Hawai‘i Tourism Authority president and CEO will step down after contract ends
John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, is stepping down when his contract ends on Sept. 15.
De Fries made the announcement to the agency’s Board of Directors during a special board meeting Thursday that he would not be accepting an extension of his three-year employment contract.
“It has been an honor to serve the communities and people of our islands these past three years and I will support the board and staff during this transition in leadership of HTA,” De Fries said.
De Fries took the helm of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority in September 2020 amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s self-quarantine requirement for travelers at a time when visitor spending and arrivals were nearly at a standstill. Under his leadership, the agency developed three-year Destination Management Action Plans for each island.
HTA Board Chair George Kam credited De Fries for putting tourism on a new course and doing so at a time when the industry was facing its greatest economic challenge in decades.
“John has done an admirable job fulfilling his three-year contract during the most challenging period in recent Hawai‘i history. At a time when we needed a strong, visionary leader to calmly guide us forward out of troubling circumstances, John was there for HTA.”
During this past legislative session, the tourism agency narrowly survived attempts by Hawai‘i lawmakers to replace the organizations with one created within the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
The board offered De Fries an extension of his contract in March. However, he ultimately declined the extension in May.
De Fries is the first Native Hawaiian appointed as Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s president and CEO.