Aqua Hotels selects new CEO
POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
After growing his boutique hotel management company to a dozen properties in Hawaii, Aqua Hotels & Resorts owner Mike Paulin has passed the day-to-day reign to a new chief executive.
| Benjamin Rafter:
Appointed the new chief executive of Aqua Hotels & Resorts
Paulin, who will continue to serve as chairman of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, yesterday announced the appointment of Benjamin Rafter as president and CEO of the Waikiki-based hotel company, which operates the Aqua Boutique and Aqua Lite brands. Rafter, who has a background in Hawaii travel, most recently served as CEO for the Las Vegas-based online travel retailer, JetAway/Travelworm.
"As I enter my 50th year of working in Hawaii, I am more than comfortable turning over the day-to-day operations of a growing hospitality company to as energetic and dynamic a person as Ben," Paulin said. "He possesses the experience, intellect, and affability to grow Aqua into one of the most respected global brands based in Hawaii."
Paulin, who founded his hotel management company in 2001, has seen his chain grow from a few properties to a collection of boutique hotels bent on providing quality service and value-added amenities such as Wi-Fi and spa products to budget-conscious guests. That focus has earned the company honored status on TripAdvisor and has helped turn it into one of Hawaii's fastest-growing companies.
Currently, Aqua's chainwide inventory of unique properties is located exclusively in Waikiki; however, with this leadership change the company plans to aggressively go after global hotel management opportunities. Rafter has spent more than 15 years guiding successful technology and travel companies. He has created global innovation centers, acted as a principal strategist for Fortune 500 and startup companies and founded thriving companies of his own.
"Ben is a genuine rising star in the hospitality and technology industries, contributing a broad range of leadership experience to the Aqua team," said Paulin. "His background says it all, as he has co-founded or led e-commerce and travel companies in Seattle, Las Vegas and Honolulu."
Prior to Travelworm, Rafter was CEO of Get2Hawaii, a Honolulu-based dynamic packaging technology company and online aggregator of travel inventory. Previously, Rafter directed Cambridge Technology Partners' Innovation Center and NewCo Solutions practices. In 1996, he and two partners founded Innerlinx (renamed LiveBid) which was acquired by Amazon.com. He began his career in the marketing and distribution department of Westin Hotels & Resorts.
"Aqua is well positioned to capitalize on the current downturn as hotel owners seek more effective options to current management," Rafter said. "I'm excited about expanding Aqua's local-boutique experience to resort destinations worldwide."