The Survey Results

 

When I sent out the Kona Village survey, (the "Plea for Ideas"), I realized that it was asking fans of the village for an investment of time and thought, and realistically expected that I might receive ten or fifteen responses. I was mistaken! They came in steadily, and I've received 80+ thoughtful, substantive, sometimes lengthy responses. Some came in even after I’d published the summary because they wanted to express their views. I'm overwhelmed by the willingness of the guests to give Kona Village such devoted consideration. I combed through each one carefully, and have summarized them. While I'd like to have used everything said in the responses, I could only summarize and illustrate with some of the sentences provided.

In the first section I asked what elements of Kona Village constitute the essence of the village that should be present in the reopened village, and what elements would be spoilers if present.  The basic results will surprise few:

Kona Village employees: The employees were specifically mentioned by a large majority as being a key element in the atmosphere and success of the village. The descriptors included: 'extended family,' 'real people,' 'friends,' 'knew us personally,' 'fabulous,' 'the heart of the village,' 'unpretentious,' 'loved their jobs,' 'relaxed,' 'happy,' 'incredibly friendly,' and so on.

Permitting and encouraging the staff to make personal connections with the guests affected the whole dynamic of the village in positive ways. Staff and guests grew to know each other, they were invited to weddings and funerals, they traded cards, and gifts, and hugs. Email contact was maintained, and when the guests returned it was a return to the family, to the 'ohana that had formed over the years. "We felt like we were guests in their home." "They treat you like family."

Clearly the bonds that were formed in that way were extraordinary and constituted a vital part of the village essence. If the reopened village were to insist on a distancing between employee and guest, it would change a very key element in the spell the village wove over its guests.

The spirit of 'getting away from it all': Overwhelmingly, the first thing that people mentioned was "No TV, No AC, No phones, no cell phones in public." Guests were after an ‘unplugged’ environment, away from electronic entertainments.

They wanted a time away from modern distractions because they needed to get away from the news, the noise, the ringing, the decisions, the bustle of everyday life. They wanted to recapture the luxury of just being themselves, away from pressures, of pretense, of posturing, of agendas. They wanted space to breathe, to enjoy, to be. They wanted time to think, to meditate, to read, to reconnect with their families. They wanted to refocus on the beauty around them, the culture of Hawai'i, the fragrances, the bird songs, the feel of the breezes on their arms. They needed a time out, to savor the small things, like what their feet felt like when they walked on wet sand at the water's edge. "It was the purest relaxation I've ever experienced."

Some treasured the interactions with others. Kona Village was a place where it was safe to speak to strangers, and to smile back when someone said hello. One guest said, "Not having TV forced us to leave the hale and mingle with others, and we made many friends that way." "Kona Village is different--the guests talk to each other."