HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) announced today
that longtime Starwood executive Karen Hughes has joined the Bureau in the new position of
Vice President of Meet Hawai‘i 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.
Mike McCartney, President and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, said, “Having
Karen Hughes come back to Hawai‘i to guide HVCB’s sales programs for the meetings and travel
trade markets is a real bonus for our visitor industry. The combination of her industry sales
expertise and enduring aloha for the Hawaiian Islands makes her the perfect match for this new
John Monahan, HVCB President and CEO, said, “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. She has had a thriving career with Starwood Hotels &
Resorts, but also has a fondness for living and working here in Hawai‘i.
“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.”
Hughes welcomed the opportunity to return to Hawai‘i and work for HVCB.
“My previous time spent in Hawai‘i was a joy and I missed it. 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,” Hughes said. “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.”
Hughes is leading HVCB’s Meet Hawai‘i sales effort in collaboration with the Hawai‘i
Convention Center to generate both citywide and single-property bookings. She brings a fresh
and revitalized perspective to Meet Hawai‘i’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 Hawai‘i’s array of meeting facilities, accommodations, activities, and services
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.
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, NY.
Before that, Hughes spent five years in Hawai‘i serving as Regional Vice President of Sales
and Marketing for Starwood Hawaii. While living in the islands, she was very involved in
community and volunteer activities, including service on several boards and committees.
Prior to her career at Starwood, Hughes spent three years serving as Vice President of
Marketing for Pleasant Holidays.