Paul Horner, a hospitality industry veteran with more than 25 years experience, has been tapped to lead the Big Island Visitors Bureau’s marketing activities.
Horner is serving as the bureau’s managing director of marketing, a newly created position involving the development, implementation and review of marketing activities. He also oversees the development of relationships with community leaders, government officials and marketing partners.
His first day was Tuesday and his first priority, Horner said, is to absorb as much knowledge as he can from the tourism leaders around him.
“I’m humbled and excited to be a part of the Big Island Visitors Bureau ohana and for the opportunity to lend my experience to market Hawaii, the Big Island, to the world,” Horner said. “Hawaii Island has so much to offer as a world-class vacation destination with a rich culture and history, charming towns and resort areas, diverse activities and attractions, and unsurpassed natural beauty. It’s truly an inspiring place to be.”
A native of Hawaii, Horner is a Kamehameha Schools-Oahu graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University.
He’s an advisory board member for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Business and Economics, as well as serves as a board member for Habitat for Humanity and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.
For the past nine months, Horner served as the resort manager at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa, where he was instrumental in the $16 million renovation and in creating cultural programming for guests to enhance their understanding of the historic area. Prior, Horner served as general manager for the Keauhou Beach Resort, The Cameros Inn in Napa, Calif., and Manele Bay Hotel on Lanai. He was also the hotel manager at The Lodge at Koele on Lanai.
Horner said his ever-growing enthusiasm, passion, perspective and appreciation for Hawaii Island, his home, and the culture, led him to take the job. He believes there’s even more that can be done to share the unique qualities of the people and the heritage of the island.
The message Horner hopes to tell is one that blends a sense of place and cultural understanding, but also captures the imagination of consumers, as well as reflects what’s unique and authentic about the island. The story, he said, includes the promotion of educational programming, sustainability efforts by businesses and government agencies, the local food movement, and world-class scientific endeavors like the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
A major team effort Horner will be involved in is the active pursuit of direct flights to Kona from Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea and Taiwan.
He will also work with the bureau, Hawaii Tourism Authority, various tourism wholesalers and stakeholders to develop various island-specific products and help rebuild the Hawaii Island brand.
Coming from the resort industry, Horner will be especially valuable in helping explain hotel occupancy and trends, said George Applegate, the bureau’s executive director.
“Paul’s addition to the marketing team gives us even more depth, expertise and resources as we continue to rebrand Hawaii Island and increase travel demand and awareness for the island,” Applegate said. “His leadership and intimate knowledge of Hawaii Island will be invaluable as we prepare for the future.”