As part of our on-going “5 Minutes With” series, every month we’ll introduce you to a new member of our Disney Meetings team at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California or Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai‘i. Whether they work in our Disney Convention Resorts, Theme Park Operations, Catering and Convention Services, Sales, Entertainment or dozens of other event-support areas, these Cast Members and their teams are responsible for creating magical experiences and unforgettable events for meeting and event industry professionals, and their important attendees and guests, every single day.
Let’s meet Kahulu De Santos, Cultural Advisor at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa:
Hi Kahulu, tell us about your role.
My role as the Cultural Advisor at Aulani is to ensure the experience our Guests receive from the moment they book their Aulani vacation is continually inspired by the Hawaiian culture. I act as a resource for a multitude of partners, including the Aulani convention services team, helping to guide how we can best portray and incorporate Hawaiian culture into the many events, activities and offerings we provide throughout the resort. With a focus on accuracy and storytelling, I also act as a kumu (teacher) for the more than 1,700 Cast Members who help bring the magic of Disney and spirit of Hawai‘i to life at Aulani every day.
Can you tell us about a typical day at work?
There really are no typical days. Collaborating with partners in three time zones to plan programs and events that promote the story of Aulani, and with each having different needs, my days are usually very different. Some days, I offer presentations showcasing unique cultural traditions and elements of Aulani. Other days, I may be providing advice to our convention services team on how cultural elements can be infused into an event planned onsite. Many times, I can be found interacting with Cast Members helping to share mo‘olelo (history and stories) and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language). Most often, my days include a combination of all of these, making each day different, exciting and providing variety.
Why is Hawaiian culture so important at Aulani?
The Hawaiian heritage is woven into everything Guests see and do at Aulani. It’s one of the things that makes Aulani so special. Aulani is a Hawaiian name meaning "messenger of a chief." Here, that chief is Hawaiian culture and the messengers are our Cast Members. Every day, they help share the message of Hawaiian culture through their stories and interactions with Guests from all over the world.
At Aulani, we celebrate the Hawaiian culture as well as help ensure the perpetuation of the culture through continued sharing and learning. Our Walt Disney Imagineers travelled throughout Hawai‘i seeking input from cultural practitioners around the islands to inspire the resort’s design, architecture and art. This thorough research resulted in a unique resort experience celebrating the authentic culture and history of Hawai‘i that seamlessly weaves together with the Disney tradition of top-quality family entertainment and hospitality.
Story is an important part of Hawaiian culture and Disney tradition. Is there a particular story that may be of interest to meeting planners?
One Hawaiian story that I love to tell meeting and event planners is about the benevolent goddess Kaiona and the ‘iwa bird. Though blind and deaf, Kaiona is known to aid travelers who have lost their way and responds to those in need wherever they may stray. From her lofty home atop O‘ahu’s majestic Mt. Ka‘ala, she called upon her ‘iwa birds to act as guides. Meeting planners and attendees may notice that our convention space is named for the goddess Kaiona, in hopes that she will continue to look after everyone who visits us. Those who stay a little longer will also discover that our daily event guide is named after the ‘iwa bird to continue guiding guests through our entertainment offerings.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I love that my role touches every part of Aulani. From ensuring the flora and fauna incorporated into our grounds are reflective of Hawai‘i, to reviewing scripts for a new entertainment option, I have the opportunity to work with every area of the resort. This reach allows me to come in contact with a multitude of people on a daily basis who are interested in the Hawaiian culture. In this way, I get to help share Hawaiian culture with the world so that they can take a little bit of Hawai‘i home with them.