Dr. Richard Kelley, Outrigger Enterprises, Inc
Dr. Richard R. Kelley, chairman of Outrigger Enterprises, Inc., has made profound contributions to developing Hawaii’s visitor industry, helping to “bring the world to Hawaii.”
Dr. Kelley got his start in the world of tourism as a teenager in the late 1940s, working with his sisters folding towels, serving breakfast and operating the old plug switchboard in his parents’ first Waikiki hotel at a time when rooms went for $7.50 a night. But it wasn’t until 1970, after following a circuitous path – through Harvard Medical School and a first career as a pathologist at Queen’s Hospital and professor at the UH School of Medicine – that he entered the hospitality business full time.
In the roughly quarter century that he actively led the Outrigger organization, he transformed it. It had been a mom-and-pop operation managed by a pair of brilliant, hard-working, but seat-of-the-pants executives, Roy and Estelle Kelley. They worked from a desk in the lobby, kept receipts in a cigar box, personally negotiated room rates with walk-in customers, and used a home-grown system of spindles, wall charts, and grease pencils to track reservations. The hotels were limited to the confines of Waikiki, whose guests almost exclusively came from the U.S. mainland. Its growth was charted more by opportunities seized, than by planning.
While Dr. Kelley credits David Carey, Outrigger’s CEO since 1993, for the company’s geographic growth – it is now the fastest-growing chain in the Pacific, operating more than 12,000 hotel rooms and condominium units in over 50 properties from Maui to Mooloolaba – it was Dr. Kelley who upgraded Outrigger to a modern hospitality company.
Dr. Kelley brought order to a “somewhat chaotic” accounting system. Although his father, Roy, could not understand the need for computers, Dr. Kelley used them for everything he could. He even developed primitive reservation systems using a Burroughs accounting machine several years before reservations equipment came to market.
Today, Outrigger’s ‘Ike Pono data analysis system and its Stellex reservations system, name for Dr. Kelley’s mother, Estelle, are among the most sophisticated tools in the industry.
Dr. Kelley worked hard at marketing, traveling across the country and around the world, attending travel trade shows, dropping of Outrigger brochures and extolling the virtues of Hawaii at every stop. Trade shows revealed the economic impact of large meetings. “Not knowing what I was getting into,” he later recalled, “I made a public design and concept for a Convention Center…within walking distance of all Waikiki hotels. I kept a set of slides, a project and screen in the back of my car, and spoke to almost every community group in Honolulu over about two years.” Fifteen years later, the project completed, Dr. Kelley was honored as the “Father of the Convention Center.”
A past-chair of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, Kelley presently serves on the executive committee of the prestigious World Travel & Tourism Council. A strong advocate of education, he is or has been affiliated with the boards of the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management and the Education Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Presidents Academy. He served as chairman of the board of trustees at Punahou School and as a member of other school boards.
Believing that a desirable place to visit must also be a desirable place to live, Dr. Kelley has worked hard to improve the quality of life and vitality of the economy in Hawaii. He served as a chairman of Hawaii’s Commission on Performance Standards for public school students; as a member of the Governor’s Economic Revitalization Task Force; and as chair of the Hawaii Business Roundtable. Kelley’s accomplishments have earned him numerous honors, including Marketer of the Year (AMA), Hawaii Business Hall of Fame (Junior Achievement), Salesperson of the Year (SME), Hope Award (Multiple Sclerosis Society), ‘Ihe AWard (Hawaii Army Museum), Lifetime Achievement Award (NAIOP), and the “O in Life” Award (Punahou School).