Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

RMI Signs Deal With Hotel Chain To Prepare For PIF Meeting
Aqua Hotels onboard to ‘fast-track’ renovations, training

By Giff Johnson

HAGTA, GUAM (Marianas Business Journal, Jan. 28, 2013) – An agreement signed Jan. 23 between a Hawaii hotel chain and the Marshall Islands is expected to give a needed boost to preparations to host the annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum scheduled for early September in Majuro. Aqua Hotels and Resorts has agreed to a consulting contract to work with the Marshall Islands Resort to fast-track renovations, staff training and other preparations needed to host the event later this year. The Resort is a government-owned hotel in Majuro that was originally built to host the Forum meeting in 1996 - the first time the Marshalls brought the leaders meeting to Majuro.

Foreign Minister Phillip Muller signed the consulting agreement with Aqua Hotels and Resorts Vice President William Henderson. Henderson, Wayne Sterling and MaryLou Foley arrived in Majuro the day before the signing for meetings with high-level officials to discuss their involvement with the resort.

Henderson previously headed Outrigger Hotels of Hawaii and was a key force in launching Outrigger management of the Marshall Islands Resort when it opened in 1996. Foley also worked for Outrigger at the time and was active in Outrigger Marshall Islands Resort promotions until the resort ended its management contract in 2004. She has remained involved in a variety of Marshall Islands visitor-related activities since. Sterling is an Aqua Hotels consultant who conducted an assessment of the hotel's needs. Aqua Hotels and Resorts is a Hawaii-based chain of 24 hotels.

The group met with President Christopher Loeak and key members of his cabinet. Sterling's evaluation of rooms, kitchen and other facilities aims to put a price tag on renovation costs and requirements needed to bring the hotel up to a standard for hosting Pacific Islands Forum leaders. The regional meeting in September is expected to bring 400 or more people to Majuro, which has fewer than 200 hotel rooms. The Resort originally had 150 rooms, but since it first opened nearly 50 have been converted to long-term apartments or offices.

Hirobo Obeketang, resort general manager, said he and the current hotel management will be working together with Aqua Hotels officials as work at the hotel moves into higher gear in anticipation of the Forum. He said the resort and Aqua have a basic plan for what needs to be done and it will need to be funded in order to work.

Earlier, Obeketang estimated costs to renovate and resupply the hotel at $800,000. He said he expects Sterling's evaluation of hotel facilities to increase the cost of what is needed to improve the hotel. At the monthly Marshall Islands Chamber of Commerce meeting on Jan. 23, Sterling said through the agreement with the government, they hope to "bring new life to this property." He added that it needed some "tender loving care."

Marianas Business Journal
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