KO OLINA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first hotel built at Ko Olina – the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort – will close next year for extensive renovations, putting hundreds of people out of work before the resort will likely re-open as a Four Seasons resort.
Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone will repurchase the Ihilani Resort and at the end of the year Marriott's management agreement there will expire.
In a letter to Ihilani employees and Ko Olina tenants and residents, Stone said the hotel will close in January for an extensive renovation and remain closed throughout 2015.
Then, it's expected to re-open as a Four Seasons resort , the name "Four Seasons Resort Ko Olina at Lanikuhonua" has been registered to Stone's company.
Kelly Weinberg from Arkansas, who was sunning herself on the beach at Ko Olina while reading a book Thursday, said her family has stayed at the Ihilani twice in recent years using Marriott points, but she knows that won't be possible anymore.
"I'm kind of sad just because it will be more expensive and we won't get probably come visit," said Weinberg, of Bentonville, Ark. "And we'll just get to visit the beach for the day and not get to stay at the hotel. But it will be nice to be renovated and stuff, it's a beautiful place."
A Marriott spokeswoman said 512 full- and part-time employees will be out of work when the Ihilani closes. A source said some workers will be offered severance packages.
"All parties acknowledge the value of this long-term relationship and together will ensure a seamless transition," said Chris Tatum, Marriott's area vice president.
"This notice only affects the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa and no other Marriott property," said Tatum in a written statement that do not mention anything about the Marriott employees who would be losing their jobs.
A private job fair only for Ihilani employees will be held for them to apply for jobs at the new Four Seasons operation, Stone said.
They are also being encouraged to apply for jobs at Marriott's six other Hawaii properties, including the time share operation down the beach in Ko Olina or at Disney's Aulani resort next door.
"As part of the Ko Olina Ohana, you are paramount to the current and future success we share and we would be honored if you would consider staying within the Ko Olina family," said Stone in a letter to Ihilani employees Wednesday.
"We are confident this project will solidify West Oahu's recognition as a premier global resort location for future generations to enjoy and for your families to prosper," Stone added.
Eric Gill, the head of the 8,500-member Local 5 hotel workers union, said employees at Ihilani have no union.
"These people have no protection because they have no union contract," Gill said.
Gill noted that if the Ihilani workers go to work at a Marriott's Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa or its resort at Waikoloa on the Big Island, which have union representation, a new resort buyer or operator would be required to preserve employees' jobs and seniority during a shutdown for renovations.
The union would also negotiate for severance and other benefits, Gill said.
The Ihilani Resort and Spa opened in 1993, and Marriott has managed the property since 1999.