Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who resigned in July to make an unsuccessful run for governor, has found his next calling as head of the private-sector Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association.
Hannemann, who championed the state’s visitor industry during his political career, will lobby for the hotel industry as president of the statewide organization of 170 hotels, condominiums, time shares and other lodging entities. Hannemann replaces Murray Towill, who retired in August.
The Hotel & Lodging Association endorsed Hannemann for governor in June. It also endorsed him two years ago in his re-election campaign.
While Hannemann isn’t ruling out a return to politics, he said he has long had a personal interest in Hawaii tourism.
"If the right opportunity presents itself … I’ll go back into the public arena," he said. "But for now, it’s all visitor industry and HHLA. I’ll work to leave it better than I found it."
If he does leave HHLA for public office, the prevailing sentiment among hoteliers seems to be that their organization would still benefit.
With this job, Hannemann said he has come full circle.
"My first job was in the visitor industry," said Hannemann, who parked cars at the Waikikian Hotel as a teenager. "(Tourism) is personal to me since it gave me an opportunity to be employed at an early age."
As mayor, Hannemann tried to promote tourism and solve the homeless problems that threaten Waikiki tourism. He supported projects ranging from Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina. Hannemann also promoted tourism in North America and Asia alongside members of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
And as former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Tourism and Arts Committee, he was instrumental in getting the National Tourism Promotion Act passed. The act, which went into effect this year, uses visa waiver fees to promote the U.S. as an international destination.
"We are confident that Mufi’s experience and credentials make him the ideal candidate to be an effective advocate for Hawaii’s lodging industry on government-related issues and to help foster a positive relationship with the community," said Chris Tatum, HHLA chairman and area vice president of Marriott International.
A former director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Hannemann brings strong private and public sector experience and collaboration skills to the job, said Kelvin Bloom, HHLA vice chairman and president of Aston Hotels & Resorts.
"He understands tourism and has a firm grasp of the challenges facing the industry," he said.