Szigeti Will Take Over At HLTA

Say a warm “aloha” to George Szigeti, who will become the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s new president and CEO July 9. He’ll be replacing me at the helm of the association, where I’ve served since January 2011.

The HLTA president and CEO directs a nonprofit, statewide trade organization of lodging properties, lodging owners and management firms, condominiums, suppliers, and related firms and individuals.

Members include 156 lodging properties representing 48,000 rooms and more than other 400 members in other membership categories.

George will have a good foundation on which to build, with the solid backing of an active board of directors, committee chairs, and a small but very effective HLTA office staff.

With these resources, we’ve expanded our membership; revived our Hawaii Island chapter and strengthened Oahu’s, increased our visibility in the community,worked effectively with the Legislature, Hawaii Tourism Authority and local trade groups, and changed our name from the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association to Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association to more accurately reflect our changing membership and goals. At my recommendation and with the backing of the board and members, we’ll have women – general manager Julie Arigo of the Waikiki Parc and general manager Kelly Hoen of the Royal Hawaiian – lead the board as chairwomen in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively. It’s the first time in 14 years that women have headed HLTA.

We raised record-setting donations of $1.15 million, and nearly $1.4 million the past two years through the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk, thanks to event chairmen Kelvin Bloom of Aston Hotels and Jerry Gibson of Hilton Hotels, and a standout effort by our Maui chapter.

We established stronger ties between the downtown business and Waikiki tourism communities, with the input of Don Horner and Peter Ho of First Hawaiian Bank and Bank of Hawaii, respectively; actively represented Hawaii with our parent American Hotel & Lodging Association on such national issues as visa waivers and federal support for international tourism marketing; and just sponsored a well-attended, tourism-centric forum featuring the candidates for U.S. Senate and Honolulu mayor.

In announcing the appointment, HLTA chairman Kelvin Bloom said, “George Szigeti was an obvious choice to fill Mufi’s shoes. George’s experience in our industry, excellent business and trade relationships throughout the Islands, and firm grasp of the HLTA’s goals and priorities will enable him to build on the solid record we’ve established.”

There won’t be a steep learning curve for George because he’s been an active member of the HLTA and knows lodging and tourism through his success in the supply and retail sides of the visitor industry. He has a keen appreciation of the importance of tourism, understands the challenges facing our economy and industry, and will offer the effective leadership that will serve the association’s membership and the community.

George has been president and CEO of Better Brands Ltd. since 1997. Better Brands, a subsidiary of Young Market Company, is one of the nation’s largest wholesalers and distributors of beer, wine and distilled spirits. Prior to joining Better Brands, he was vice president and general manager of Johnson Brothers of Hawaii, another liquor wholesaler. He also was the sales manager for McKesson Wine and Spirits and the first state manager for E & J Gallo.

He commented, “I’m thrilled and grateful to be able to contribute to the growth of the visitor industry. As someone whose business has benefited tremendously from travel and tourism, I welcome this opportunity to return that support by offering my knowledge, dedication and commitment to tourism through the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.”

In addition to serving on the HLTA board, George was a board member and past president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, board member of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, president of the Hawaii Liquor Wholesalers Association, and board member of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and several charitable organizations.

He has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. He and wife Sandra have a daughter, Alexis, who is a student at Santa Clara University.

I know George will be building on the solid foundation we’ve established and wish him the very best in leading the organization in the years ahead.


Rupert Rowe

Position: Bellman
Location: Grand Hyatt Kaua’i

Bellman Rupert Rowe has been in the visitor industry for more than 20 years, but still approaches his duties as if it’s his first day on the job.

He has been at the Grand Hyatt Kaua’i for his entire career, the last dozen years spent sharing his unique brand of aloha with guests. He began work as a security officer, moved to the engineering department and finally to guest services. Rupert is recognized for the enthusiasm he devotes to his job every day, his efforts to improve morale among his workmates, and his engaging relationships with guests. Many of those guests give him the highest marks for his service and attitude.

During the height of the Hyatt’s group season, with large numbers of guests coming and going and events happening throughout the week, Rupert’s boss, guest services manager Joseph Schoniwitz, recalls, “How wonderful and such a great help it is to have Rupert on board remaining positive, calm, as well as keeping his fellow teammates smiling.”