Last week, I was invited by Disney for a hard-hat tour of Aulani, a new resort and spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii (near Honolulu) scheduled to open in August 2011. It was a quick trip – just two nights – and I had to make a quick decision:
Do I fly for 11 hours (round-trip) strapped to a seat for such a brief visit to Hawaii? Or do I stay here, in the sweltering Sacramento area with 100+ temps, hopping from indoor malls to theaters to keep cool?
I couldn’t click the “Yes, I’ll be there!” response fast enough. Two nights, two hours, two minutes . . . I will take Hawaii any way I can get it.
Now, I am quite familiar with the Disney brand. I lived in Orange County, California, for 23 years and raised two daughters in Disneyland’s back yard, practically. We’ve been to Disney World twice, have taken two Disney Cruises, shopped countless times up and down Downtown Disney and of course, have spent many hours through the years trekking through Disneyland and California Adventure. Disney never fails to disappoint. We ALWAYS have fun wherever Mickey is.
So I came to this hard-hat tour with very high expectations. And once again, Disney knocked it out of the theme park! The Disney folks are EXPERTS at hospitality. Not only was every detail of the media tour first-rate (a BIG thank you to everyone on the Disney team who pulled this amazing trip together), but you should see what they have planned for their guests at the Aulani when it opens next year! (In case you’re wondering, “Aulani” is a Hawaiian word that means: “One who delivers messages from a higher authority.”)
The Aulani is still under development, of course, but enough of the resort has been built for folks in hard hats to be able to see the vision that is taking shape. What I am really impressed by is that Disney has stimulated the Hawaiian economy by hiring ONLY local construction crews.
“During construction, the resort is expected to generate 4,800 jobs and more than 600 million dollars in economic activity,” says Rena Langley, a Disney spokesperson. “Once the resort opens and reaches stabilized operations, it is expected to create around 2,400 jobs, with nearly half (about 1,200) of those being located directly at the resort itself.”
While everyone else seems to be losing their jobs in this recession, I take my hard hat off to Disney for making such a grand gesture to keep many Hawaiians employed.
The numbers for the Aulani look like this: It sits on 21 oceanfront acres, offers 359 hotel rooms, including 16 suites, and 481 two-bedroom villas for Disney Vacation Club members. So you can either stay as a hotel guest or buy into a time-share, the most affordable one starting at a $23,000 buy-in. After viewing several of the model time-share villas, I have made a decision to return to the Mainland, make lots of money in my new business venture and buy one week in this Disney Paradise for the next 50 years of my life.
Hey, a girl’s gotta have dreams!
(I would be remiss if I didn’t send a grateful nod to the JW Marriott in Ko Olina for hosting us at their beautiful property, which is right next door to the Aulani. I learned from a quick sales pitch by one of Marriott’s employees that they are offering a “Return To Paradise” family vacation package for just $399 for five nights and six days. Since this post is about Disney’s Aulani, you’ll have to go to the Marriott Vacation Club website to learn more. But it sounds like a heck of a great deal, moms!)