Former hotel housekeeper and executive is tapped to lead HTA
A former hotel housekeeper, who went on to become a top Marriott hotel executive, will be the first hotelier ever to lead the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
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A former hotel housekeeper, who went on to become a top Marriott hotel executive, will be the first hotelier ever to lead the
Hawaii Tourism Authority.
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
Tatum was selected from a field of 100 candidates. HTA Chairman Rick Fried said the agency could not immediately release details of Tatum’s contract, which is still being finalized. An official start date hasn’t been agreed upon, but Fried said Tatum is expected to be on board by HTA’s Dec. 27 meeting. Marc Togashi, HTA’s vice president of finance, will serve as acting HTA president and CEO until Tatum assumes the position.
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.
Since spring HTA also has dealt with the resignations of its second- and third-ranked executives. A specially appointed HTA committee has narrowed down candidates for these jobs, but Fried said offers won’t be made until Tatum has had a chance to provide input.
Members of the state’s tourism industry and stakeholders have reacted positively to HTA’s choice.
Rick Egged, Waikiki Improvement Association president, said, “I’m really pleased with the selection. Chris Tatum has extensive visitor industry experience and is one of our most respected leaders. He’ll be an asset to Hawaii tourism.”
Keith Vieira, a longtime Starwood hotel executive and now principal of KV &Associates, Hospitality Consulting, said it’s good that Tatum has a long tenure in Hawaii as a resident and industry member.
“He understands the industry’s needs and the community’s desires, so he will be able to find balance,”
Tatum has traveled the world, but he said in a 2016 interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that “Hawaii will always be home to me.”
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.”
He 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.
He was recruited by Marriott straight out of Michigan State’s hotel school. After joining Marriott, he moved 16 times in 34 years. He was assistant housekeeping manager at the Maui Marriott in 1981 when it 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.
Tatum completed several international assignments before returning to Hawaii
in 2001 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 and Guam, as well as Australia. He also had responsibilities for the Northwest U.S. region, including Utah and Hawaii.
His contributions to
Hawaii have been honored by the University of Hawaii’s Travel Industry Management School, which awarded him a legacy award in 2015, and the Waikiki Community Center, which recognized him in 2016.