Three Questions with Joe Ibarra, General Manager of The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Pacific Business News

By Christina O’Connor

As the newly appointed general manager of The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Joe Ibarra is responsible for overseeing operational aspects of the 338-room property, as well as guiding strategic direction and financial performance.

Joe Ibarra, general manager of The Kahala Hotel & Resort    COURTESY THE KAHALA HOTEL & RESORT

Joe Ibarra, general manager of The Kahala Hotel & Resort


Ibarra brings nearly 20 years of experience to the role, including prior management positions at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa.

But even before that, the hospitality industry played a prominent part in his life, as his father worked for Marriott International for 30 years.

“As I got older, I realized the importance of this industry to our state and to our visitors, so I knew it could lead me to a fulfilling career,” Ibarra said.

One of his goals throughout his career has been to share Hawaiian culture with visitors.

“Working in the industry gives me an opportunity to share what I learned with visitors and give them a deeper understanding of the culture,” he said.

Ibarra has been at The Kahala Hotel & Resort since 2014 and has served as director of front office and director of rooms. He assumed his current role as general manager last month.

What are you most excited about at The Kahala right now?

I am very excited about our KISCA program, which stands for Kahala Initiative for Sustainability, Culture and the Arts. Our guests can get involved by making an optional contribution of $8 every day that they stay with us. This contribution supports local cultural and sustainability practices such as reforestation. At the same time, KISCA participants receive unique benefits like special rates on environmental tours and [lomi lomi] treatments at our Kahala Spa, and free entry into the Bishop Museum and other renowned cultural establishments. One of the program’s main goals is to plant 200,000 endemic Hawaiian Milo trees in The Hawaiian Legacy Forest on Oahu’s North Shore. Guests who are particularly interested in this cause can make an additional contribution and dedicate a legacy tree to a loved one. They can even arrange to visit the Legacy Forest to plant their tree with their own hands, which is a special experience for many guests.

How would you describe your management style?

I would describe my management style as balanced. I firmly believe that my responsibility is centered around four elements: colleagues, the community, the ownership, and guests. These four elements are like four legs of a chair, with each leg needed in order to create stability. As I engage with the team, I listen and make decisions based on balancing these four areas. Every piece has equal importance and we can give and take to create a good environment for everyone.

Now that you're the general manager, what is your vision for The Kahala?

The Kahala Hotel has been a part of the community for 55 years. My vision for the next 55 years is to continue to share authentic Hawaiian experiences with our guests, support cultural and environmental preservation and move toward a more sustainable future for Hawaii. Through our KISCA program, I want The Kahala to be known as a hotel on the forefront of sustainability and culture, and I want our guests to be able to return home having a better understanding of Hawaiian culture and know that they made a positive impact.

The Kahala is often thought of as a luxury destination for guests outside of Hawaii or a place for kamaaina to celebrate special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. However, it is my hope that the local community can think of us as a place to eat locally sourced food, listen to great music and get the best local Hawaii retail products. We want to continue to be Honolulu’s favorite gathering place for pau hana or a staycation with the family. I want our kamaaina to feel welcome at the Kahala, as they always have.

Source: Pacific Business News

Joy MiyamotoKahala