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As the general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, Douglas Chang leads his team with authenticity and aloha, encouraging them to embrace Hawaiian culture and values and to share them generously with guests and residents.

KS alumnus Douglas Chang is building a legacy of Hawaiian values in the visitor industry

Mar. 3, 2017

Kamehameha Schools strives to instill a strong Native Hawaiian identity in its haumāna, cultivating leaders who serve their local and global communities. KS alumnus Douglas Chang is a shining example of a Hawaiian alaka‘i guided by his Hawaiian heritage.

For Douglas Chang, the Hawaiian values of aloha, mālama and kuleana aren’t just words, but a way of life. He puts them into practice daily as general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach.

“Attending Kamehameha Schools, I certainly had an appreciation for all things Hawaiian, but it wasn’t until years later that I started to understand that there was a view and perspective of being Hawaiian and being in the visitor industry,” said Chang.

That realization came in the early 1990s when he met cultural historian and KS alumnus George Kanahele, who believed in integrating Hawaiian cultural values or “Hawaiianess” into hotels and other visitor destinations. At the time, Chang was the general manager at Kaua‘i’s Hanalei Bay Resort.

“When I met George, a lightbulb went on and I said to myself, ‘You’re Hawaiian. You’re Hawaiian in a leadership position and you have responsibility. What can you do with this newfound purpose; this newfound passion for culture?’ It was so exciting!”

Chang returned to the Hanalei Bay Resort and with the help of area kūpuna introduced Hawaiian culture training programs for employees both in the classroom and in the community. He also incorporated cultural activities for guests.

“We went to the lo‘i kalo in Hanalei, the hula pa‘a in Kēʻē, and really immersed the employees in what was real about Hanalei and the expectation of how they would represent Hanalei in their interactions with each other, their families and the resort’s guests and owners.”

The veteran hotelier continued to practice and promote Hawaiian culture and values in different ways as general manager of Hotel Hana-Maui; The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences, Kapalua Bay; and The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis – where his wife and fellow KS alum Akiko joined him - charming guests with her ‘ukulele mele.

When he landed his current position at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, Chang realized he would have to integrate Hawaiian values and culture in a more subtle way.

“If you look at me, and you look at The Residences, you see elegance and luxury, but you don’t see very much Hawaiianess in our attire, architecture, and landscapes,” said Chang, whose typical work ensemble is a dark two-piece suit, open-collar shirt, and leather oxfords.

“As the property started to unfold, my senior leaders and I realized that this was not going to be an outwardly Hawaiian property – at least not the feel of it. So my mana‘o was that we’re going to be Hawaiian on the inside.”

Chang began cultivating Hawaiian values in his staff by taking his supervisors on a huaka‘i to Bishop Museum.

“It was when the feathered cloak of Kalani‘ōpu‘u returned to Hawai‘i. So we talked about hulu – feathers – and I tied that into the responsibility that we have to protect and preserve our natural and cultural resources, including native birds.”

Chang and his staff practice that kuleana through workdays at Paepae o He‘eia, and clean-up efforts at Waikīkī Beach and Mānoa Stream. 

“Several of our supervisors are from Japan – because that’s the mix of our ownership and guest profile – but they’ve chosen to be here and therefore have the kuleana to embrace our Hawaiian culture and values, and to share them generously with our guests and residents.”

KS Trustee Lance Wilhelm KSK’83, former managing principal of Irongate – developer of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach – believes that practicing Hawaiian values helps the staff deliver the legendary anticipatory service The Ritz-Carlton is known for.

“In the luxury sector of the hospitality industry, there are few names that rival Ritz-Carlton,” said Wilhelm. “But aside from amenities, the character of design, or the views, what really sets this project apart is the people and the quality of service they deliver every day and to every guest.”

Wilhelm said he is very proud of the example Chang has set for the employee ‘ohana at The Residences.

“Of all the qualities that make Doug an effective and respected leader, the one word that comes to my mind is authenticity. He brings a part of who he is to everything he does.  He lives and breathes the values that he learned at home and at Kamehameha and he does it in a way that lets everyone know that he really means it.  

“I have had the opportunity to watch him work with his staff around a conference table and greet guests at the property’s port cochère, and he is the same exceptional Hawaiian leader in both venues. Proud and humble, gracious and direct, and simply an outstanding example of good and industrious.”

Wilhelm’s sentiments are echoed among the employees of The Ritz-Carlton Residences.

“What I appreciate most about Mr. Chang is that he always gives you his full attention, and shows genuine interest in everyone he meets,” says Guest Services staffer Todd Wakida.

“He’s not your typical GM. He rolls up his sleeves and gets in the trenches with everyone. During our busy season, Mr. Chang helped out at the driveway entrance to the property slinging luggage and directing visitors, ensuring that each guest still receives our gracious Ritz-Carlton service.”

When he’s not spreading aloha with the guests at the Ritz-Carlton, Chang cherishes his time with his family including wife Akiko, daughters Kau‘i and Nyla (both KS alumni), and three moʻopuna.

SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward KS’ Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.

Kamehameha alumni across the globe who lead with Hawaiian values help strengthen the native Hawaiian identity of KS, supporting Goal 3 of SP2020.



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