October 28, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo | Outrigger’s chief commercial officer Sean Dee

The Hawaiian-born hotel group Outrigger has acquired five new properties this year and has letters of intent to buy trademark beachfront resorts in a return to the Australian market.

Already the largest hotel operator in the Hawaiian islands, Sean Dee, chief commercial officer of Outrigger Hospitality, told micenet the company has expanded into Fiji, Thailand, Mauritius and Maldives and is actively looking to buy back into the Australian market where it once had 17 properties.

“We expect to have some announcements in the next six months about Australia,” Dee said.

Outrigger CEO, Jeff Wagoner went even further. Speaking to travel agents and meeting planners at a briefing in Melbourne, he said the company “already had signed letters of intent to buy Australian properties” and he pointed out among the crowd, Outrigger’s VP of strategy, Jason Zvatora, who is permanently based in Melbourne to actively identify suitable Australian properties.

The business begun 75 years ago by the Kelley family was sold five years ago to KSL Resorts and Wagoner said “we’re keen to grow and we’re capitalised”.

Known for its beachfront properties, initially in Waikiki, the company has not strayed far from its roots in offering family leisure holidays in the four to four and a half star “value” segment,  but Dee said Outrigger was investing millions in upgrading some of its landmark resorts to five-star. While he says Outrigger has not responded to the Airbnb phenomena as some hoteliers have done, it does have condominiums and owns the top-rated Embassy Suites Waikiki, which is operated by Hilton.

He said Outrigger wanted to grow its business events market and one of its latest purchases – the Outrigger Kona (formerly Sheraton) on the big island of Hawaii with 509 rooms and suites plus a range of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces for up to 700 – was a deliberate decision to grow the business events segment, which currently represents about 10 per cent of revenue. Meanwhile Indian Ocean properties in Mauritius and Maldives suit the incentive market.

He said Australians had returned to the Hawaiian market and were currently arriving at about 60-70 per cent of pre-COVID levels, but he expected it would return to normal over Australians’ traditional December/January holiday period.  Australia was currently second only to mainland American visitors, a spot usually occupied by the Japanese market, which has only recently eased pandemic-era travel restrictions on its citizens.