By Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2020

HONOLULU (AP) - The head of Hawaii’s tourism agency announced he plans to retire as the industry continues to experience the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that has significantly reduced travel to the state.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Tatum informed staff and the organization’s board Wednesday that he plans to retire Aug. 31.

Tatum has worked in the hospitality industry for 40 years. He took over the authority in December 2018 after a 37-year career with Marriott International Inc.

“I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished,” Tatum said. “I’m very proud of the HTA team and our refocused plans to develop a balance strategy for tourism. Now, I’d like to get us through the quarantine and help with the recovery piece and long road back.”

Tatum’s replacement has not been announced.

Hawaii’s tourism industry is operating at a fraction of its capacity because of pandemic travel restrictions and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving visitors.

Hawaii Tourism Authority’s transient accommodations tax funding stopped in April, when arrivals fell by 99.5%.

The authority’s fiscal year 2020 budget was $86 million. the state agency has reduced its fiscal year 2021 budget to $55.2 million.

The authority plans to reduce its branding budget from more than $51 million in fiscal year 2020 to about $28 million, a 44.5% decrease.

Tatum plans to spend the summer working with the authority’s board on the transition and supporting tourism recovery efforts before relocating to Colorado with his wife.

“I don’t want to look back and say I had a chance to spend more time with family but I kept working,” Tatum said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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