Carrie Bligh, a decades-long, seasoned hospitality professional, joined the Timbers Kauaʻi team in July 2021 from the Timbers Resorts Corporate office in Winter Park, FL. Looking back at an unorthodox year, Carrie reflected on operations during a pandemic.
Q: How are activities starting to come back to the island this year and what’s different from 2020?
After very limited 2020, activities at Timbers are back, a stark change from the 2020 shut-down.
Everything is back up and running at this point, with all Covid protocols in place, of course. Keiki can enjoy coconut painting and other arts and crafts on site; Sunset Sessions, Timbers’ member pau hana is back, and the fitness center and spa are open for business.
The island itself is welcoming visitors back in large numbers as well thanks to the Safe Travels program, and Covid-19 protocols. In May 2020, Kaua‘i only had 571 visitors. In May 2021, there were 73,018, according to a Hawai‘i Tourism Authority report.
Q: What sort of connections among owners are you seeing?
As Operations Director, Carrie oversees operations at Hōkūala which includes Timbers Kaua’i. Carrie explained that new owners at Timbers Kauaʻi are often referrals by existing owners. Different families will coordinate to visit their home here at Timbers at the same time, and plan trips together to other Timbers resorts included in our Reciprocity Program. However, there are plenty of owners in Timbers’ tight-knit community that actually met on-site, without any previous relationship.
“One group calls themselves ‘Oktoberfest,’” Carrie explained, “they met here and now they visit each other in their hometowns as well as at other resorts in the program.”
Q: Is there a moment that you feel encapsulates the year?
Carrie explained that the return of owners and on-site activities overall was a highlight for 2021, but more specifically, Sunset Sessions has been a major highlight. Sunset Sessions is Timbers’ weekly outdoor owner pau hana for Owners and staff. Drinks and pupus are shared at sunset with an incredible landscape and even better company.
“It felt like a return to normalcy,” Carrie explained.
Luckily, these small outdoor gatherings made it easy to abide by Covid restrictions, while also creating a much-missed opportunity to connect, enjoy, and talk story.
As safety guidelines relax, we have been excited to increase the size of these outdoor gatherings.
Q: What’s new with the Ocean Course?
The Ocean Course at Hōkūala has been named North America’s Best Golf Course, and Hawaii’s Best Golf Course by World Golf Awards. Golf Magazine named the course Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Hawai’i, and it’s no wonder why. With the longest stretch of ocean-front holes in the state, the Ocean Course continues to impress. Even for non-golfers, the course provides a breathtaking backdrop, “which is why the Course now offers sunset golf course tours,” Carrie explained.
“We also do ‘Rockin Range,’” Carrie went on, “which is essentially family-style pau hana with golf!” Rockin Range is an event for the whole family to enjoy music, drinks, and fun out on the driving range.
Q: What’s new in the food and beverage department?
Hualani’s Farm-to-Table pre-fixed menu on Tuesday evenings is incredibly popular, as Chef Zach prepares new specials weekly.
“It’s almost like the pandemic inspired creativity,” Carrie said, describing the incredible fresh seasonal items offered at Hualani’s. The on-site dining option with an unbeatable view “highlights local products, fish, beef, and produce that is either grown right on property, or here on the island.”
Whether farm to table or farm to bar, Hualani’s has the freshest take on local fare.
“An authentic experience for the staff and owners is so important,” Carrie explained, “after a trying time with lockdown, staffing shortages, and other challenges, it’s been amazing to see how our Timbers ‘ohana has come together.”
Additionally, we have been fortunate enough have our farm goods transformed into beautiful and delicious products like hot sauce, mango honey, tea and garlic salt.
Q: What other successes can you point to?
Carrie manages her team by driving consistency and continuity through strong training and employee cultural initiatives. “One important part is the use of the book ‘Managing with Aloha,’ which is a foundation of everything we do on property,” Carrie explained. The team also consults with a local Hawaiian practitioner to be sure they are doing everything pono.
“People generally want to do the right thing,” Carrie explained, “so educating ourselves and visitors about the culture is important.”
Having traditional cultural offerings that give our owners a deeper understanding of the Hawaiian culture is something that Carrie is honored to have take place on property. Our unique E Ho’i I Ka Piko ceremony takes three traditional Hawaiian protocols focused on aligning our spiritual connectedness, or as Carrie put it “an opportunity to shed the mainland” and focus on what is important at that moment. To have the opportunity to share in E ala E, Hi’u Wai and Ho’okupu are ways for our ‘Ohana to reconnect with themselves their ancestors and the world around them.
Q: What’s new things are happening at Hōkūala?
As Hōkūala continues to evolve into the future, we are very mindful of the footprint we leave, and we make a concerted effort to create a positive impact with our presence on Kaua’i. This year we partnered with Hawai‘i Island Land Trust and we look forward to expanding that relationship next year.
We know that we have been entrusted as the keepers of this land, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. Our values of both Mālama ‘Āina (which roughly translates to caring for and nurturing the land for future generations) and our focus ‘Ohana make us an ideal fit for The Garden Isle. Next year you can expect to see these values more visibly throughout Hōkūala. For example, you will notice a change in our 16-acre organic farm as we adjust our plantings to let much of the soil rest.
Q: What’s next for Timbers Kaua’i for 2022?
As we approach 2022, we are looking forward to adding more recreational options for Owners including fitness classes and more immersive, authentic experiences.
And of course, we look forward to seeing you all in the new year.