As the new President and CEO of Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Jeff Wagoner brings plenty of traditional hospitality experience from large branded companies within the U.S., but even the veteran hotelier acknowledges that the traditions of the Honolulu, HI-based company are quite a bit different.
The “beachfront brand” was started by the Kelley family some 70 years ago before being acquired by an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners about 18 months ago.
Meanwhile, Wagoner officially took the reins of the company in late April replacing KSL Resorts co-founder and CEO Scott Dalecio, who had served as interim CEO since early 2017 after long-time President and CEO David Carey stepped down.
Wagoner joined Outrigger with leadership experience in both domestic and international markets having served as executive vp, hotel operations for Trump Hotels, in addition to holding several senior-level positions within the Wyndham Hotel Group.
Wagoner elaborated on why he viewed Outrigger as a unique brand and opportunity. “The Kelley family had created this brand 70 years ago and had put a lot of heart and soul into it. Marrying that with the caretaker that KSL is, and what they do in the industry, I think is a really super marriage to be able to create something special. From my perspective I’m incredibly honored that they’ve given me the opportunity to help steward that into the future,” he said.
The company’s portfolio includes 37 multi-branded properties—including hotels, condo hotels and timeshare resorts—which are under a variety of different types of management or ownership agreements. Outrigger Resorts, OHANA Hotels by Outrigger and Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger are among the eponymous brands in the company’s portfolio.
Wagoner touted the potential of the Outrigger brand—which he described as a “very pure” because of its strictly beachfront locations—while comparing it to a four-star brand in the upscale or upper-upscale range. “As I got in and looked at that brand the underlying foundation exists for creating a very special brand; an iconic brand,” he said.
Outrigger—which includes condo and retail divisions as well—also manages properties from brands such as Embassy Suites, Best Western, Wyndham Vacation Ownership and Hilton Grand Vacations.
Wagoner detailed some of his immediate objectives as he continues to transition into the CEO role. “Going in and learning and listening and understanding the brand is kind of the first step for me. Then it’s making sure that we’ve got great assets that are performing well, which is what I’ve done most of my career. And the third element is how do you grow it? What does the brand look like as you grow into the future?” he asked.
In discussing potential growth, Wagoner emphasized the importance of having the financial backing of a company like KSL behind it. “You really have the capital vehicle to be able to grow if you want to own assets so I think we’re really in a unique position as we get into the future. We’re able to go out and understand that development community and what their needs are and we’re going to have the right brand for them; whether it’s sliver equity, complete ownership or whether it’s third-party management,” he said.
In addition, the availability of that capital may have increased considerably as the company last month sold six properties to Singha Estate Public Company Limited for $310 million. Outrigger will continue to manage the properties, which include the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort and Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort in Thailand; Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island in Fiji; Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort in Mauritius and Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort in the Republic of Maldives.
The Outrigger brand is currently limited to Hawaii and the Asia Pacific/Indian Ocean region, but Wagoner indicated he expects to expand into other regions as an expansion strategy is developed. He specifically noted Mexico, the Caribbean and the mainland U.S. as potential locations, but added, “it’ll be pure to what the brands are.”
Gaining an understanding of the region that the brand is operating in is critical for Outrigger, according to Wagoner. “We have a very solid brand message that’s rooted in the local community, which I think is kind of exciting and creates a real special brand,” he noted.
Part of that brand message invokes the company’s corporate culture and its signature saying Ke ‘Ano Wa’a, which is translated in Hawaiian as “the Outrigger Way.” With a foundation of guest, host and place, the company tries to bring that triangle to wherever it goes. Furthermore, Wagoner noted that the company makes a point to translate Ke ‘Ano Wa’a wherever they are.
“It’s a good story in that we’re not trying to take our brand one way to those associates and those hosts. It’s that we value where you’re at and what you’re doing in your location…When we translate the Outrigger way into their language it’s meaningful and people really care and that’s how you create real culture where people want to be part of that team,” he noted.