Former Outrigger chairman/CEO passes away

Dr. Richard Kelley, former chairman/CEO, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, has passed away at age 88 after a two-decade-long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

The eldest son of Outrigger founders Roy and Estelle Kelley, Dr. Kelley gave up his medical career to join the family business.

As his parents eased toward retirement, Kelley found himself picking up the reins, modernizing a company that had outstripped the capacity of mom-and-pop management and growing it into a global corporation, according to Outrigger. In the following four decades, he led Outrigger to its place as Hawaii’s largest and most diverse hotel company.

For years, he wrote and spoke out about the importance of tourism to Hawaii’s economy. His mantra was, “In Hawaii, tourism is everybody’s business.” He repeatedly implored the state’s politicians to boost state funding of tourism marketing and refrain from excessively taxing visitors. Under his direction, Outrigger heavily underwrote a series of four studies by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) that detailed the visitor industry’s impact on Hawaii’s economy. In 1998, he played a critical role on the Governor’s Economic Development Task Force, whose recommendation to substantially boost funding for visitor industry marketing proved key to ending the state’s decade-long economic slump.

In 1994,  Kelley and key Outrigger executives had the first of many conversations with historian, author and educator George Hu‘eu Sanford Kanahele about the special role that Hawaiian culture and values ought to play in the islands’ visitor industry. From what Kelley learned from these conversations—about how Hawaiian culture can set local hospitality apart from that of other tourist destinations—grew the values that Outrigger adopted: Ke ‘Ano Wa‘a (The Outrigger Way—Kīnā‘ole, Kaulike, A‘o, Nā Mea Ho‘okipa, ‘Ohana, Wahi, Kuleana and Aloha). He believed that employees’ understanding and sharing of Hawaiian culture, history and values would enrich their experience as hosts and create a more meaningful, respectful and memorable guest experience.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Richard R. Kelley, son of Outrigger founders Roy and Estelle Kelley, former chairman emeritus of Outrigger Enterprises Group and pioneer in the hospitality industry,” said Jeff Wagoner, president/CEO, Outrigger Hospitality Group. “Dr. Kelley was an inspiration for so many and his legacy of The Outrigger Way – caring for guest, host and place—continues to be the foundation of our corporate culture today.”

He added, “On behalf of Outrigger Hospitality Group and all of our hosts worldwide, we offer our heartfelt condolences and aloha to the Kelley ‘ohana.”

Kelley chaired the Hawaii Visitors Bureau and Hawaii Business Roundtable, and served on the WTTC Executive Committee and the advisory board to the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus.