October 28, 2020 – Honolulu-based executive search firm Bishop & Company has assisted the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) in the recruitment of John De Fries as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. He is the first Native Hawaiian appointed as HTA’s president and CEO. Past leader Chris Tatum recently retired. The assignment was spearheaded by Erinn N. Tomlinson, the search firm’s director of executive recruitment.
“All of us at HTA are looking forward to having John take the helm of Hawaii’s visitor industry,” said Rick Fried, board chair. “I was pleased to see that he has already become involved with working on ways that we can safely reopen tourism while keeping COVID-19 under control.”
HTA received more than 300 applications for the position. A committee of six HTA board members and three community members reviewed the qualifications of the applicants before narrowing down the list to a group of nine finalists for interviews.
Mr. De Fries has more than 40 years of professional experience in the tourism and resort development industries. His recent visitor industry experience includes serving as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. He is also president and principal advisor for Native Sun Business Group, a business consulting and project management firm focused on Hawaii’s hospitality and real estate development industries. Mr. De Fries previously led the department of research and development for the County of Hawaii, a division responsible for stimulating economic growth in sectors including tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Hōkūli‘a, a luxury residential community on Hawaii Island. Mr. De Fries serves as an advisor and board member to many organizations in the community, including the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, the Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Memorial Committee, Bishop Museum, Hawaii Green Growth, Friends of the Future, the Keāhole Center for Sustainability and Kualoa Ranch.
In his new role with HTA, Mr. De Fries will be responsible for leading, administering, and directing the activities of HTA, said Bishop & Company. Among the major duties and responsibilities, he will be charged with scheduling, developing the agenda for and attending meetings of the board, along with providing the board with information, comments and recommendations on a wide range of subjects of concern to HTA.
“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,” said Mr. De Fries. “I am grateful to have been chosen to lead the Hawaii Tourism Authority. 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. The radiance of hope, however, is found in the resilience and creativity of Hawaii’s leaders in both the public and private sectors – the aunties, uncles, parents, kūpuna, youth, coaches, teachers, ministers, health care workers and essential workers who are diligently searching for solutions, for their communities.”
The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s mission is to strategically manage Hawaii’s tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires and visitor industry needs. As the state’s lead entity and advocate for the tourism industry, HTA formulates and implements short and long-range tourism policies and plans, advises the private sector and coordinates all agencies on tourism-related activities, conducts market development-related research, establishes public informational programs and monitors complaints.
As a locally owned and operated corporation, Bishop & Company has been helping Hawaii businesses since 1986. Judy Bishop acquired the firm (formally known as CTA Staffing) in 2005. The firm is now certified by the Small Business Administration as an 8(a) company. Specialties include staffing services, HR management consulting, recruitment, executive recruitment, job placement, temporary to full-time positions
Ms. Tomlinson has 20 years of comprehensive experience in recruiting, corporate training and human resource management. At Bishop & Company, she is considered an industry leader in full life cycle recruiting and business development. Ms. Tomlinson has established relationships with entry-level candidates to C-suite and senior executives. She has diverse industry experience including hospitality, telecommunications, healthcare and higher education, with a successful track record recruiting for both for-profit and non-profit organizations, varied specialties in technical, middle to executive level management, human resources, sales and marketing, finance and more. Certified by HRCI as a professional in human resources, DiSC, TALinsight, Inside Out GROW Coaching and Achieve Global, she is experienced in sales and customer acquisition, account management and customer service.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media