Szigeti Named To 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 400 members in other membership categories.

George Szigeti

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George Szigeti was already active with HLTA. HLTA photo

George will have a solid foundation on which to build, with the solid backing of an active board of directors, committee chairs, and 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 holds 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.


Harvey Keanoano

Position: Safety and Security Officer
Location: Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa

Safety and security officer Harvey Keanoano “possesses that intangible quality in his ability to deal with guests and fellow associates alike, and to do his best at everything he does.

Best of all, Harvey does everything from his heart and with the true spirit of aloha,” says Chi Mok, director of safety and security for Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa.

Harvey has been recognized many times for his outstanding service to guests and co-workers. He is always willing to change his schedule to help the department, cover the shifts of fellow officers, and pitch in to assist other departments needing help.

When a guest needed medical attention, Harvey promptly responded and stayed beyond his shift to see that the person received care. That guest called Harvey’s supervisor to let him know of this stellar professionalism. During last year’s tsunami alert, he detained an intoxicated suspect who had damaged a hotel restaurant and injured himself in attempting to flee.

Harvey Keanoano supports the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, Aloha United Way and other causes in the community.

His hospitality and humility were just a couple of reasons he was honored at the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards program.