Local Folks In The Executive Suite

Since the inception of “Tourism Matters,” we have featured our “heroes,” the men and women who form the backbone of our visitor industry. Their stellar work performance, contributions to the industry and community, and embodiment of the aloha spirit have enabled tourism to thrive as Hawaii’s top industry.

But there’s another group of heroes whose achievements are many but whose names may not be familiar to those outside the visitor industry. These are the individuals who are the leaders of our industry, the men and women who provide the management, ideas and commitment to excellence that enable Hawaii to succeed against everincreasing competition from other destinations.

Many of our industry leaders are island born and raised. They have gained valuable experience in the visitor industry overseas and in Hawaii, and are applying it here at home.

Ernest Nishizaki has been a mainstay of the Kyo-ya Company for more than 30 years, where he is the executive vice president. An alumnus of Leilehua High School and the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management, Ernie got his start as an ITT Sheraton management trainee in Waikiki following graduation.

His work would take him to company posts at hotels in Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco before he returned to Hawaii in 1977 as general manager of Sheraton Waiakea Village in Hilo. His peripatetic career then led him to Kaanapali, Makaha and three Kauai properties before he came back to Honolulu in 1993 to become the first local-born manager of the famed The Royal Hawaiian.

He has since held executive responsibilities within the Kyo-ya Company and served in many industry and community capacities. Among his many awards, Ernie was inducted into the TIM School’s Alumni Hall of Honor and received the 2011 American Hotel and Lodging Association’s State Leadership Award for his support for the travel industry.

Another local person with the Kyo-ya Company is Kelly Hoen, general manager of The Royal Hawaiian. Kelly graduated from La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls then attended Stephens College in Missouri.

Kelly held executive positions all over Hawaii the Westin Kauai and Kauai Hilton, the Hyatt Regency Kauai, Kapalua Bay, and Princeville Resort before taking the reins at the Royal. Like colleague Nishizaki, Kelly is active in the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, serving as head of the Oahu chapter, and in various business and community activities.

She recently oversaw a massive, $60-million renovation of the Royal, introducing new features for the famed “Pink Palace” on Waikiki Beach.

On Maui is Michael White, general manager of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel since 1985. Mike was born on Oahu and attended Punahou School. He is another distinguished graduate of the UH’s TIM school.

Mike began his travel industry career as a busboy at the Halekulani Hotel. He then held managerial positions with the Hawaiian Regent, Mauna Kea Beach and Mauna Lani Bay before joining Kaanapali Beach.

In addition to his hotel responsibilities, Mike has worn two hats: first as a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives and presently as a member of the Maui County Council, where he has become a leading voice for tourism as chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Recreation.

These are just a few of the outstanding men and women from Hawaii who are leading our visitor industry. They stand as proud examples of the exceptional caliber of business leadership found right here in our Islands.


Richard Coloso

Position: Head Irrigation Specialist
Location: Grand Wailea

Caring for the 40 acres of lush gardens at the Grand Wailea is a formidable task, but head irrigation specialist Richard Coloso is more than up to this Herculean challenge. It’s one of the reasons he was named the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s engineer/maintenance person of the year at the annual Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards program.

The resort’s grounds include 10,000 types of flowers, 2,000 palms, nearly 700 coconut trees and countless other plants requiring meticulous care. Richard’s duties include overseeing maintenance of a huge irrigation system, the herb and fruit garden, and gardens and lawns used for events. Since joining the Grand Wailea, he has become a one-person repair shop and trouble-shooter. He is credited with leading the revamping of the old sprinklerirrigation system with drip irrigation, thereby cutting water and fertilizer use while keeping the guest paths free of water. Richard also volunteers to conduct botanical garden tours with knowledge he gained through self-study.

Richard Coloso is active in giving back to the community, lending his landscaping expertise to churches and public libraries and helping with fundraising for the American Cancer Society.