LIHU‘E — Buying a fine hotel in a premier location and fully staffed with experienced employees apparently wasn’t enough for two Texas-based real estate companies. They just had to make it better.
The Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach has being going through a complete facelift since Feb. 1. With a $15 million budget, the renovation is scheduled to be completed by mid-December.
“The feedback that we are getting is ‘what an incredible transformation,’” general manager Bently Kriewald said.
The first noticeable change in is the hotel’s main entrance. What was once just a driveway with side stairs is now an elegant entry with a lighted staircase.
The old porte cochere was entirely removed, giving way to a new one yet to be built.
Food and beverage director Eddie Lloreta said the hotel’s five wings received a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. Some of the stucco had to be repaired, and a Polynesian motif was added to the exterior walls.
The hotel’s courtyard went through an extensive revamping and is now a strong converging point for guests.
Several coconut and palm trees were planted, the new hot tub is three times larger than the old one, and the pool gained a new water feature and a fire pit.
Lloreta said the fire pit has been a major attraction since it started functioning, acting as a magnet for the guests, who come to sit in front of it every evening as soon as the fire goes up.
The next phase of the renovation is scheduled to start in September.
The lobby gained a new sundries store, and a new e-lounge will include a business center and video entertainment system.
Kriewald said the rooms are in good shape because they were redone five years ago. The main upgrades will be flat screen TVs, new armoires and a better wireless Internet connection.
Carpet replacement is not in the immediate plans but is scheduled for 2013.
Once the renovation is over, the food and beverage outlets will also go through a revamp, Lloreta said.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Cook’s Landing, has already received a makeover. It has a new food and drink menu, live music on weekends and a refinished hardwood floors.
Lloreta wants to improve the guest experience even further by rebranding the restaurant.
Across the courtyard, the Voyager Grille serves breakfast only, with an affordable buffet seven days a week.
Despite all of the physical changes, Kriewald said what really matters is the human side of the guests’ experience.
He said what is unique about Hawai‘i, and especially the Courtyard by Marriott, is the tenure of the employees.
“You walk into a building like this and there are people that have worked here for 20 or 30 years,” Kriewald said. “You don’t get that a lot in other markets.”
When Behringer Harvard and JMI Realty bought the former Aston Hotel in October, all of the employees were retained, he said.
The owners hired Davidson Hotels and Resorts to manage the hotel. The company manages 47 properties nationwide, but the Courtyard by Marriott is its only Hawai‘i property.
Prior to taking the job on Kaua‘i, Kriewald managed a property in Iowa which received the Property of the Year award from Davidson Hotels and Resorts last year.
“The success he brought there is going to come here,” Lloreta said of Kriewald. “Our future looks bright.”
Lloreta, a local boy from Kaua‘i, said the sense of ‘ohana that the hotel management company brings in is what does it for him.
“We’re hitting the ground running as far as understanding the customer experience,” he said. “Davidson (Hotels and Resorts) tries to do it everywhere they go.”
Kriewald said the hotel used mainland-based Layton Construction as the general contractor for the renovation, which sub-contracted at least 17 local companies from Kaua‘i and other islands.
But Kriewald wasn’t able to pinpoint how much of the construction money ended up in the pockets of the local contractors.
“Due to the different contracts and ways each sub-contractor may bid their jobs with time and materials, there is no real accurate way to determine what percentage of the overall renovation budget goes just to local contractors,” he said.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.