The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) announced today that longtime Starwood Hotels & Resorts executive, Karen Hughes, has joined the Bureau in the new position of vice president of Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships. She began work on April 15.
In her new role, Hughes, who has more than 15 years of sales and marketing experience in the Hawaiian Islands, has the dual responsibility of leading HVCB’s sales efforts for both meetings, conventions and incentives (MCI), and travel trade.
“Having Karen Hughes come back to Hawaii to guide HVCB’s sales programs for the meetings and travel trade markets is a real bonus for our visitor industry," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, in a written release. "The combination of her industry sales expertise and enduring aloha for the Hawaiian Islands makes her the perfect match for this new position.”
Hughes is leading HVCB’s Meet Hawaii sales effort in collaboration with the Hawaii Convention Center to generate both citywide and single-property bookings. She brings a fresh and revitalized perspective to Meet Hawaii’s new, more efficient sales structure, which leverages the collective strength of sales directors for both entities to better match the program objectives of their clients with Hawaii’s array of meeting facilities, accommodations, activities and services statewide.
“We created a new focus for this position specifically to take advantage of Karen’s talents and depth of experience in developing successful sales strategies and generating results," said John Monahan, HVCB President and CEO. "She has had a thriving career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, but also has a fondness for living and working here in Hawaii."
Hughes assumes the HVCB leadership responsibilities for MCI sales previously held by Michael Murray, who left the Bureau at the beginning of March to become the new executive vice president and chief operations officer for Waikiki Beach Activities.
“My previous time spent in Hawaii was a joy and I missed it," said Hughes. "I loved the culture and working with the people of the islands and consider this my second home, so it’s great to be back. HVCB is doing superb, cutting-edge work in the promoting of Hawai‘i and I’m thrilled to be part of such an exciting, visionary team of travel marketers.”
On the leisure side, Hughes is leading HVCB’s North America travel trade team in developing partnerships and programs to support the distribution system for selling vacations and packages to the Hawaiian Islands. She will be working closely with industry partners representing airlines, wholesalers, tour operators, hoteliers, and travel agent consortia. Hughes noted the travel trade business is a component of the industry close to her heart.
“I began my career as a travel agent and have always known how vital travel trade professionals are to the satisfaction of travelers and keeping our industry vibrant and successful,” Hughes said. “At HVCB, agents and wholesalers can count on me to support them in selling the Hawai‘i visitor experience that keeps their clients happy.”
Hughes joins HVCB after holding executive sales and marketing positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts for much of the past 15 years. She most recently served as vice president of global leisure sales and distribution for six years in the company’s headquarters’ offices in White Plains, New York.