A man considered Mr. Tourism died in Majuro

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A man who many people in the Marshall Islands thought of as “Mr. Tourism” died in Majuro Thursday from septicemia that developed from an infection in his leg. William H.

A man who many people in the Marshall Islands thought of as “Mr. Tourism” died in Majuro Thursday from septicemia that developed from an infection in his leg. William H. “Bill” Weza, 65, first came to the Marshall Islands in early 1997 to manage the food and beverage service at the Outrigger Marshall Islands Resort and became a valuable, integral part of this island community.
He ran Outrigger MIR’s food services until 2002 when he returned to work in the Outrigger company in Hawaii. In 2004, after Outrigger ended its management contract to run the Majuro-based Resort, Weza returned as General Manager, a post he held until his death last week.
The outpouring of emotion and public participation in Weza’s funeral services in the Marshall Islands following his death offers an indication of the esteem in which he was held by the community in the Marshall Islands.
He chaired the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority board of directors for three years in the mid-2000s, championing the first charter service by Japan Airlines and the launching of services to Majuro by Nauru’s Our Airline — both of which produced a significant boost to tourist arrivals.
“Bill was a great man who dedicated his life to work in our business community to improve lives here in the Marshall Islands,” said MIVA General Manager Brenda Alik-Maddison.
Even when the global economy crash in 2008 and visitor numbers plummeted in the Marshalls, Weza stayed focused on finding ways to promote the Marshall Islands. His favorite phrase, which he hammered into the staff at Marshall Islands Resort, was as simple as it was significant to the business. “What are we selling?” he would ask. “Service!”
“Over the years, whether it was the Outrigger Marshall Islands Cup canoe races, hosting travel writers, Taste of the Marshall Islands, pearl auctions, Marshallese medicinal plant workshops or Jaki-ed (fine weaving) exhibits, Bill always provided the hospitality, service and quality end product with a distinctive Marshallese flair,” said MaryLou Foley, a longtime Outrigger colleague in Hawaii who has been a key player in promoting the Marshall Islands. “Bill was steadfast in his belief, commitment and vision for tourism in the Marshall Islands.”
Weza had hospitality in his blood and was a mentor to younger Marshall Islanders as they took up the tourism beat.Organizers and guests at the sixth annual Jaki-ed (fine weaving) auction on September 27 “will sorely miss a key element: Marshall Islands Resort general manager Bill Weza who has been one of the auction’s biggest supporters since its inception,” said University of the South Pacific’s Community and Continuing Education Coordinator Tamara Greenstone.
Weza has been a co-organizer of the event since it started as a way to promote a unique style of Marshall Islands weaving. “Not only has Bill supported the Jaki-ed
program by helping to organize the event, he has traditionally been our emcee,” she said.
It was this type of hands on participation that earned Weza admiration and respect from staff at the Resort to political leaders in government.
“It was not uncommon to see Bill having coffee with the President, Cabinet members and business leaders,” said Minister Tony deBrum, who spoke for President Christopher Loeak at Weza’s funeral services Monday at the Catholic Church.
“When he was not able to bring a concern directly to the Cabinet, he waylaid officials when they went to Marshall Islands Resort. He was a friend to the leaders and he said his piece when it mattered.”

About the author


Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.