CELEBRATING 38 YEARS IN THE CNMI
Hyatt Regency, an international brand, first set foot on Saipan in 1980. Thirty-eight years later, the hotel has helped the Marianas become more known in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.
Today, there are about a hundred hotels in the region—all of that built in just a span for 40 years.
According to Hyatt general manager Nick Nishikawa, Hyatt Regency Saipan “has experienced many things in the CNMI for the past 38 years. We were there with the ups and downs. We are tough and still working to be better.”
That is part of the over-arching goal—to make the Hyatt brand be the preferred brand in every destination.
Josephine Mesta, director of Human Resource at Hyatt, who boasts of 25 years of service at Hyatt Regency Saipan, said as much. “They wanted Hyatt to be the preferred brand in every destination. I know this because this was part of my orientation 25 years ago,” she said.
“I think they were very progressive, even visionaries, because they saw the potential of the Marianas. Back then…Hyatt had this vision that they can take this hotel here, manage it, and take it to where it is today…so it’s kind of like Hyatt put us in the map, in the globe, because when you take a look or search for Hyatt, Hyatt Saipan is there,” she added.
Rooted in authenticity
Mesta believes that one of Hyatt’s secrets for lasting this long is its “authenticity.”
“We believe that we are sincere in what we do. Many people come to me and say that it looks like the typhoon didn’t touch Hyatt compared to other hotels and I say to them this is because we have a team that performs its best at the worst time,” she said. “We know how take care of people and I believe that is the key to our success. It’s really our people, the management, [and our] customers—everyone is involved in making this business successful.”
Typhoon Yutu responder
Many residents took refuge at the Hyatt Regency Saipan before and after the typhoon.
“We learned a lot from [Typhoon] Soudelor as, after the typhoon, people came to the hotel looking for power outlets to charge their phones, cook their food and we closed our eyes and let them do it. After Yutu, we were prepared for our guests and the community,” Nishikawa said.
“We have a generator and our own water system. The day after the typhoon, we were on top of things. …Our focus was to support the community and help recover as we housed many of the international responders. …We put up a charging station [and] we bought washing machines right after the typhoon because we know many people wanted to wash clothes,” he added.
While employees were taking care of Hyatt’s guests, the management also made sure that the employees were comfortable as well, Mesta said.
“We provided shelter for our staff and their families who were affected by the typhoon. We have them stay in-house and opened up other rooms so their families can come and shower,” she added.
Mesta highlighted the high number of U.S. citizen employees at Hyatt. “We have 253 employees composed of 90-some percent U.S. citizens.
“We currently have about 30 percent of employees who have been with us for the past 15-20 years. …We have one or two key people that have been here since the beginning of Hyatt 38 years ago and they are now in their 80s and still working because they don’t want to quit,” she added.
Nishikawa attributes their employees’ loyalty to the way they train, guide and shape the employees. He said Hyatt Saipan is a good training ground, with some employees who have moved to the mainland whose first choice of work is at the Hyatt. And it’s not just the rank and file. “We are a training ground for a lot of Hyatt general managers. …That’s our contribution to Hyatt International. Everybody is tasked to prepare and groom future Hyatt executives and they come here.”
Boosting CNMI’s tourism industry
Hyatt hotels operates like a “tourism agent” for one another, according to Nishikawa.
With 700 hotels all over the world, each hotel is an agent, he said. Each hotel has its own customers and if these customers want to travel to the Pacific, they usually recommend the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
“Everything at Hyatt is connected like a chain. …For the CNMI, where tourism is the only industry on the island, those connections are very important,” said Nishikawa.
“People all over the world trust the Hyatt brand…I think the name of the hotel is very important to a traveler; they feel safe because they are used to a certain standard and they expect that standard every time and we give it to them,” he added Mesta understands how a traveler’s mind works. “I don’t think someone in Kentucky who wants to visit an island somewhere far will look for an unknown hotel brand. …For people who stay at the Hyatt, they use Hyatt to dictate their destination in a specific region,” she said.
“That’s a captured market right away and that is one of our biggest contribution in this community,” she added.
With a land lease bill still pending at the CNMI Senate, Hyatt Regency Saipan is operating on the last three years left on its contract. “We want to be around for another 38 years and that’s basically our challenge right now,” Mesta said.
“We have been a big part of this community. …We are involved in…schools, the Marianas Visitors Authority and Saipan Chamber of Commerce boards, helping the government as advisers, we help raise funds and donations and that makes us engaged…we raise the bar so others will follow,” she added.
Nishikawa said the owners of Hyatt Regency Saipan wants to continue doing business on island. “They said that they are eager to make the necessary renovations in the hotel, to be in line with the make and design of other Hyatt hotels in the world but everything is on a standstill because, with only three years left on our lease, we are made to wait.”
“Once we get the lease extension, we want to do renovations. …This hotel is the same as 38 years ago…We definitely want to renovate rooms to meet the Hyatt standard.”
After a monthlong hiatus, tourists have started to return to Saipan and Hyatt is ready for them.
“We are ready, with open the doors and for them to enjoy the islands…If there’s anything we can do for the community, that is to keep the Marianas in the face of the world,” Mesta said.
“So we ask community to keep that alive, to safekeep, nourish and promote the Marianas so the international world will keep us in their map of destinations…We have to work together to keep the Marianas in somebody’s vocabulary,” she added.
Nishikawa said it is important to keep the Hyatt name on this island. “Otherwise everybody leaves—tourists, investors, business and eventually the economy… Investors come to the island and stay at the Hyatt. They talk to me, ask about the island and I always say Saipan is a very nice place for their business. It is the ideal island for everyone.”