Meet The Executive Team
- Michael Paulin, Founder & Director
- Benjamin Rafter, President & CEO
- Veronica Saba, Senior Vice President
- Elizabeth Churchill, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing
- William R. Farnsworth, Chief Financial Officer
- William Henderson, Vice President of Development
Michael Paulin, Founder & Director
Michael designed his first Hawaiian vacation experience upon graduating from the University of Southern California. It was 1964, and the idea of “Condo/Car Holidays” was a new concept in Kauai. Together with Los Angeles entrepreneur Peter Ueberroth, Michael acquired a travel agency and began merchandising villas and apartments as travel packages. Six short years later, this venture formed Colony Hotels, which later became the fourth largest condominium/hotel management company in Hawaii. In 1978, Michael teamed with renowned Hawaii hotelier Andre S. Tatibouet to create Aston Hotels & Resorts. Soon, with the largest Hotel-Condo management company and one of the largest operators of vacation accommodations, the concept of “condotel” was born. Nine years later, Michael left Aston to spearhead his own management company, Marc Hotels & Resorts.
Over the next ten years, Michael grew Marc Hotels & Resorts into one of the largest and most successful hotel operations in Hawaii, managing 22 properties throughout the Hawaiian Islands. In 1997, he sold Marc Hotels & Resorts to Sunterra. He returned to Hawaii in early 2000 to form Aqua Hotels & Resorts, which launched in 2001.
Michael is recognized internationally for his work. He serves as Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), which is the world’s largest public-private tourist organization, and has been awarded a prestigious PATA Life Membership. In 1996, Michael’s colleagues throughout the hotel industry honored him as Chairman of the Hawaii Hotel Association.
With his heart and home in Hawaii, Michael looks forward to collaborating with both local and mainland Hotel-Condo investors, and continuing to develop this fast-growing segment of the tourism industry. [Top]
Benjamin Rafter, President & CEO
For more than fifteen years Ben has been guiding successful e-commerce and technology companies. He has created global innovation centers, acted as a principal strategist for several G1000 and startup companies, founded successful companies of his own and worked with numerous hospitality and e-commerce clients.
Most recently he was president and CEO of JetAway/Travelworm, a Wasserstein & Co.-owned, online travel retailer focusing on casino and leisure vacation markets across the United States. Prior to JetAway/Travelworm, Ben was president and CEO of Get2Hawaii™, a dynamic packaging technology company and online aggregator of travel inventory.
Previously Ben directed Cambridge Technology Partners’ Innovation Center and NewCo Solutions practices. In this role, Ben managed the practice and was responsible for major business development activities. In 1996, Ben and two partners founded Innerlinx (renamed LiveBid). Acquired by Amazon.com for a significant return to investors, Livebid’s real-time auction model was the recognized leader in the space.
Ben began his career in the marketing and distribution department of Westin Hotels & Resorts. In various roles, including emerging technologies manager, he helped create one of the first hospitality sites and booking engines on the Web and significantly expanded Westin’s Premier frequency program through the use of database marketing.
Ben is an active participant in angel investor and startup communities and serves on various boards for hospitality and technology companies. In his current position at Aqua Hotels & Resorts, Ben is charged with advancing the company’s global growth strategy.[Top]
Veronica Saba, Senior Vice-President
In her more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Veronica Saba has opened, transitioned and/or renovated over 25 hotels and has served in a range of responsibilities, including managing director/vice president, general manager, director of sales and marketing, reservations manager and revenue manager.
Before joining Aqua Hotels and Resorts, Veronica held several responsible positions with both Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. She was one of the first members of Joie de Vivre’s executive team. She opened up the company’s Silicon Valley division and also had direct oversight of its San Francisco hotels. She also served on the opening team for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants.
Veronica also has considerable experience with the upscale, luxury hotel and corporate apartment markets, having worked with such prestigious chains as Inter*Continental and Fairmont Hotels. She also served as district manager for Oakwood Worldwide, in which capacity she had direct oversight for sales and marketing and managed over 700 units from Wine Country to the East Bay and Silicon Valley. Oakwood Worldwide played host to such groups as Cirque du Soleil and several Broadway shows.
Among the boards on which Veronica has served are the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau (now the San Francisco Travel Association), the Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Hotel Council and the Union Square Association.[Top]
ELIZABETH CHURCHILL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES & MARKETING
Beth Churchill started with Aqua in 2005 when the chain had five hotels, all located in Waikiki. In 2006 she orchestrated a rebranding of the company creating Aqua Boutique Hotels which led to an unprecedented expansion of inventory. In addition to devising all brand standards and guest services initiatives, she was responsible for implementing the “Aqua 10” still used today within the Aqua chain. As Aqua quickly grew, so did Churchill’s responsibilities. She is charged with developing and executing a holistic approach to Aqua’s customers across all three brands, and driving customer acquisition, retention and profitability. She also leads the marketing, sales, revenue management and reservations functions. Her ultimate goal – Creating successful hotel ownership groups confident in Aqua’s ability to deliver an exciting product to guests while boosting occupancy, revenue and profitability.
Churchill’s extensive knowledge of Hawaii’s hospitality and tourism industry as well as progressive marketing and revenue management techniques has led to incredible growth for Aqua over the last eight years. Under her leadership the company has done a complete rebranding of the hotel group, tripled the number of rooms it oversees, multiplied Aqua’s earnings and created job security for 1,500 employees. Churchill’s accomplishments include transforming the former W hotel into the Lotus Honolulu, rescuing the iconic Ilikai Hotel & Suites, transitioning Wailea’s Diamond Resort into the hip Hotel Wailea Maui, and reopening the historic Volcano House in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Churchill specializes in property transitions, renovations, re-launching, rebranding and repositioning. Her marketing strengths span the gamut of effective marketing strategies and include setting strategic plans, executing on strategy to grow a business and drive profitability, turnaround strategies, building effective teams, driving ROI, branding and identity, analysis, technology vetting, e-Commerce and digital strategies, sales and sales leadership, revenue optimization and distribution, niche marketing and public relations. Combined with these skills, her creativity, transparency, and flexibility instill a strong level of trust in both owners and employees alike.
Churchill’s commitment to the overall success of Aqua shows in today’s chain of more than 29 hotels on six Hawaiian Islands and Guam, and the expansion of Aqua Hospitality into three distinct brands targeting a range of consumer demographics: Monogram Hotel Collection, Aqua Hotels and Resorts and Lite Hotels. She has expanded Aqua’s vision to include meaningful partnerships with the Waikiki Aquarium, Merrie Monarch Festival, IGLTA, Hawaii Humane Society and Honolulu Museum of Art; all helping expand Aqua’s commitment to Green/Conservation efforts, Host Culture, the LGBT market, pet friendly accommodations and the Arts. She is one of the original members of Aqua’s Executive Committee and has represented Aqua at numerous speaking engagements including Eye for Travel, PhoCusWright, Sales and Marketing Executives International, Rotary, YWCA and the Wahine Forum.
A Syracuse University graduate with a B.S. Degree in Advertising, Churchill started her career in New York City at advertising agencies Chiat/Day and Grey prior to moving to Honolulu to work for Peck Sims Mueller on the Maui Visitors Bureau and Prince Resorts Hawaii accounts. She then joined Reed Travel Group, the world’s largest travel publishing company, as regional director overseeing all sales and marketing activities for Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. She currently sits on the Board of Waikiki Health and is a member of the Oahu Visitors Bureau Marketing Committee. Having made significant contributions to the overall success of Aqua, Churchill continuously demonstrates what it means to go above and beyond, demonstrating strong leadership and an outstanding work ethic. As such, she was recently honored by Hawaii Business as one of the “20 For The Next 20” Hawaii’s People to Watch and by Pacific Business News as one of the “Women to Watch” in its Women Who Mean Business awards. She has also been instrumental in Aqua receiving honors by Hawaii Business as “A Top 250 Company” and “Best Places to Work”; Pacific Business News as one of “Hawaii’s Fastest 50″ and “Healthiest Employers”; Northstar Travel Media “Magellan Awards”; and American Advertising Federation Hawaii “Pele Awards.”
William R. Farnsworth, Chief Financial Officer
William “Bill” Farnsworth was promoted to Chief Financial Officer in April 2012. Formerly Vice President of Finance, Farnsworth oversees all aspects of Aqua Hotels & Resort’s financial and accounting activities. Farnsworth’s career spans 35 years in the hospitality industry with a diverse background in hotel, condotel and resort finance and operations.
In management, Bill has served as Controller, Food and Beverage Director and General Manager in resorts and commercial hotels. His executive positions have included CFO and SVP Operations for multi-property hotel, resort and timeshare management companies on the mainland and in Hawaii.
Throughout his career, Bill has worked with upscale city commercial hotels, mid-market vacation properties and condominium resort rental pools, including RockResorts, a five-star destination resort in the Caribbean, New England, Wyoming and Hawaii. He has also led new hotel openings and transitioned numerous properties to new ownership or management.
With Aqua, Bill oversees financial relationships with owners and lenders and the financial analysis and feasibility of new projects. He is responsible for all hotel and homeowner association accounting; financial reporting, analysis, forecasting; and Aqua’s tax reporting, audit and treasury functions.
He completed undergraduate studies in hotel administration at Cornell University and earned his MBA at the University of Hawaii.[Top]
William Henderson, Vice President of Development
During his more than 35-year business career in Hawaii, Bill has held senior executive positions in a range of tourism, hospitality and transportation entities throughout Hawaii and the Pacific Region, including involvement in development, management, marketing, finance, operations, and virtually all aspects of the travel industry.
In the hospitality industry, Bill most recently served as Vice President of Business Development for Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, where he planned and executed growth and diversification efforts that resulted in the transformation of a company that owned and/or operated 20 hotels (18 in Waikiki) in Hawaii, to a Pacific-wide regional power with more than 50 hotels/resorts throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Majuro and French Polynesia.
Prior to Outrigger, Bill served as Regional VP for Colony Resorts, where he grew their portfolio from 7 to 17 resorts, and increased revenues three-fold. He also led Colony’s expansion to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and Park City, Utah.
In the transportation sector, Bill held executive-level positions that included positions as Senior VP Marketing and Services for Hawaiian Airlines, VP Marketing and Sales for Aloha Airlines, and Executive VP for South Pacific Airlines.
Throughout his career, Bill has been actively involved in both the travel industry and the community. He previously served on both the Marketing and Research committees for HVB; Marketing Authority and Board of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA International); Board of International Hawaiian Canoe Association; Board of Australia-Hawaii Chamber of Commerce; adjunct teacher of Travel Marketing at Hawaii Pacific University; and Strategic Marketing instructor for the Exec Development Institute for Tourism at UH. [Top]