Hawaii tourism

Hawaii Tourism Authority hires John De Fries, the first Hawaiian to lead the agency

The Hawaii Tourism Authority hired its first Native Hawaiian president and CEO.

Tourism industry veteran John De Fries is set to start on September 16. Under the terms of his contract, his base salary is $270,000 with an automatic 5% increase for each full year of the contract.

He replaces Chris Tatum, who left his three-year contract with HTA early when he retired on August 31 “to spend more time with his family”.

De Fries, who was born and raised in Waikiki, now lives in Kona on the island of Hawaii. He has worked in tourism since the 1970s. His experience includes tour operator operations, hotel sales and marketing, television sports marketing, resort operations, hotel resort construction, and the development of planned residential communities with amenities. resort class.

“Hawaii’s path to economic recovery and improved community well-being will require unprecedented levels of focus, collaboration, cooperation, coordination and unified executive leadership across all sectors,” said De Fries. in a statement today.

De Fries said Hawaii now faces a myriad of daunting challenges, including the “reopening of our tourism industry, at a time when immense and growing anxiety can be felt in our local communities.”

“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, he said.

De Fries is currently President and Senior Advisor of Native Sun Business Group Inc., a business consulting and project management firm focused on the hospitality and real estate development sectors in Hawaii.

He also served as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA). He headed the Hawaii County Research and Development Department. He also served as President and CEO of Hokulia, a luxury residential community on the island of Hawaii. De Fries sits on numerous boards, including Kualoa Ranch, Bishop Museum, and the Keahole Center for Sustainability.

De Fries made his desire for the job known in June when he turned down a proposed position as Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the Governor that would focus on identifying a reconciliation process with Native Hawaiians; as well as Maunakea and TMT issues.

HTA President Rick Fried said De Fries was selected from 324 applicants.

“We at HTA are all excited to see John take the lead in Hawaii’s tourism industry. I was delighted to see that he has already been involved in the work on ways to reopen tourism safely while keeping COVID-19 under control,” Fried said in a statement.