Hotelier Spotlight: Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort's Luana Maitland

While all hotels like to promote their local style, few hotels have a dedicated cultural center. Luana Maitland, director of cultural experience at Honolulu’s Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort and nearby Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, makes sure that both properties not only reflect their location but help guests connect with the history and heritage of the Hawaiian islands.

While in her 20s, Maitland was a young mother working as a host at a restaurant. When an executive assistant for Colony Hotels & Resorts reached out to see if Maitland wanted to consider handling reservations for the management company, Maitland was skeptical but decided to give it a try. She started out handling reservations and learning the company’s computer systems for three months before moving on to sales to make sure that the company’s 19 properties had up-to-date brochures. “They set me up every weekend to go look at all these different properties on each island,” she recalled. As she connected with the GMs and learned details about each hotel, she also began learning about the different locations and what each island had to offer. 

A year later, she was invited to join the group sales team to cover a colleague’s maternity leave. “She never came back,” Maitland said. She remained in that role for a while, and when the staff at a new addition to the company’s portfolio on Molokai went on strike, Colony’s leadership pulled everyone they could to keep the sold-out property open. Maitland worked at the hotel for three months while the strike went on, checking guests in during the day and serving drinks in the bar in the evenings. 

Culture and Experience

After eight years with Colony Hotels & Resorts, Maitland joined the team at travel wholesaler Classic Hawaii in 1990, where she spent the next 11 years handling customer service. The company closed in 2001 and Geoffrey Graf, general manager of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, reached out to Maitland, alerting her that the property would have an opening in January 2002. “He liked how I handled situations [at] Classic, working with people and travel agents,” she said. “He wanted me here to do the same.” 

Instead of booking reservations, Maitland joined the sales team—a division she had never worked in before, but Graf was confident in her abilities. “He [said], ‘just be you,’” she recalled. The property did not have any kind of cultural director, and she realized that emphasizing Hawaiian history, heritage and culture could “draw [guests] to the property.” She started out by offering weekly lei-making lessons on a banquet table in the lobby with hula lessons afterwards. As the program took off, she invited local kupuna—elders—to come and play music in the lobby as well.

Just before the pandemic hit, Maitland learned that the Outrigger Reef was about to kick off an $80 million renovation of the guestrooms and public spaces—its first since 2009. The project took several years, and as the property reopened its towers in phases, Maitland wondered what kind of space she would have for her cultural program. When the temporary construction walls came down, she recalled, she saw General Manager Markus Krebs standing in a new space designed just for her. “There was my cultural center,” she said. “They did think of the culture and how important it was in the planning stages. They [formed] a partnership with the Bishop Museum to help me curate the place, to give us all the information so that we can do it.” The center’s cabinets, lighting and even temperature of the new The A‘o Cultural Center would be museum-quality, Maitland learned.  “All I had to do was fill it with the artifacts that we had.” 

Those artworks included traditional works of art passed down through generations of Hawaiian families, including calabash bowls and kapa moe, a fabric made from tree bark. Some pieces could have gone to Honolulu’s Bishop Museum, Maitland said, but would have spent a lot of time in the building’s archives. This way, they can be seen and appreciated by everybody. “We don't have everything that I would like to have,” Maitland said of the cultural center, “but we will in time.” 

Luana Maitland's...


Maitland encourages hoteliers to talk with their team members and learn about what other skills they might have. By connecting with the staff at Outrigger, she has found experts in hula, ukulele and other cultural arts who can share their experience with guests and local families.


Maitland does not see her career as having challenges, but noted the Outrigger brand’s transition when the Kelley family sold the chain to KSL Resorts in 2018.


When one of the new owners came to check out the hotel, Maitland was there to greet him and introduce herself. She was surprised when he was familiar with her work. “We know about how important the culture is and that you make it happen,” she recalled him telling her.

Secrets to Success

Love what you do: “Don’t do something you’re not happy doing.”

Connect with the community: “You want to get along with everybody in the place. … You need the help of those around you.” 

Have an open heart: “When you are asking [for help], you are accepting what they have to give.” 

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Opening year: 1955 | Number of guestrooms: 658 | Owner: KSL Resorts | Management Company: Outrigger Hotels & Resorts