Kenneth Kunio Mitsutsune is president of Majestic Pacific LLC. He is a graduate of the Ecole Hoteliere Suisse (Hotel Management School) in Switzerland and has more than 30 years of international experience in hotel management and development. He first came to Guam 29 years ago to take a job as general manager of the Pacific Islands Club but left in 1984 to assume a management position at the Palau Pacific Resort in Palau. Since he left Palau in 1986 he has held management positions at the Cocos Island Resort Hotel in Guam; Bel Air hotels in California France Thailand and Hawaii; Shipfield Hotel Cairns in Australia; and has owned and operated Tsukiji Fish Market & Restaurant in Honolulu one of the largest restaurants in that city.
Mitsutsune returned to Guam in 2008 to take his current position with the company he began with Taka H. Iio who serves as its chairman. Majestic Pacific is a consulting firm to hotels resorts and restaurants throughout the Marianas region and is also involved with bringing new businesses to the area that would serve the military and local populations.
Q. What brought you back to Guam after such a long absence?
A. Even though I had relocated to Hawaii Guam has always held a special place in my heart. I have been carefully observing Guam’s business trends and decided that it would be the right timing to establish a business venture on the island.
Q. Where did you meet your partner and why did you decide to go into business together?
A. I met my business partner over 20 years ago in Jakarta. At that time we were both working as general managers with Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts. We are both Japanese we respect each other and have a deep love for our profession. We thought that the combination of our many years of experience in the hotel and tourism business would make for a successful business venture.
Q. What was Guam like when you first arrived 27 years ago? How does that compare to Guam 2009?
A. When I arrived on Guam for the first time it was truly a tropical island paradise. While Guam is still a very beautiful place the island has lost much of its tropical charm. It appears to have developed into a small city rather than a truly tropical destination – perhaps because of a lack of vision to capitalize on the natural beauty of the island. Whatever the reasons Tumon Bay has lost much of its original appeal. Although the visitor arrivals were only at about 160 000 yearly when I first came we had a number of wealthy Japanese. I think they came because they enjoyed Tumon because it had in those days uncluttered beaches and a more tropical ambience. It’s now rather overcrowded with numerous hotels many stories high lining the beaches. I recall that the visitors during my time enjoyed the bungalow style of resort that gave a more tropical feel to Tumon Bay.
Q. What does restructuring a hotel entail? What is the key to making a failing hotel successful again?
A. This is a difficult question to answer as many factors have to be taken into account. However one of the most important things when restructuring is to understand your market. In many cases what you would like to do conflicts with what you should do with regard to your market. When this occurs you have a mismatch between your vision and the market needs. Also firmly establish where you want to go – a management goal – and how you will get there. You will never arrive at a destination if you do not know where to go and how to get there. You must be acutely aware of the market trends which can move so quickly in another direction. A good marketing strategy for today may no longer be good for tomorrow. Lastly and it could be the most important factor you should not forget that you are always a part of the local community and whatever you do must be in the best interests of the local community even though most of your business is not coming from this sector.
Q. In your experience what’s the most common mistake that failing hotels make?
A. One of the common mistakes is that management does not have a clear idea as to what is the market for the hotel. Management must continually analyze the market trend to determine where the business is coming from. Another common mistake is the lack of a clear vision of how your hotel should be managed.
Q. As someone who now turns around failing hotels for a living what do you think can be done to turn around the state of tourism in Guam which has experienced dwindling arrival numbers in recent months?
A. The successful destinations usually have a close working relationship between the private business community and the local government organizations as they understand that what they strive for will result in mutual benefits. The collaboration must include a clear vision and long-range planning for the next 10 or 20 years. Determine a target market. Do you go for a quantity market (number of tourists) or for a higher-end market? Given the present situation I believe that Guam as a destination for low-end Japanese market will continue. I believe that unity between the private sector government and the community can highly impact the success of tourism.
Q. As someone who has worked for hotels all over the world what unique challenges does the hotel industry on Guam present?
A. First of all we have to realize that when it comes to tourism on Guam we are in a unique situation which is we are totally dependent on the Japanese market. I think this situation is quite unsound. However taking Guam’s location and the limited tourist attractions on the island into account it would be a difficult task to attract tourists other than Japanese. I would like to caution that due to the domination of the Japanese market on Guam we need to be careful to avoid looking like a mini-Japan with coconut trees.
Q. You have worked and continue to work all over the Marianas region. What are some of the strengths of the region as a tourist destination?
A. Again tourism in this region will not survive without the Japanese market. The biggest strength of this region is the proximity to Japan. Japanese tourists can enjoy the tropical climate with only several hours’ flight from Japan. Once the present flight situation from Japan to Saipan Rota and Tinian is resolved tourism in this region will without doubt increase.
Q. How do you see the prospects of Guam?
A. Taking the present fragile tourism situation into consideration I think the U.S. military buildup may be the best option for Guam’s economic future even though it will undoubtedly have some negative impact on the tourist market. The tourism market is very fragile and if you are solely dependent on the tourism business which is controlled by only one market it is too dangerous for the local economy. You always need an additional business source.
Q. What attracted you to the hotel industry as a young man and what has kept you in this field?
A. I still vividly remember this. One evening my mother took me to a restaurant at Grand Hotel in Yokohama a port city of Japan. I was nine or 10 years of age. On the way to the restaurant through the lobby of this hotel I encountered a number of people who were from other parts of the world and who spoke a variety of languages. I thought that it would be wonderful to meet so many different people if I worked in a hotel and I somehow made up my mind that when I grow up I would work in the hotel industry. My determination was so strong that I eventually graduated from the Hotel Management School in Switzerland and learned how to speak several different languages. I love my occupation and the passion for this job keeps me going all the time. The hospitality industry is not for everyone. You have to understand the nature of this business which is you have to work when others are enjoying their weekends holidays nighttime etc. And also dealing with guests is not that simple. Sometimes you will encounter difficult customers so you need to maintain your composure at all times as customers are always right.
Q. What is the most important thing you’ve learned in more than 30 years as a hotelier?
A. I have been privileged to have been able to meet many successful business people and political figures. For example I met Mr. George Shultz Secretary of State the late Mr. Busch owner of Budweiser Beer company Mr. [Charles F.] Feeney founder of Duty Free Shoppers to name a few. What I have noticed about these successful people was that they were extremely humble and they never decorated themselves with expensive jewelry watches and clothes. In meeting these successful people I have learned the importance of being humble and treating people as you want to be treated. Success can be gone in the blink of an eye but human relations and impressions last forever.
Q. Majestic Pacific also does or is looking to do business that will target the local and military markets. How will it do this? And why is this important?
A. The main business of Majestic Pacific is consulting work including the sale purchase and opening for the management of hotels resorts restaurants in addition to business investments such as bringing an internationally-known business venture as a partner on Guam. Our target market for this venture would be mainly local and military although we will not neglect the tourist market. I believe we will be able to announce this exciting venture on Guam in the near future. MBJ