Island Tourism Heroes Go National

Brian Hunnings, Nancy Gorospe and Mufi Hannemann. Photo from Mufi Hannemann

June found me in Atlanta for two major dates for the visitor industry: the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s summer meeting and the International Society of Hotel Association Executives’ summer conference.

As president of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association, an AHLA affiliate, I had the pleasure of being present when Nancy Gorospe and Brian Hunnings, both of Westin Moana Surfrider, received national honors at the Stars of Industry ceremony.

Nancy was selected as outstanding lodging employee of the year, and Brian was named manager of the year, in the large property category of 301 rooms or more.

This is the third consecutive year Hawaii has produced the AHLA’s top lodging employee. Last year’s recipient was Leticia Gamiao of Aqua Waikiki Wave, and the 2009 honoree was Buster Civerolo of Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.

This was the first time a Hawaii employee was named top manager and the first time two representatives from the same property received national titles.

Nancy is a fountain dispenser who has worked at the Moana for 22 years. She’s earned a reputation for going the extra mile in everything she does. She oversees the snack bar that covers the beach and pool areas of the Banyan wing. Repeat guests have cited her exceptional service and aloha spirit as the reasons they return to Hawaii and stay at this Waikiki landmark. Nancy also is active in the community, participating in the Aloha Festivals and volunteering with the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Brian has been in the hospitality industry for 21 years and enjoyed great success in strengthening his food and beverage team at Moana Surfrider. Among his achievements, he has introduced programs that have led to significant increases in business for Starwood’s restaurants. His passion for locally grown products led him to launch a crusade to support island farmers, the results of which ended in Starwood’s expansion of Hawaii products on the hotels’ menus. Brian also is an active supporter of Aloha United Way and Aloha Festivals, while he and co-workers assist HUGS (Help, Understanding, and Group Support), which provides resources for families of terminally ill children.

Three others with Hawaii ties were named Stars of the Industry by the AHLA.

Craig Huish, former general manager of Best Inn Hukilau Resort in Laie, won the outstanding U.S. educator award for his work with the hospitality management program at Utah Valley University.

Simon Rusconi, formerly of The Royal Hawaiian hotel and Moana Surfrider, won in the special events category for his work as general manager of The St. Regis Atlanta.

Ren Hirose, general manager of W Los Angeles- Westwood, shared the honor in the same category. Hirose is a graduate of Baldwin High School and the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management.

Hawaii’s representatives for the Stars of Industry are chosen from the HHLA’s Na Poe Paahana (The Hard Working People) program. This program receives more than 200 nominations a year from member hotels and businesses throughout the state, from which the top employees are selected in various categories.

The HHLA’s Kaua’i chapter, meanwhile, sponsors its annual Malama awards to recognize top employees of Garden Island hotels and related businesses. Many of the Malama honorees represent Kaua’i in the Na Poe program. I had the honor of participating in Kaua’i’s 14th annual ceremony earlier this year and was very proud to help recognize such outstanding individuals.

Brian and Nancy, as members of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts ‘ohana, are symbolic of the tens of thousands of exceptional employees of the visitor industry, who not only make innumerable contributions to their businesses and fellow employees, but to our economy and community.

This was a well-deserved accolade for Brian and Nancy, our “Tourism Heroes” for this edition of MidWeek Kaua’i