After 20 years of top-tier service, a prominent hospitality executive with Hawaii ties will retire as CEO of BWH Hotel Group. His departure means a huge void in AAPI presence in the realm of hotel management leadership.

David Kong, a graduate of the TIM school at the University of Hawaii, will retire at the end of 2021. His successor will be named at the BWH convention Oct. 7 in Las Vegas.

BWH is the acronym of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, where Kong had served since 2001 and became CEO in 2004. 

David Kong

He has been the hotel industry’s longest tenured CEO, an indication of his leadership and savvy in shaping the Best Western brand into a major global competitor and player in travel and hospitality. Under his watch, Best Western has expanded from one to 18 brands in a spectrum of service that taps a range of accommodations in all price brackets.

“What (Kong) has been able to do with Best Western is really create the consistency of the highest level of performance,” said American Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO Chip Rogers in a statement. “David has created an environment at Best Western that encourages its owners to be their best and to create the best products.”

Kong’s bio often mentions that he entered the hotel business as a dishwasher and busboy and is leaving a legacy of caring atop the peak of an industry. His dedication and reputation of serving and mentoring his colleagues and staff teams and delivering on his promises makes him a one-of-a-kind.

Kevin Iwamoto

Kevin Iwamoto, a colleague at TIM and also a key player in hospitality trade, said of Kong, “I have so much respect for him; he’s achieved so much but is so humble, soft spoken and a nice human being. He has risen to the highest ranks of the industry and is a role model for Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) who aspire to lead the industry in senior executive positions of influence.  His retirement and departure from full time work will leave a tremendous void for API diversity in the executive ranks of the hospitality industry.” 

Iwamoto, who is chief strategy officer and head of Bizly Inc., a leading meetings technology company, himself is planning on retiring sometime soon.

“The story of me and David Kong is connected forever because we both graduated from UH’s Travel Industry Management School – David in 1971 and me in 1977—and we both were inducted into the 2013 UH TIM Hall of Honors,” said Iwamoto.

Though Hong Kong-born, Kong was educated at UH.  “Our careers intersected in both the business travel and meetings/events worlds of the industry,” said Iwamoto. “We currently both serve as UH TIM Alumni Association Board members”…


Tom Holowach

Kudos to Tom Holowach, former honcho at Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College. His first screenplay, “The Kaliikak Crusade,” is a finalist in the UK Page Turner Awards. …

Drew Bright, son of Michael and Jade Bright and grandson of Ron and Mo Bright, will be portraying the role of Dimitri in Castle Performing Arts Company’s “Anastasia,” a Broadway music filled with rich tunes that resonate. Could this be the Hawaii premiere of this jewel, at the Ronald K. Bright Theatre on the Castle High School camps? Performance times and ticket details will be forthcoming. Surely, Poppo (what his family calls Ron Bright) also must be anticipating the rise of the curtain from his orchestra seat in heaven. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

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