The Hawaii Tourism Authority has hired T. Ilihia Gionson, a longtime public affairs and community engagement professional on the island of Hawaii, as its public affairs manager.
Gionson, who starts work on Monday, takes on a position created as part of a reorganization of HTA in early June that focused on destination management.
As part of the reorganization, HTA cut jobs for veteran hospitality executive Pattie Herman and longtime television presenter Marisa Yamane. Herman had served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development for HTA since December 2019. Yamane, who left KHON2 to join HTA in May 2019, served as Director of Communications and Public Relations.
HTA said Gionson, who speaks Hawaiian, has more than two decades of experience developing and executing strategies for federal, state and municipal government agencies, businesses and nonprofits. He was most recently the founder and director of Hiehie Communications, where he worked with clients in hospitality, renewable energy and sustainability. From 2018 to 2o20, he served as the Field Representative and Director of Communications in Hawaii for U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard. He also served from 2011 to 2016 as executive assistant and director of communications for the late Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi.
“The visitor industry is part of the fabric of Hawaiian society, amplifying our potential to help heal the world with the values that have guided us for generations,” Gionson said. “The industry has grown in a way that now requires us to rebalance, realign and reprioritize. My hope is to continue the important work already underway at HTA to build trust between the industry, the community and our elected leaders through clear and responsive communication. At the end of the day, we’re all neighbors and ohana in this house we love.
In his newly created HTA position, Gionson will be responsible for “anticipating, gathering, analyzing and interpreting opinions, attitudes and issues that may affect the organization and its mission, Malama Kuu Home (caring for of my beloved home) through the principles of regenerative tourism.
HTA said Gionson will “work with HTA’s board, executives and staff to formulate communications and disseminate information to HTA stakeholders and the public about how the organization’s activities will enhance the good.” -being of the community. In addition, he will be responsible for HTA’s government relations, media communications, issues management, corporate and social responsibility programs, information dissemination and strategic communications.
John De Fries, President and CEO of HTA, said in a statement: “Ilihia brings a strong background in community development and government relations to our HTA leadership team and we are delighted to have joined him then. that we continue to execute our strategic plan.
“Effective communication and engagement are key to strengthening collaboration between tourism and the community,” said De Fries. “His working knowledge of Hawaii’s unique tapestry, as well as Hawaiian culture, has made him an effective strategist and communicator throughout his career.”