George Applegate retired today as executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. Succeeding him is Ross Birch, a longtime marketer on Hawaii Island who brings more than 20 years of experience to the BIVB’s top position.
“For more than a decade I’ve witnessed first-hand George’s love for Hawaii Island and passion for the visitor industry as he lead the BIVB team,” said John Monahan, president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, the BIVB’s parent agency. “He has done some remarkable work to grow Hawaii Island as an adventure destination for travelers, while never losing sight of his roots as a local boy growing up in the islands.”
Applegate began his career as a bellman for the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo more than 40 years ago. During his tenure, he held various management positions in hospitality, sales and marketing. He joined BIVB in 1989 as director of sales and marketing, and became executive director in 2000. Prior to BIVB, he was vice president of Big Island Tours of Hawaii, offering excursions of the island’s most spectacular attractions.
“Together with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and HVCB, we’ve worked proactively to help the mayor and County of Hawaii enable our islanders to live the American dream,” Applegate said. “By promoting tourism to this destination and growing the economy, we’ve been able to create opportunities for our residents and communities.”
In retirement, Applegate plans to remain active within the hospitality industry by starting his own consulting practice to help businesses on Hawaii Island and beyond connect with the visitor market.
Birch will be responsible for overseeing BIVB’s marketing and associated programs impacting the island’s visitor industry. Serving as the lead liaison between the island’s stakeholders and HVCB, he will also oversee the development of relationships with community leaders, government officials and visitor industry marketing partners.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity and look forward to working with our stakeholders to overcome the complex challenges associated with promoting our great destination to the world,” Birch said.