John De Fries has accepted the offer to become the new President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The HTA board unanimously agreed at a board meeting late last month to make an offer to De Fries, who will take up his new role on September 16.
HTA received more than 300 applications for the position, with Honolulu-based executive search and recruiting firm Bishop & Company assisting in the recruitment process.
A committee of six members of the ETS board of directors and three members of the community reviewed the qualifications of the candidates before narrowing the list down to a group of nine finalists for interviews.
HTA’s full board interviewed the final two candidates on August 27 before making an offer to De Fries.
Born and raised in Waikiki, and now living in Kona on the island of Hawaii, De Fries was raised by family elders steeped in Hawaiian culture.
He has over 40 years of professional experience in the tourism and resort development industries.
His recent experience in the visitor industry includes serving as Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
De Fries is also President and Senior Advisor of Native Sun Business Group, a business consulting and project management firm focused on the hospitality and real estate development sectors in Hawaii.
He previously led Hawaii County’s Department of Research and Development, a division responsible for driving economic growth in sectors such as tourism, agriculture and renewable energy.
Prior to that, De Fries served as President and CEO of Hokulia, a luxury residential community on the island of Hawaii.
De Fries is the first native Hawaiian named president and CEO of HTA and replaces Chris Tatum, who retired August 31. HTA’s chief administrative officer, Keith Regan, served as interim president and CEO.
HTA President Rick Fried said, “All of us at HTA look forward to John taking the lead in Hawaii’s tourism industry.
“I was delighted to see that he is already committed to working on ways to reopen tourism safely while keeping COVID-19 under control.”
Commenting on his appointment, De Fries said, “Hawaii’s path to economic recovery and improved community well-being will require unprecedented levels of focus, collaboration, cooperation, coordination and unified executive leadership in all sectors.
“I am grateful to have been chosen to lead the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“Now in the throes of a global pandemic and economic collapse, Hawaii faces a myriad of daunting challenges – among them the reopening of our tourism industry, at a time when immense and growing anxiety can be felt in our communities. local.
“The sparkle of hope, however, is found in the resilience and creativity of Hawaii’s leaders in the public and private sectors – aunts, uncles, parents, kupuna, youth, coaches, teachers, ministers, healthcare workers and essential workers who are diligently seeking solutions, for their communities.