Hawaii VCB Appoints New VP for Meetings, Stresses Value of Meeting in Hawaii

Earlier last month, on April 15, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) welcomed longtime Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide veteran Karen Hughes as its new vice president of Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships. In her new role, Hughes will lead the HVCB’s sales efforts in the meetings, conventions, and incentives, as well as travel trade spaces. 

Working together with the Hawaii Convention Center, Hughes will lead the HVCB’s Meet Hawaii division in generating both citywide and single-property bookings. She also assumes the leadership responsibilities that were previously held by Michael Murray, the HVCB’s former vice president of sales and marketing, corporate meetings and incentives.

Hughes joins the HVCB after holding executive sales and marketing roles with Starwood for the past 15 years. Most recently, she was the vice president of global leisure sales and distribution for Starwood, and prior to that, she was the regional vice president of sales and marketing for Starwood Hawaii.

“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,” John Monahan, HVCB president and CEO, said in a statement. “She has had a thriving career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, but also has a fondness for living and working here in Hawaii. Karen is a tremendous addition to HVCB’s management team and her influence and industry relationships will benefit Hawai‘i greatly in the selling of the islands’ attributes to the meetings and travel trade segments.”

Fighting Misperceptions
This year is a particularly important year for the HVCB, which continues to fight misperceptions that Hawaii is not an ideal destination for meetings. On May 20, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie refuted the “boondoggle” label applied to the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) for choosing to hold its annual meeting in Hawaii during his opening speech at the NCPERS conference.   

“Hawaii stands on its own merits as a premier location to host meetings and conventions,” said Abercrombie in his speech. “And when it’s done in Hawaii, planners are assured of the value they are getting. They know their events will be invigorating while allowing attendees to relax, think clearly, collaborate and, most importantly, fulfill their business objectives.” Later, during the conference, Abercrombie added, “Hawai‘i’s beautiful scenery and weather may blind some to the fact that we are home to a thriving, sophisticated and contemporary government and business community.”

According to NCPERS, the hotel rate for their annual meeting in Hawaii was 44 percent below the cost of accommodations for its 2012 annual meeting in New York City.