I read the July 20 commentary by Kitty Lagareta, whom I respect greatly, but I have a very different view of Mufi Hannemann, given my work with him as chairman of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. Mufi Hannemann recently resigned as president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association to seek a seat in Congress. While the members of our association never had an occasion to give him a proper testimonial, I’d like to use this opportunity to thank him for his outstanding service to the HLTA.
Mufi came to us at a time when we most needed his brand of experience and leadership. It was the beginning of 2011, and the visitor industry was still struggling from the impact of the global recession. Mufi revitalized our organization by recruiting new members and retaining existing ones, invigorated our county chapters, increased our visibility before legislative bodies and in the community, established a muchneeded dialogue with our downtown business colleagues, helped drive our charitable activities to record fundraising levels, and served as an effective voice for the visitor industry on the local and national arenas, to name just a few of his many accomplishments.
Our HLTA board found Mufi to be very open, collaborative, and innovative. His energetic leadership style fund him working tirelessly on behalf of our organization around the clock and throughout a seven-day week. Our professional association at the HLTA was not the first time we had collaborated. When I was the chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, then-Mayor Mufi made a convincing case to key board members to continue funding for the National Football League’s Pro Bowl. He had worked over the years to retain this major attraction, which draws 20,000 visitors to the Islands, and he was keenly aware of its importance to tourism and the state’s reputation as a prime destination.
A little later, it was his commitment to the city’s public safety — police, fire, emergency medical, and disaster management — that provided the essential ingredient in Honolulu’s successful bid to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. APEC was a huge boost to the lodging industry when we most needed it. Given the success Mufi enjoyed as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ tourism committee, when he lobbied for the passage of federal legislation to promote international tourism and called for expanded visa waivers, the APEC summit was a testament to his vision for more foreign travel to the United States, and to Hawaii in particular.
The visitor industry helps and serves everyone. When tourism is strong, it touches everyone, and particularly the small businesses that make up our economy: restaurants, retail stores, suppliers, visitor attractions, ground and airline transportation, and so on, and generates the tax revenue that underwrites public services. It would be a natural progression for Mufi to take his experience and know-how to Congress, where I know he’ll champion travel and tourism as a cornerstone of our economy and our future.
KELVIN BLOOM, president of Aston Hotels & Resorts, is chairman of the board of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.