Waikiki's five-star Halekulani Hotel has apologized to well-known Hawaiian entertainer Weldon Kekauoha after security guards asked his family whether they were guests while they swam at the hotel's pool during a weekend getaway there.
Kekauoha is a recording artist who's been performing for 25 years and has won several Na Hoku Hanohano awards, known as Hawaii's Grammys. A former member of the group The Manao Company, he has produced several solo albums and is nominated for Na Hoku Hanohano awards in seven categories this year.
"I probably will never stay there again. It's kind of a bummer. It's a real disappointment, because we, I enjoy staying there," Kekauoha said about the Halekulani Hotel. That's where he and his family spent the Mother's Day weekend, paying $300 a night per room on an employee discount since a relative works there.
They were at the resort's pool Sunday afternoon when security personnel asked them to verify that they were hotel guests.
Kekauoha says hotel personnel told them a Caucasian woman guest at the pool had said this: "'Those are local people and they just can't be guests, and I want them removed.' And I got really angry at first."
Halekulani Hotel Director of Public Relations Diane Ako read a statement that said, "The inappropriate and unacceptable handling of the matter by the security personnel involved was interpreted as biased, even though their actions had no intent whatsoever."
The hotel's head of security and the general manager have both called Kekauoha to apologize and told him the security guard who spoke to his family had been on the job just one week .and should never have approached his family. Instead, hotel officials said, security should have checked with pool attendants to verify guests discreetly, according to Kekauoha.
"Halekulani has never and will never tolerate bias or discrimination of any kind. Halekulani has taken all corrective actions necessary, both in terms of the personnel involved as well as reinforcing our standards and practices," Ako said. She said she could not answer any questions.
Hotel officials said no one has been fired, but some staff have been disciplined.
"On the lady's behalf, it was definitely discrimination, you know? I was just upset with Halekulani because they had allowed it to happen," Kekauoha said.
Kekauoha posted an entry called "Discrimination at Halekulani" on his Facebook page early Monday morning. By late Tuesday afternoon, about 4,000 people had shared the entry and 450 people had commented on it.
"I didn't intend for it to become this big. It seems like it's taking on a life of its own," Kekauoha said. "My whole purpose for bringing this to light is so that there's a little more awareness. So that these things don't happen."
Ulrich Krauer, general manager of the Halekulani, wrote Kekauoha a letter after calling him Monday night to apologize.
"I would like to once again extend my heartfelt apologies to you and your family for the most unfortunate experience at the pool during your recent stay," Krauer wrote. "I hope you will afford us the opportunity to redeem your confidence at Halekulani."
Kekauoha said the hotel has offered to treat his family to a complimentary lunch, which he declined.
The entertainer regularly appears right next door to the Halekulani, in the Kanikapila Grill at the Outrigger Reef hotel.
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