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Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina

  • 92-1001 Olani Street, Kapolei - Oahu, Hawaii, 96707, USA
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Sanjiv Hulugalle

General Manager
“For me, this is not just about running a Four Seasons resort. It’s also about learning and understanding the culture and spirituality of the destination.”

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 1996
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Health Club Supervisor, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Employment History

  • Four Seasons Hotel Beijing; Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa; Four Seasons Hotel Damascus; Four Seasons Resort Langkawi; Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver; Four Seasons Hotel Toronto; Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas; Four Seasons Hotel Sydney; pre-opening support at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh; Four Seasons Hotel Amman; Four Seasons Hotel Prague; Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma (formerly a Four Seasons resort)

Birthplace

  • Colombo, Sri Lanka

Education

  • Bachelor of Education, Australian College of Physical Education, Sydney

Languages Spoken

  • English, Sinhalese, basic German

Every Four Seasons has its unique features, says Sanjiv Hulugalle – and he ought to know. Over nearly two decades with the company, Hulugalle has held management positions at more than a dozen properties, from city hotels to island resorts. But even looking back fondly, he can’t recall another destination quite like the one he is managing now. “You’re not living the dream unless you’ve been here,” he says of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, where he stepped in as General Manager in January 2015 to lead the resort’s reflagging. “What is different and significant to me now is I have never in my life seen the sheer beauty of a coastal location where it’s, like…” He pauses. “Heavenly.”

Hulugalle is just getting started. The resort’s location in the master-planned vacation and residence community of Ko Olina – a spiritual place once sacred to Hawaiian monarchs whose name translates as “Place of Joy” – is “very joyful, for sure.” The setting on the leeward coast of Oahu next to the largest community of native Hawaiians is “so unique from a cultural perspective. You really feel the real Hawaii here.” The welcoming warmth of Hawaiians themselves is inspiring from a management standpoint: “Hospitality just comes naturally here.” And then there’s the climate: “It’s beautiful all year round. There is not one bad day in the islands.”

So just kick back and let guests soak in the splendour, right? Hardly. Hulugalle’s main priority was to build a team that embraced the destination as well as Four Seasons standards. “To create a first-class, magical experience, we need talent that understands the culture and the people as well as the lay and the spirit of the land,” he says.

The sheer scale of the resort – 358 guest rooms plus residences, a beautiful six-story spa, four distinct swimming pools, multiple restaurants, a chapel for weddings and more – only increases the significance of the team. “This is a big, big business, so we need to embrace the fundamentals of where we are. The key to any hotel is the community around it. If that isn’t built in, it won’t be successful.”

Hulugalle points to success with the same in his past experience as opening General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Beijing. With competition high when the hotel began welcoming guests in late 2012, Hulugalle sought ways to draw in the local community and conceived the conversion of the “huge, magnificently beautiful lounge” into a vibrant “living room” where pretty much anything could go. Guests could hold meetings, sip coffee, and even have pop-up shops in the space, and there were art shows every six weeks. “Imagine all this in a hotel lounge? It really created buzz,” he says, adding, “Once you have a vision, anything can happen.”

Hulugalle’s route to Four Seasons was pure coincidence. Back in the early 1990s, he was working as a ride attendant at an amusement Park to fund his tuition toward a degree in physical education when he spotted an ad for an opening at a health club and clipped it for a friend. But instead, he went to the interview himself and ended up hired as a supervisor by Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. While running a gym had been a dream, what sold him on the position was Four Seasons service culture. “The emphasis on how simple interactions and awareness can bring a smile from a guest was a revelation to me.”

His Four Seasons career has continued across four continents – from the bright lights of Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas to the paradise of Kuda Huraa in the Maldives, which was voted “Best of the Best” in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK under his leadership.

Whatever the destination, Hulugalle’s formula for success has never changed. “I have always found it quite easy to adapt and enjoy myself,” he says. “Sometimes I behave like a clown – that’s from my days at the amusement park. But life is full of options, and wherever I am I enjoy what I’m given.”

Hulugalle’s “biggest and most intriguing challenge” was getting the formula right at Ko Olina. The demand was extremely high, he says, as were the expectations of everyone – “guests and community” – following Four Seasons arrival. “How do we set this up to create an incredible first impression and experience? That was the interesting part.”

Meanwhile, Hulugalle is quite simply enjoying himself on the coast where Hawaiian royalty like Kamehameha the Great and his wife Ka’ahumanu once frolicked. “I am running every morning, cycling to the office, and spending time exploring the island with my wife and children,” he notes, delightedly. “I haven’t been this active in 10 years.”