Long-time hotel executive Christopher Tatum is the new head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. He’s got some plans for a new direction.
Chris Tatum started out in the visitor industry while still just a senior at Radford High School, holding a job in housekeeping at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. He knew immediately it was where he wanted to be, in an industry where you could get out of the office, work with people and travel.
He majored in hotel and restaurant management at Michigan State University and embarked on a 37-year career with Marriott, rising through the ranks to where he was helping to open hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Brisbane before returning to manage properties in Hawaii.
Now he’s been named president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, at a time when visitor numbers are so high, at nearly 10 million last year, that he says his job is as much about managing the industry as helping it grow. Says Tatum, “Tourism drives our economy, so it is important that tourism flourishes, but we have to do it the right way.”
Right now, he’s assessing the authority’s existing programs and starting to make changes he thinks will accomplish that goal. And he’s doing it with declining resources — last year, the agency’s budget was cut from $82 to $79 million, where it’s likely to stay. One of his top goals is strengthening HTA’s support for cultural and community organizations, believing that a stronger Hawaii can be a better host.