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HTA’s Boss Faces Series of Challenges

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The president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority has been in office for just about six months now. And George Szigeti certainly has a lot on his plate. We hear about some of his challenges from Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier. 

George Szigeti took the reins at the HTA in May.  This is his only his second executive job in the visitor industry.  Before this he led the Hawai‘i tourism and lodging association for three years.  Most of his career has been in sales and marketing in the wine and spirits industry.  The former professional surfer started out with the E&J Gallo winery in the seventies, which brought him to Hawai‘i, where he became president and CEO of Better Brands. 

The HTA board member we spoke with tells us this sales driven background is exactly what the head of HTA needs.  Tourism remains strong.  It generates nearly $15 billion in spending each year and employs one in four Hawai‘i workers.  But the world is full of tempting island alternatives from Bali to Cuba – all of them eager to capture market share. 

And competing is challenging the visitor industry even within Hawai‘i.  One of the issues Szigeti will be dealing with is the increased competition faced by traditional hotels from the likes of Air BnB and Home-a-Way.  He compares these operation to Uber and Lyft in terms of how disruptive they could be.  There are 43,575 hotel rooms statewide.  On any given day – 300 private regencies are available through Air BnB, and a site called VRBO lists 17,000 independent vacation rentals.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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