“I have the distinct responsibility of driving revenue and overseeing expenses.” That’s how Josef Haas explains his role as chief operating officer at Kalahari Resorts, which includes two leading waterpark resorts (Wisconsin Dells, Wis., and Sandusky, Ohio) and a third in development.
Haas has more than 30 years in the hospitality industry and held top-level positions at a number of renowned organizations, including Sheraton and Keystone Resort in Keystone, Colo.
At Kalahari, he leads one of the largest operations in the waterpark resort sector, and through his management approach, others can see how attention to guest experience should be applied in a waterpark setting.
“There are so many times that we forget what business are we in. We’re in the hospitality business,” Haas notes. “So many places are beautiful, but service doesn’t match the physical product.”
To ensure that every Kalahari employee provides the best service, last year Haas brought in outside corporate training professionals from Master Connection Associates.
“My personal commitment to this industry is that we provide products and services beyond expectations all the time,” he says.
Haas is driven by what he calls a “relentless pursuit of excellence” — and, in terms of waterpark operations, that has meant going green.
Approximately two years ago, when utility and gas prices spiked, Haas helped put into place one of the industry’s first major sustainability programs. The goal was to implement the most cost-effective changes that would provide the biggest return on investment, with the most benefit to the environment. Today the program includes food waste composting, solar hot water heating, low-flow shower heads in guest rooms, LED exit signs, motion sensor lights and AquaRecycle, a resource-saving laundry system.
“It’s not just about the savings in dollars and sense, but in saving the environment,” Haas notes. “ By reducing our carbon footprint, it benefits us financially and socially.”
Looking ahead, he also plans to maintain high standards by furthering Kalahari Resorts as a brand that meets multiple needs. In the past 18 months he has overseen the opening of a 100,000-square-foot indoor theme park in the Wisconsin Dells property and the Safari Adventures animal park in Sandusky.
Haas says both new amenities help to extend Kalahari as an all-inclusive vacation destination. Additionally, he is proud of the fact that under his leadership, Kalahari became the first waterpark resort operator in Ohio to be fully compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
As Kalahari moves to open its next location in Fredericksburg, Va., it’s a safe bet that Haas will use the same success strategy that has guided him thus far.
“I’ve always challenged myself to new environments,” he says, adding that when it comes to decision-making, his approach has been, “what’s the problem, what are the alternative solutions and what’s the economic impact of each?”