, raising the bar for luxury in Hawai’i.

Oceanfront guest rooms and suites set the stage for transformative experiences while activity at the resort buzzes from Surf Shack, the heart of Mauna Lani. Guests enjoy morning yoga and embark on sunrise canoe paddles from here, and come back later in the day to live, local music and sunset cocktails. Three pools and expansive lawns are perfect for picnics and stargazing. For dinner, private dining options include highlights from Hawaii’s fresh bounty from the laid-back, yet refined CanoeHouse with Executive Chef Matt Raso at the helm.

Trends are predicting travelers will migrate to more open, natural spaces. How can guests at your resort tap into a sense of wellbeing and reconnection with the outdoors?
Mauna Lani offers guests unparalleled opportunities to connect outdoors with Hawaii’s natural and cultural treasures. The land itself is sacred, nestled on 32 oceanfront acres called Kalāhuipua‘a. This raw and potent paradise is at the piko (center) of Hawaii’s five great volcanoes, and the point where volcanic plains meet the shimmering sea. Mauna Lani sits within Kalāhuipua‘a, a sacred realm whose astonishing natural beauty is equaled only by its primal, magnetic power. To walk this storied coastline, breathe the salt air, and swim in the crystalline waters is to feel the same mana—spiritual energy—that first drew people here centuries ago. This is where ancient Hawaiians mastered the art of aquaculture and where King Kamehameha came to recuperate and work in the fishponds.

Guests are invited to Talk Story with Danny Akaka, the resort’s Kahu Hānai, to learn about a deeper understanding of Hawaiian history, mo‘olelo (stories) and beliefs which translates into a deeper appreciation and respect for the Hawaiian people, land, values, and culture.