Marriott executive tapped to lead Hawaii Tourism Authority
  • Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Marriott executive tapped to lead Hawaii Tourism Authority

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 2016

    Chris Tatum, vice president and general manager for Marriott Hawaii, has been selected by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to lead the state agency.

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The Hawaii Tourism Authority has selected a top Marriott hotel executive—the first hotelier ever— to lead the state tourism agency.

Chris Tatum, who currently serves as area general manager of Marriott Hawaii, comes to HTA on the heels of a strike settlement with Unite Here Local 5. Though HTA had selected Tatum for its top leadership role in October, he wasn’t free to join the agency until resolution of the strike, which ended Tuesday after 51 days.

Details of Tatum’s contract were not immediately available, but he was selected from 100 candidates. He is expected to start by HTA’s next board meeting.

Tatum replaces former HTA president and CEO George Szigeti, who left the agency Oct. 31 following the board’s decision to terminate his contract without cause.

The board paid Szigeti six months of pay in a lump sum on the day after his termination. The severance amount was outlined in Szigeti’s contract, which had been slated to run through 2020. Szigeti’s annual salary was $297,675, with a $15,000 protocol fund and the use of a car for state business.

Tatum has a long hotel industry history and a long tenure in Hawaii, which he said during a 2016 interview with the Star-Advertiser “will always be home to me.”

Tatum got his start in hospitality working in housekeeping picking up and delivering linens at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel while he was a Radford High School student. An ambitious teen, he also worked at gas stations and car lots.

“Growing up in Hawaii there was so much exposure to the hotel industry. I enjoyed dealing with people and the business aspect. I was interested in a career that would allow me not to sit in an office all day. I wanted to be out and about and do some travel,” Tatum said.

He went to hotel school at Michigan State and was recruited by Marriott straight out of college since then and has moved 16 times in 34 years.

He was the assistant housekeeping manager at the Maui Marriott in 1981 when it first opened as the first Marriott hotel in Hawaii and the company’s 100th hotel. The company grew quickly and in 1995 Tatum was appointed resident manager of the Kauai Marriott, it’s 1,000th hotel.

After Kauai, Tatum spent time serving as the opening resident manager of JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and the Brisbane Marriott Hotel in Australia.

In 2001, he returned to Hawaii to become general manager of the Renaissance Hotel in Wailea, which is now the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Later he served as general manager of the J.W. Marriott in Ko Olina and then in 2003 of the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. After 2005, he acquired regional responsibilities in Asia, including Singapore, the Philippines, Guam and Australia. He also had responsibilities for the North West U.S. region, including Utah and Hawaii.

Tatum said one of the keys to a healthy visitor industry is remembering that “Hawaii is a place where people live it’s not just a place that they visit.”

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