John De Fries was appointed as president and chief executive officer of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) on September 16, 2020. HTA is the State of Hawai‘i agency responsible for strategically managing its support of the tourism industry. Its mission is to manage Hawai‘i tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires and visitor industry needs.
Born and raised in Waikiki, De Fries was raised by family elders steeped in Hawaiian culture. He has more than 40 years of professional experience in the tourism and resort development industries. His recent visitor industry experience includes serving as executive director of the
Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. He is also president and principal advisor for Native Sun Business Group, a business consulting and project management firm focused on Hawai‘i’s hospitality and real estate development industries.
De Fries previously led the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawai‘i, a division responsible for stimulating economic growth in sectors including tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Hokuli‘a, a luxury residential community on Hawai‘i Island.
De Fries serves as an advisor and board member to many community organizations, including the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, the Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Memorial Committee, Bishop Museum, Hawai?i Green Growth, Friends of the Future, the Keahole Center for Sustainability, and Kualoa Ranch.
In recent years, De Fries has been a part of rare gatherings in Hawai?i that highlight opportunities for leadership in sustainable living, human rights, and embracing native intelligence. He has engaged with His Holiness the Dalai Lama; members of the Rapid Evaluation Team from Google X; Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first female prime minister of Norway; Hina Jilani, a renowned lawyer, pro-democracy campaigner, and a leading activist in Pakistan’s women’s movement;
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa; and New Zealand’s Sir Sidney Moko Mead, Ph.D., who created the country’s first department of Maori Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.