Queen behind the scene: Margo Mau helped create ‘a sense of place’ at Waikoloa Beach Resort

  • Margo Mau stands outside her office at Queens’ MarketPlace in late June.

  • Halau O Poohala performs in the Waikoloa Bowl in 2011. (COURTESY PHOTO/WAIKOLOA BEACH RESORT)

  • Margo Mau (right) stands with Waikoloa Land Company’s VP of Resort Operations Scott Head and Denise Yamaguchi, CEO of Hawaii Food & Wine Festival at the event in 2015, one of many Mau helped orchestrate. (COURTESY PHOTO/WAIKOLOA BEACH RESORT)

WAIKOLOA — Around a large table at Queens’ MarketPlace last Tuesday, Margo Mau sat with her team, checking off items on their to-do list as final preparations for Waikoloa Beach Resort’s multifaceted Fourth of July festivities.

“People sometimes wonder who runs Waikoloa because they don’t often see us out in the public,” Mau said. “We’re a humble company and we do things from behind the scenes.”

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The event was her last hoorah as marketing, sales and operations manager for Waikoloa, an organization she joined 11 year ago. This week, Mau takes on new responsibilities at Hawaii’s largest employee-owned tours and transportation company, Roberts Hawaii.

Her Waikoloa shoes will be hard to fill. Mau’s day-to-day responsibilities spanned everything from ensuring branding consistency among the hotels, Queens’ MarketPlace and golf courses to making sure sales and operations were running smoothly.

“The sales aspect was created when I first started because during the Hyatt and early Hilton days, Waikoloa Beach Resort had a lot of Japanese business,” she explained. “My forte was Japanese, but Waikoloa Land Company’s then-president Thos Rohr saw the bigger picture and wanted the destination to be international — as a destination for the world.”

But Mau’s favorite part of the job was planning grand-scale events – the first of which was the Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival.

“The bureau and the kumu wanted a hula event on the west side of the island, so we went to the world hula expo in Aichi, Japan, in 2005, where over 500 halau performed on the stage,” she said. “I brought that year’s winning Merrie Monarch halau, Na Lei O Kaholoku, their kumu hula Nani Lim Yap and designer Sig Zane and his wife, Nalani Kanakaole, to showcase. Akatsuka Orchids sponsored that week, so they created a living wall with orchids as our stage backdrop, along with Hawaiian flags made from orchids. It was amazing.”

With this inspiration, Mau went on to produce Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival at Waikoloa Beach Resort for 10 years.

Another big feat was creating the resort’s Fourth of July extravaganza, including events at Queens’ MarketPlace, Kings’ Shops and the Waikoloa Bowl — all on the same day.

“It was one of my favorite events because we got to pair up with the county,” Mau said. “About seven years ago, Fire Chief Oliveira wanted to send a message to the community not to do illegal fireworks at home. He asked if we’d be interested in being the third fireworks show on the island that the fire department supported. We were lucky to have a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization at the resort that could take county funding to put on the show.”

In 2012, she created AsianFest at Waikoloa Beach Resort.

“The first year we had just one Taiko drum team, one lion dancer, a Thai dancer, the Kona Visayan Club and free food. Who would have thought it would have brought 2,000 people?” Mau said with a laugh.

“I have to thank Scott Head, my boss, for always being my number one fan when I wanted to do something outside of the box,” she added.

Life lessons

Among the most valuable lessons learned at Waikoloa Beach Resort, Mau said being humble and sincere topped the list.

“In years past, it was always about what we did for the community. As the years passed, it became what we did with the community,” she said.

“Until you’re really immersed with the kumu hula, or teachers, you don’t really understand how the culture is passed on from generation to generation, and how this island really has that sense of place. We’re so different from the other islands,” Mau added.

Capturing that essence in Waikoloa events, she surely has left a lasting impression.

“I thank Scott and those before him for the vision we were trying to create as ‘the gathering place of the Kohala Coast,’” Mau said. “I know the Queens’ MarketPlace management team and Waikoloa Land team members will keep up the vision and never lose the sense of place we’ve created.”

New chapter

In her new position as Roberts Hawaii’s general manager for Hawaii Island, Mau oversees all schools, tour and airport shuttle divisions.

“My dad worked for Roberts Hawaii for more than 40 years. He was one of the original drivers when Robert Iwamoto Sr. grew it into a small bus company on Oahu in the early 1970s,” she remembered. “I was around three years old at the time. Then Robert Jr. took over the company, and continues to run it today.

“Robert had five boys around my age and we used to practically live at Kakaako Park,” Mau recalled. “Greyhound Buses came in and Robert didn’t want to lose to them, so he thought, ‘why not make our company logo the rabbit?’ I remember as kids we all got free rabbits. They were so cute and cuddly.”

She also appreciated how tight knit the company was.

“We would have barbecues with the other drivers on Saturdays. Company picnics were at either Ala Moana Park or Queen Kapiolani,” Mau said. “It was so family oriented and still is as a big company now.”

During her 11 years at Waikoloa Beach Resort, Mau remained connected with the Iwamoto sons through the Roberts Hawaii shuttle service to Kings’ Shops and Queens’ MarketPlace, and a new Kohala dining shuttle for Japanese agents from Mauna Kea to Waikoloa.

In her new job, she reports directly to Roberts Hawaii’s vice president of operations, Jason Young.

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“One of our biggest divisions is the school buses, but we also have the tour aspect with the big buses and a new division with the airport shuttles to the hotels,” Mau explained. “I’m based out of Kona. Roberts Hawaii used to have a huge Japanese division, so with the new international flight we will build up the Japanese division again to support the flight and tourism aspects.”

There’s no doubt her role as “queen behind the scene” will continue there, too.