Carol Reimann – You Name It, She’s Planned It
By Susan Halas
Carol Reimann is a veteran of 25 years in the visitor industry. She started as a front desk worker in her 20s; she went on to wear many hats and plan many events.
“Whale fests, food fests, music fests, you name it, I’ve planned it. I’m an events girl and this is an area where I feel at home.”
For the last four years she’s been the executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association (MH&LA). There she advocates for issues of concern to Maui’s leading industry, and also works hard to “give back and participate in the community.”
Her events background has helped increase the revenue and participation in the organization’ annual visitor industry charity walk to an all time high.
The 2012 walk had 2,500 participants; it raised over $555,000. The money will be distributed to more than 75 Maui non-profits. “All the money raised on Maui stays in Maui County,” she said.
Saying Thank You
When Maui Now climbed the steep stairs to The MH&LA second floor office in Wailuku’s Millyard, Reimann and her small staff consisting of Laura Echiverri, administrative assistant, and intern Shelly Silva were hard at work getting out the hundreds of thank-you notes to those who made the event such a success.
She also pointed out that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, including depositing the money.
“Did you ever try to count $500,000 in cash or process 2,000 checks in one day?”
Retirees from First Hawaiian Bank came in to handle that task, and even with an experienced crew, it was still a big job.
Where the Money Goes
She also explained how the money gets divided up. Non-profit organizations have until a few days before the annual walk to go to the MH&LA website and fill out an application requesting a grant.
The completed forms are reviewed by a group of visitor industry and community volunteers who decide who gets how much.
The names of the participants in the allocation process are kept confidential so that there is no behind the scenes arm-twisting.
“They vote and that’s how it’s done. We get requests for everything from a few hundred dollars to more than $30,000. We hear some amazing storiesabout people who make a difference for their non-profits and how the funds raised will be put to good use in our community.”
The charity walk might be the best known of the MH&LA activities but it is by no means the only thing they do.
“We are a 501-(c)6,” she said, which is a non-profit organization funded by the dues of its members.” Presently the MH&LA has 130 members including hotels, timeshares, resort condominiums and allied businesses.
Workforce Development & Civil Defense
As an organization it participates in workforce development and holds career events for local high school students to help them become familiar with Maui’s core industry and interest them in playing a role in its future.
This includes the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, a program that is currently a part of the curriculum at Baldwin, Lahainaluna and Maui High Schools. She said about 220 students participate each year in this and other industry-related programs, events and projects
The organization also takes a keen interest in civil defense. “For example,’ said Reimann, “on any given day there are 30,000 to 40,000 visitors on Maui, and another 10,000 workers, that’s a lot of people. In an emergency we want to be sure that we are prepared and that they are all safe.”
Last April during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami she and others were among those manning the civil defense stations and keeping the information flowing on road closures, water, evacuations and other emergency procedures.
An Industry Advocate
She’s also active in the advocating for issues of interest to the industry and appears frequently to testify at the Maui County Council or Hawaii State Legislature. It’s important to keep members up-to-date on subjects of concern to the industry. Policy statements on the organization’s website include affordable housing, timeshare and transient vacation rentals.
Over the years the group has also taken an active role at election time, it participates in political action and also makes candidate endorsements.
Reimann reiterated that tourism is Maui’s core industry and employs the lion’s share of Maui’s workers. Directly or indirectly it generates the majority of Maui’s revenues.
“Unless the visitor industry is solid, it’s hard for other businesses to flourish. I believe in what we’re doing. I like my job. I expect to be here for a long time.”