Meet The Executive Team
- Benjamin Rafter, President & CEO
- Matt Bailey, COO
- Elizabeth Churchill, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing
- Bart Santiago, Vice President of Finance
- William Henderson, Vice President of Development
- Geoff Graff, VP of Business Development
Benjamin Rafter, President & CEO
Benjamin Rafter is President and CEO of Aqua Hospitality, LLC and President of Aston Hotels & Resorts, which are operating businesses of Interval Leisure Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: IILG), through their subsidiary, Hospitality Partners, Inc. (HPI). Under his guidance, Aqua and Aston have flourished to become the largest operator in the region with 58 hotels and resorts on all six of the major Hawaiian Islands, Guam and the continental United States.
As president and CEO, Rafter continues to be charged with advancing the company’s global growth strategy, which recently included expansion to Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania and includes efforts to expand further in the South Pacific and the US mainland.
Prior to Aqua Hospitality, LLC and Aston Hotels & Resorts, Rafter spent more than 15 years guiding successful technology companies. In various roles, he created global innovation centers, acted as a principal strategist for Fortune 500 and startup companies and founded thriving companies of his own. Previous roles included president and CEO of Las Vegas-based JetAway/Travelworm, and CEO of Honolulu-based Get2Hawaii. Rafter previously 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 for a significant return. He began his career in the marketing and distribution department of Westin Hotels & Resorts.
Matt Bailey, COO
As Chief Operating Officer of Aston Hotels & Resorts and Aqua Hospitality, Matt Bailey is responsible for all daily operations based out of the company’s Honolulu headquarters.
Bailey has more than three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, most recently serving as managing director at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Maui, where he was responsible for overseeing over 1,500 employees. He previously worked for three years at Aston as senior vice president of operations, and has held key management positions at hotels and resorts throughout Hawaii, Utah, California, Texas and Nevada.
Bailey graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He has held numerous professional memberships, currently serving on the board of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association. He has also recently served as chairman of the Maui Visitors Bureau and on the board of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association. He was recognized as the “Hotelier of the Year” by the Utah Hotel & Lodging Association during his time as vice president and general manager at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah.
ELIZABETH CHURCHILL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES & MARKETING
Beth Churchill is the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Aqua Hospitality, LLC and Aston Hotels & Resorts, operating businesses of Interval Leisure Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: IILG). Under her guidance, Aqua and Aston have expanded to become the largest hospitality operator in the region with 58 hotels and resorts on all six of the major Hawaiian Islands, Guam and the continental United States.
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 made her a natural choice to become the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for both Aqua and Aston. In her current position she is charged with developing and executing a holistic approach to customers, and driving customer acquisition, retention and profitability for both companies. She currently serves as the lead for the marketing, sales, revenue management and reservations teams. Her ultimate goal – creating successful hotel ownership groups confident in Aqua and Aston’s ability to deliver an exciting product to guests while boosting occupancy, revenue and profitability.
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 both Aqua and Aston shows in today’s chain of more than 50 hotels which includes the recent acquisition of the Split Rock Resort and Mountain Laurel Resort and Spa in Lake, Harmony Pennsylvania. She has also expanded the company’s vision to include meaningful partnerships with the Waikiki Aquarium, Merrie Monarch Festival, IGLTA, Hawaii Humane Society and Honolulu Museum of Art. She has also spearheaded the commitment to Green/Conservation efforts, Host Culture, the LGBT market, pet friendly accommodations and the Arts.
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.”
BART SANTIAGO, VICE PRESIDENT of FINANCE
Bart Santiago is the Vice President of Finance for Aqua Hospitality, LLC an operating business of Interval Leisure Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: IILG). Hired in early 2014, Santiago is tasked with maximizing the return on financial assets as well as ensuring legal and regulatory compliance for all accounting and financial reporting functions. In the short time he has been with the company, Santiago has seen overseen the renovations of several different properties including the transition of the former Kauai Sands Hotel to Kauai Shores, an Aqua Hotel.
A hospitality industry veteran, Santiago spent the past fourteen years with Hilton Hotels, most recently as Director of Finance at the Grand Wailea on the island of Maui. Prior to that, he held finance positions with several other hotel companies including Hyatt Hotels, Adam’s Mark Hotel and Interstate Hotels, as well as the Skipper’s restaurant chain in the Pacific Northwest.
Santiago earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Seattle University. He was born and raised on the island of Maui but now resides on Oahu with his wife Jane and their two children Patricio and Isabel.
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.
GEOFF Graff, Vice President of Business Development
Geoffrey Graf, is a hospitality industry veteran with extensive experience in executive management including operations, sales and marketing, property development and asset management. Graf’s background includes more than 25 years in the Hawaii market managing hotels, resorts and condominiums on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Molokai.
Prior to joining Aqua in 2011, Graf served as president of his own consulting firm, Hospitality Directions. Formed in 2004, Hospitality Directions enabled Graf to provide expertise in management, operations and development to a wide range of hospitality clients including Fairmont Resort Properties, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, Sasada International, LLC and Blackstone Group’s LXR Luxury Resorts.
Graf’s background includes more than twenty years of operation’s experience in Hawaii. At Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, he served as general manager for the company’s flagship Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki, Outrigger Kauai Beach Resort and Outrigger Maui Eldorado. He also served as a general manager for Aston Hawaiian Monarch and Colony Hotels & Resorts’ Kaluakoi Hotel & Golf Club and Diamond Head Beach Hotel. During his career, Graf earned numerous prestigious corporate awards including Outrigger’s President’s Award for leadership and Colony’s Superior Overall Performance Award.
An active member of the community, Graf served six years on Outrigger Canoe Club’s board of directors and is a past president. He participated as panel judge for Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s “Keep It Hawaii” Awards and also was a board member for both the Kauai Hotel Association and Kaanapali Beach Resort Association.
Graf attended Moorpark College and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Trinity College.