The big interview: Kenneth Kan, chief development officer, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

by | 30 Aug 2022 | Interview, People

Hawaiian-headquartered Outrigger Hotels and Resorts is surging its development across both sides of the Pacific, so what’s the inside track on the chain’s strategy?

Chief development officer, Kenneth Kan, reveals how the coastal resort specialist is intending to achieve its lofty ambitions.

Outrigger has the aim of being ‘the premier beach resort brand in the world’ – do you feel you’ve reached that status?

Outrigger Hospitality Group was born on the beach in Hawaii 75 years ago. Today we have 33 resorts and hotels in premier beach resort destinations across Hawaii, Fiji, Mauritius, Thailand and the Maldives alongside a strategic growth plan focused solely on beach communities around the globe. In the last year alone we added three beach resorts in Thailand, one in Hawaii and most recently in the Maldives. Our mission to be ‘the premier beach resort company in the world’ is certainly ambitious, but we have the experience and drive to make it a reality with a number of active development projects in the pipeline.

With four Asian openings in the last six months, are you intending to continue that trend?

Outrigger’s development team continues to seek and is actively pursuing a number of opportunities in the Asia Pacific region, including Thailand, Bali, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Outrigger has stated its target destinations for development are across the US, central America, the Far East and Oceania – why have you identified those areas?

Other attractive target destinations include markets where Outrigger has customer distribution overlap and the consumer is familiar with our unique brand attributes and localised authenticity. This includes Australia and New Zealand as well as coastal resort regions of the mainland US and Mexico.

What does your current development pipeline look like?

Outrigger’s development pipeline has surged in the last six months. I’m on the road more than ever looking at potential new Outrigger beach destinations – it’s an exciting time!

Did the pandemic affect your development rate at all?

In the early stages of the pandemic, the uncertainty led to limited opportunities because hotel developers and owners were putting major decisions on hold. As the situation began to improve, with travel and tourism returning, development activity resumed.

Will you be maintaining your resort hotel model or are you looking towards other property types or market segments?

Outrigger is laser focused on being a toes-in-the-sand brand; our customers know and appreciate the authenticity that our resorts offer and this is the segment we want to stay in and grow.

Being part of KSL Capital Partners, does this negate the need for external investors for your developments?

Outrigger works with various owners of existing properties and developments in several capacities, such as management services and joint investment opportunities.

Do you have a preferred supplier list for outfitting new resorts or do you look to local companies?

Whenever possible, we seek to utilise local partners for our resorts. For example – at our three new properties in Thailand, the resort redesign was conceived by Bangkok-based Santhaya & Associates (S+A), an award-winning architectural firm and partner with Outrigger since 2013 for projects in Thailand, Fiji and Mauritius.

What are your criteria for identifying suppliers to work with?

We have a number of great supplier partners that we work with today, but are always on the lookout for fresh local talent and offerings. A new direction for our procurement process is being mindful to not only seek out local suppliers, but also find more women and minority-owned businesses to work with and support.

How do you see Outrigger progressing as a company over the next few years?

Outrigger has a detailed strategic plan that outlines how we’re creating brand value by being best in class operators, having exceptional partnerships, elevating our properties and growing with new properties and distribution. In the next two years, Outrigger will have further refined our branding direction, continue being great stewards of the places we do business through our ESG (environmental, social, governance) initiatives and have a larger portfolio of resorts which merge barefoot luxury and local authenticity.

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Outrigger's brand is about love and respect for the land and sea, for local communities and local cultures. The firm aims to stand out because it offers guests the opportunity for an authentic engagement with the place and people.