Local Leaders Of Tourism Industry

In a recent Tourism Matters, I introduced readers to four general managers of island hotels who are local products. My point was that many of the leaders of our visitor industry were born, raised and educated right here in the Hawaiian Islands, and are vital contributors to this mainstay of our economy.

This week we introduce four more local folks – Julie Arigo of Waikiki Parc Hotel, Chip Bahouth of Sheraton Kaua’i Resort, Denise Wardlow of Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, and Elliot Mills of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa – as representative of the exceptional people who underpin tourism in our state.

Heading Disney’s impressive new resort, Aulani, is Elliot Mills. Elliot is a Hilo native who graduated from Saint Joseph High School and the University of Hawaii’s TIM school. Elliot came to Aulani by way of Kaua’i Marriott Resort and 20-plus years of resort management at hotels on Kaua’i, Maui and Oahu. His title at Aulani is managing director. In this capacity, he’s responsible for the management of 359 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom-equivalent vacation villas at the latest addition to Hawaii’s tourism landscape.

Julie Arigo is a graduate of the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management. Following graduation, this Waipahu High School alumna earned opportunities to work at Oriental Macau in China and Intercontinental Makati in the Philippines before returning to Hawaii to work at Westin Maui Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki. She joined Waikiki Parc Hotel in early 1994 and has risen to the top post, which she’s held since late 2005. She is a past recipient of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s manager of the year honor. Julie is a strong supporter of Waipahu High’s highly successful tourism academy, which provides students with internships and career development opportunities in the visitor industry.

Chip Bahouth is following in his father’s footsteps; his dad Nick was general manager of Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Chip’s youth took him island-hopping. He attended Lahainaluna School his freshman year, Kaua’i High the next and Saint Louis High School his final two years. After receiving his degree at the University of Denver, Chip began his career at Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. But he missed home, and when an opportunity opened up a few years later, he returned to Hawaii to become sales director for Sheraton Moana Surfrider. Since then, Chip has held a number of positions with Sheraton parent Starwood Hotels & Resorts, including at Princess Kaiulani, Sheraton Townhouse in Los Angeles, and Hotel Hana Maui. He was named general manager of Sheraton Maui in 1996, where he oversaw a massive renovation project. He headed the Maui property for 15 years before moving to become the head of Sheraton Kaua’i Resort in Poipu.

Guy Becicka

Also on the Garden Island is Denise Wardlow, general manager of Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. Denise is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and the University of Hawaii. She has been with the visitor industry for more than 30 years and with Starwood Hotels and Resorts for 27 of those years. She has held numerous executive positions with the company, including at the original Princeville Resort, Sheraton Maui and Sheraton Kaua’i. Denise is very active in the visitor industry, serving in various leadership capacities with the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. Like colleague Julie Arigo, Denise is an adviser to Kaua’i High School’s tourism academy. This year she is chairing the Kauai Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

We should be very proud that so many island-born people have reached the executive ranks of the tourism industry.


Guy Becicka

Position: Bartender
Location: Westin Maui Resort & Spa

Bartender Guy Becicka, recently named the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s food and beverage person of the year, says his approach to work is to “treat people like they are at home, help them forget about things that may be bothering them, allow them to relax, unwind and feel good, which is the reason they’ve traveled here. To make people smile.”

Guy’s professionalism is exceptional. This 17-year veteran of the Westin provides tips and insights to guests on what to do and where to go on Maui; trains new bartenders, offers practical suggestions to make the operation more efficient and generates ideas, such as using sports TV broadcasts, to increase business. Guests adore him. Guy helped organize a wedding for a lucky couple and has returning guests ask for him by name. The recent HLTA recognition was not his first honor; Guy has earned the Westin’s Brand Champion Associate award for embodying the company’s core values and the appreciation of managers and fellow employees.

Guy Becicka supports the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, participates in the resort’s employee events, and is a leader in building teamwork and camaraderie among the Westin’s beverage employees.