Leader of Hawaii tourism agency ousted from job

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Tourism Authority board fired the agency’s president and CEO George Szigeti.

The board decided “to go in a new direction,” authority Chairman Rick Fried said.

“One of the major reasons that we are doing this is the difficulty in the current political climate and the difficulty in keeping our budget through the Senate,” Fried said. “There also was some concern from some of the stakeholders in the broader tourism industry — although some were fine with him — about his institutional knowledge of tourism.”

The agency’s board agreed to pay Szigeti six months of pay after he leaves the job on Oct. 31.

The severance payment was outlined in Szigeti’s contract, which was to run through 2020. His annual salary is nearly $300,000.

The decision was “mutual,” Szigeti told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Visitors to the state increased by 7 percent to 804,135 people last month compared with the prior May, according to numbers released Thursday by the agency. Spending increased by 11 percent to $1.4 billion.

The state Legislature cut $13 million from the authority’s budget last month. Other authority executives have resigned in recent months, and Gov. David Ige withdrew his nomination to appoint Fried to the role.

The authority’s administrative committee intends to start talks this week on finding a new agency leader, Fried said. They plan to form a selection committee that will include board members and stakeholders.