Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015 - (Page 26)

Aloha AMBASSADORS Hospitality hosts share Waikiki with the world BY PRISCILLA PÉREZ BILLIG T he moment Will rides onto Waikiki's Beach Walk he's mobbed by a family from Australia. Well over six feet tall, riding a Fuji 8-speed police bicycle and wearing a black helmet, belted radio and a lime green polo shirt tucked neatly into black shorts, he is hard to miss. His new Australian friends gathered around him and, like so many others, ask for directions and a group shot. Will-his full name is Leonard Williams-happily obliges. He is one of about a dozen Aloha Ambassadors, ranging in age from 23 to 74 years, who walk or bicycle Waikiki offering hospitality and safety services daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. "I love it," says Williams, a retired military officer and an Aloha Ambassador for more than six years. "It's so much fun. My favorite thing is to interact with different cultures on a day-to-day basis. I never had that opportunity being from Mobile, Alabama. "To me this is the real melting pot and because of this job I can speak a little Chinese, a little Japanese, a little Korean. So I'm able to help all these people from all over the world." Spanning nearly 3.5 square miles from Kapahulu Avenue to the Kalakaua Bridge, Waikiki hosts approximately 20,000 residents and employs more than 40,000 workers, 40.8 percent of all jobs in the state. This international destination attracts up to 72,000 visitors on any given day and generates $7.2 billion annually in visitor industry expenditures-44 percent of the state's total. Fees, in the form of tax assessments on commercial property owners in the Waikiki Special District, fund the nonprofit Waikiki Business Improvement District Association which operates the Aloha Ambassadors program. WBIDA's mission is to enhance the quality of life in Waikiki by helping to provide a safe 26 Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015 ■ and hospitable experience for visitors and residents. Launching its Hospitality Program in 2007, WBIDA retained the services of mainland-based Block by Block, which specializes in providing services for business improvement districts throughout the country. With its motto, "hire for personality and train for skills," Block by Block hires Aloha Ambassadors and operates the program. "The Aloha Ambassador program was created to serve as hosts of Waikiki each day, providing information, Robert Graves assistance and aloha to everyone they encounter, while also being alert to safety and security issues," says Brandon Barbour, WBIDA operations manager. "When searching for prospective Aloha Ambassadors, Block by Block looks for people that embody the aloha spirit and can serve as responsible hosts in Waikiki. Aloha Ambassadors provide safety updates and answer questions regarding weather and water conditions-an increasingly important safety function as many visitors are not familiar with our ocean." The Aloha Ambassadors work closely with the Honolulu Police Department to ensure that Waikiki remains a safe destination, both day and night, and to provide any relevant safety and security updates to visitors. Additionally, the Aloha Ambassadors have a stationary position equipped with a map and located outside the Waikiki Police Substation. From this spot Aloha Ambassadors, like Lani Ni'ihau, help visitors orient themselves on the map and provide general hospitality services. Robert Graves serves as manager, trainer and mentor to the Aloha Ambassadors. He trains Aloha Ambassador team leads and those who specialize in safety, such as Williams, in CPR, AED and First Aid. "They have to go through additional training, written exams, obstacle courses and prove they're able to maneuver a bicycle safely through traffic following the rules and regulations of the city," Graves says. "They become certified and, if needed, step in until an ambulance, police or fire department can intervene." Graves is quick to point out that the Aloha Ambassadors are not police and do not deal with criminal activity directly. He adds, "We are, a lot of the time, the eyes and ears for the HPD on the streets. With the homeless, we provide them with information about current laws and how to get help." Williams, who Barbour calls "one of our longest tenured, most outgoing and best ambassadors," says the worst he has seen in Waikiki was a couple in a domestic dispute that lead to a physical altercation. "Sometimes our guests feel they're in a Las Vegas environment and we sometimes see them having a drink on the street," Williams says. "So we let them know that our job is not just to inform people of all the great events and places on the Island but also about the laws of the state." Continued on Page 29

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015

Women & Their Power
HLTA’s Culinary Gala
HRA for the Holidays
Gun Tourism
When Visitors Get Sick
Luxury Limo Services
Na Poe Paahana Awards
Tips from Engineers
Women in Lodging
Aloha Ambassadors
News Briefs
Talk Story
At the Table

Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015