HTA gets a new leader amid ongoing crisis for Hawaii’s tourism

HTA gets a new leader amid ongoing crisis for Hawaii’s tourism
John De Fries (Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Tourism Authority has a new president and CEO.

HTA announced Wednesday that John De Fries will become the first Native Hawaiian to head the authority.

De Fries will start on Sept. 16.

The announcement comes Hawaii’s tourism industry remains in a crisis — still shut down because of the pandemic and a mandatory quarantine for visitors, and with no clear path to recovery.

“Beset now by 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 local communities,” De Fries said, in a statement.

He takes over for previous head Chris Tatum, who retired on Aug. 31.

De Fries has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and most recently served as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.

De Fries also previously led Hawaii County’s Department of Research and Development, a division focused on economic growth in tourism and other industries.

The HTA Board of directors unanimously approved De Fries on Aug. 27, and he accepted the offer on Wednesday.

“Hawaii’s pathway to economic recovery and enhanced community well-being will require unprecedented levels of focus, collaboration, cooperation, coordination, and unified executive leadership throughout all sectors,” De Fries said. “I am grateful to have been chosen to lead the Hawaii Tourism Authority.”

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