A veteran in hotel management before coming to Saipan 12 years ago, Hyatt Regency Saipan general manager Nick Nishikawa himself acknowledges that his first impression when he first stepped foot in the hotel was that the design and structure are old and not at par with Hyatt standards around the world.
Nishikawa hopes that this would change after they get the much awaited lease renewal for another 40 years from the Department of Public Lands.
At the same time, he was impressed with the consistent 5-star service of its staff, which, paired with good maintenance and upkeep, has enabled Saipan Regency Saipan to celebrate its 40th anniversary last Tuesday.
“When I came here, I thought the hotel was old and not quite the same with the Hyatt hotels worldwide. …The building may be outdated but what made it robust and young was the quality of people and staff working here—5-star standard then and is still the same today, even with the pandemic,” he said. “We want to do the renovations but because of the expiring lease agreement, we couldn’t do it. I told my staff to maintain, clean, and do whatever we can at the moment. …When we get the lease renewal, I tell you, when we renovate using the Hyatt design team and technical service…this hotel is going to be fantastic.”
“I hope the people of the CNMI wants to see the new Hyatt,” he added.
This kind of optimism is what brought Hyatt Regency Saipan this far to the end of their lease agreement with the CNMI government. Nishikawa said that their vision to remain in the CNMI is unbreakable. “You read in the newspapers that one or two documents are missing or incomplete in the submission of our proposal or packet. We would like the community to understand that this is the first time we are applying for a lease extension and it is quite difficult to prepare everything during this pandemic,” Nishikawa said. “Three weeks ago I was in Japan to discuss with owning company (Kobe Portopia Hotel Corp.) and Hyatt. Both parties are willing to extend and expect that the CNMI government will decide in our favor. The owning company and Hyatt are ready to make a new management contract between them. …The owner is happy with the progress going into the submission of documents with DPL. …Of course, they are willing to continue Hyatt operations when we get the lease extension.”
Through the pandemic, force majeure and economic crisis, Nishikawa’s leadership remains steadfast. “The past months have been very difficult and this is the same with other hotels. I had a discussion with the owner and Hyatt whether we should close or not because ceasing the operations of the hotel entails less expense than keeping it open. …But we don’t have the heart to close the hotel and was told by the owner to do whatever we can do to serve the guests,” he said. “So we never closed the hotel and accommodated people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and contractors and they have been with us for quite some time. We appreciate them for what they are doing for the islands and the people the CNMI.”
According to Nishikawa, accommodation and restaurant service are starting to resume but with limited operations. “Winter and Christmas season is the peak months for this hotel. I have been receiving a lot of inquiries from regular customers from Japan and Korea who always stay here for a month or two to get away from the cold,” he said. “They know Saipan is a safe place but becomes hesitant because of the five-day mandatory quarantine. …This is killing the economy, not only for this island but everywhere. But no matter what, we cannot compromise health and safety.”
Also due to the pandemic, Nishikawa had to let go of many employees to keep the hotel afloat. “When business comes back slowly, one by one we will call them back as they are our first priority. …I know I cannot control this pandemic and we are just doing everything we can where we have control over—expenses and operation cost. We have 120 staff right now and we have to take care of them, the owning company and the Hyatt brand name,” he added.
Though vaccines are on the way, Nishikawa and his team is still expect everything to return to normal in the second half of 2021. “I think tourism will change and we will have a new kind of tourists after the pandemic but Hyatt will be ready to target those people. …We are also looking forward to other international brands opening on Saipan like [Crowne Plaza brand] because I definitely understand [that] one international brand can only do a little and maybe two international hotels can do better for this destination. …Other islands in Asia have many international hotel brands, thus tourism is booming over there and this island needs that,” he said.
“I believe that Hyatt’s success is backed by people who have been working for this hotel for many years. …Hyatt will never cease to be a family-oriented company that takes care of its staff like family and this care extends to the community. …This means we are proud working for Hyatt and that makes a big difference. …Our quiet but strong spirit remains here (points to his heart),” he added.