By Noelle Fujii
Lei, smiles and songs were abundant Friday night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Great Lawn as 390 attendees gathered for the second annual aio Media Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Awards, a partnership between aio Media and the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association to honor excellence within Hawaii’s No. 1 industry.
The event, marked by fireworks and entertainment by Tihati Productions, Keauhou, Manao Company and Miss Aloha Hula 2015 Jasmine Kaleihiwa Dunlap, celebrated 17 winners in six overall categories: accommodations, food and beverage, events, activities, agritourism and leadership in the industry.
Chuck Yim Gee, dean emeritus of UH Manoa’s School of Travel Industry Management, received the inaugural Tourism Legacy Award, given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the industry. Gee was unable to attend, but Clyde Min, VP of TIM International, the alumni association for UH Manoa’s School of Travel Industry Management, accepted the award on his behalf.
Min has known Gee for over 50 years; he was Gee’s student while at UH and considers Gee to be a great mentor and friend. Min, who has worked in Fiji, Asia and Hawaii, said Gee’s greatest gift to Hawaii is the development and training of skilled professionals who are now serving in hospitality positions throughout the world. “I had a fantastic career. I credit my career to him. (I was) this kid from Waimanalo and I went off and saw the world because of him. The ability, the talents, the skills that he was able to impart to me, for that we’ll always be grateful to him,” he said.
Cha Thompson, co-owner of Tihati Productions and talent buyer for Blue Note Hawaii, was honored for her contribution to tourism. She said her heart and soul is in the entertainment industry and considers Tihati Productions, the entertainment company she co-founded 50 years ago with her husband, Papaliitele Thompson, to be her greatest tourism-related achievement. “I’m just a hula girl from Kalihi and to be honored by my peers is extremely gratifying,” she said.
Here’s a complete list of the awardees:
Leadership in the Industry – Contribution to Tourism by an Individual
Cha Thompson, Tihati Productions
Leadership in the Industry – Cultural Advisor
Vicky Holt Takamine, Hawaii Pacific Health
Leadership in the Industry – Young Achiever
Keri Brown, Outrigger Hotels
Leadership in the Industry – Outstanding Individual in Music and Entertainment
Agritourism/Agriculture – Tourism Destination
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
Agritourism – Farmers Market
Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market
Best Tourism Events – Agriculture Event Using Locally Grown Products
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Best Tourism Events – Heritage and Cultural Event
Kauai Chocolate & Coffee Festival
Attractions/Activities – Achievement in Sustainability
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
Attractions/Activities – Activity or Adventure Company
Attractions/Activities – Major Tour & Transport Operators
Excellence in Food and Beverage – Casual Dining
Side Street Inn
Excellence in Food and Beverage – Fine Dining
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Best Hotels/Accommodations – Boutique Hotel
Best Hotels/Accommodations – Small Hotel
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
Best Hotels/Accommodations – Large Hotel
Outrigger Waikiki Beach Hotel
Best Hotels/Accommodations – Luxury Accommodations
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa