Tourism Trade

Caribbean Travel Industry’s Richard S. Kahn, Ktcpr, honored with Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Travel Writing and Public Relations

Written by Yndiana Montes

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) will honor Richard S. Kahn, president of KTCpr with the Winthrop W. Grice Lifetime Achievement Award for public relations excellence during its annual Adrian Awards Gala on Feb. 24, 2014, at the New York Marriott Marquis. Kahn was chosen as the Grice winner due to outstanding dedication to his work and to the education of future hospitality professionals throughout his career. Kahn joins the list of “who’s who” in public relations excellence, such as Donald Trump and Steve Wynn who were both previously honored with the award.

He has worked with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) over the past 23 years and continues to represent CHTA as well as St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada, the Mango Bay Group in Barbados, Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Tobago and Morritt’s Resort in Grand Cayman. He also represents the Apple Leisure Group with three of the largest wholesaler companies moving vacationers to the Caribbean including Travel Impressions, Apple Vacations and CheapCaribbean.com.

Richard Kahn is a former journalist and current public relations and marketing expert specializing in the hospitality, travel and tourism industries. He is an industry veteran, a sought-after speaker at conferences and seminars and an innovator who has paved the way for countless colleagues over the past 45 years.

Kahn was a reporter, editor and publisher for the first 22 years of his career. He began while at college as a newspaper and radio news broadcaster at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky in the 1960s. He returned to his hometown of New York City in 1968 to work for McGraw Hill’s prestigious Aviation Week and Space Technology.

As a reporter at the magazine, he covered the introduction of the wide-bodied jet aircraft including a series of stories leading up to the first Pan Am Boeing 747 inaugurated in January 1970. He also won a Business Writers Association Award for his investigative series on cargo theft at Kennedy International Airport which resulted in a Civil Aeronautics Board investigation and exposure of a major international theft ring at the airport.

In 1973, Kahn was courted by Travel Agent Magazine to become the Managing Editor and help orchestrate a massive expansion. He took the twice-weekly news magazine to a four-times-a-week schedule by adding two weekly destination supplements. During the 1970s, Travel Agent Magazine produced more editorial pages than any other magazine in the United States with an average 400 pages each week. Kahn had a staff of 45 writers and editors under his direction during this period of time.

Kahn was soon named Editor-in-Chief and eventually Associate Publisher. When the magazine was sold to Cap Cities publishing division, Fairchild Publications, in the late 1980s he was Editor and Publisher and had all 110 employees under his direction. He left in January 1989 to launch his own company – RSK Travel Consultants – which eventually was renamed Kahn Travel Communications and further morphed into KTCpr.

Headquartered in Rockville Centre, NY, KTCpr is an award-winning boutique public relations agency with more than two decades of experience in conceptualizing ideas, connecting with the media, and creating coverage that generates awareness and increases exposure.

Kahn has kept KTCpr small, with no more than 10 full-time employees, including several working for the company for more than 15 years and anywhere from 15 to 20 clients, some of which have been contracted with the firm for nearly 20 years such as the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), Spice Island Beach Resort and Interval International. Other clients that have been with the company for more than 10 years include Victoria Cruises, Mango Bay Group of Hotels and Travel Impressions.

Kahn Travel Communications was originally a publishing consulting company and his first client was The New York Times where he produced special “advertorial sections” on travel. He also worked with Florida-based Recommend Magazine which asked him to open and hire staff for two new offices in New York City and Los Angeles. He oversaw those offices for nearly a year until they became self-sufficient. He then began a decade-long relationship with the Newark Star Ledger and Trenton Times for which he produced regular special sections on travel covering the Caribbean, Florida, cruising and other sun destinations.

In 1990, one of his hotelier friends asked him to take on his hotel public relations. He thus struck a deal which lasted 20 years with the late Dick Doumeng, owner of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Kahn’s public relations career was launched.

However, during his 22 years as a journalist, Kahn served two terms as President of the New York Travel Writers Association and once as Vice Chairman of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) Northeast Chapter and was a vocal critic of poor public relations.

Poor writing, unnecessary badgering and misguided press releases were among his key complaints which turned Kahn into an outspoken critic about public relations professionals with a tunnel vision objective to please their clients – not to serve the needs of the writers and editors.

Many of Kahn’s travel writers colleagues and friends were surprised that he launched a public relations firm after such hard criticism of the field over the years. Kahn decided to hire fresh out of college, a procedure he continues to this day, and train individuals to practice public relations by focusing on the media needs and not just the client’s desires. “If you become a resource for the media, they will cover the clients when appropriate,” he says.

Kahn’s experience in the industry runs the gamut of writer, editor, publisher, speaker and radio talk show host on WMCA, WABC and WEVD. Kahn currently serves on several travel and tourism industry boards including CHTA and Chapters of HSMAI and PATA and is the current chairman of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation.

He is also a past-president of SKAL Long Island, a chapter of the 20,000 member international organization of travel leaders that promotes global tourism through friendships and understanding.

He has won awards as a travel writer from the Business Writers Association and was named Allied Member of the year by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. In addition, KTCpr has won numerous awards at the HSMAI Adrian Awards Competition including three consecutive annual awards for public relations on behalf of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, plus awards for public relations for his hotel clients at the Adrians and American Resort Development Association’s annual ARDYs.

Kahn established himself as a selfless volunteer giving of his time to help others, especially organizations that were striving to promote the benefits of travel. His volunteer work spanned continents with his involvement in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the multi-national Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

He has been involved in the Caribbean for more than 30 years. He served as President of the CTO Greater New York Chapter for three terms and helped launch the successful Caribbean Sales Seminars which became the travel agent segment of the annual Caribbean Tourism Conference.

Kahn was hired by CTO in 1989 to create a self-sustaining and profitable CTO Newsletter for members, helped create the ACCT travel agency education and loyalty program, and produced the first educational manual for the region.
In the mid-1990s KTCpr was hired by CTO and worked 14 years as its U.S. public relations agency. During this time, he created and launched a number of innovative public relations initiatives which have continued on as regular part of CTO marketing including:

  • Media Marketplace which brings together more than 100 journalists with Ministers and Directors of Tourism.
  • A Celebrity Chef program which has resulted in Caribbean chefs appearing at major departments stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdales and on national television talk shows including NBC’s Today, Good Morning America, Fox Friends and more.
  • A CTO Travel Writers Awards program which has increased coverage of destinations across the region.
  • A Caribbean Public Relations Council which significantly showed its value following Sept. 11, 2001, when the Caribbean needed to band together to bring business back to the region.
  • He was the first to get tour operators, traditionally promoting only to retail agents, to publicize their packages in consumer newspapers which resulted in driving an increase in vacationers to those travel agents to book Caribbean packages.
  • Kahn has worked for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) representing the region’s hospitality industry for the past 23 years.
  • He was instrumental as one of the group of five people creating and launching a Caribbean Culinary Federation in the late 1990s to heighten the awareness of cuisine in the Caribbean. Kahn then got USA Today’s Jerry Shriver to do a full-page feature on the first “Taste of the Caribbean” chef competition.
  • Kahn also was instrumental in creating and launching a Caribbean children’s education program in the 1980s on the elementary school level which focused on the importance of tourism to the islands. He helped write the curriculum used in the program throughout more than a dozen islands. He also helped to enlist sponsorship from American Express to fund the project.
  • As a member of the Board of Trustees of the Caribbean Hospitality Training Institute, in the early 1990s, he helped launch a scholarship program which eventually became the CHTA Education Foundation in which he continues to help generate funding and was recently named Chairman. The Foundation funds more than $100,000 in scholarships annually.
  • Kahn, in the early 1990s, convinced CHTA to host journalists from Caribbean based newspapers, television and radio and thus launched an education and advocacy program which has helped create awareness of the importance of tourism in the islands. He continues to manage media attending a number of events hosted by CHTA.

In the 1980s Kahn was solicited by three of his friends – Peter Warren, Bill Volk and Alan Fleschner – to work with them on the relatively new HSMAI awards program. A few years later, he got involved in the HSMAI Greater New York Chapter where he worked as a volunteer on public relations, educational programs and was later elected to a variety of positions eventually becoming Chapter President in 1999.

He was co-leader in a successful bid for his Chapter to host the annual HSMAI Summit Conference in 2000 at a time when HSMAI was being challenged with a lack of awareness. Kahn was asked to assume the public relations responsibilities on an interim basis to help drive attendance to the HSMAI Summit conference that he was co-chairing.

During this period of time, KTCpr generated a huge increase in media coverage of HSMAI above and beyond the Summit Conference and KTCpr was subsequently hired to handle the HSMAI public relations account in 2000.

For the next eight years, KTCpr expanded awareness of HSMAI helping to grow membership across the U.S. and helping to enhance the image of the association and its programs.

Kahn worked with the HSMAI Affordable Meetings group to increase both booth sales and meeting planner attendance by bringing in media to attend the conferences. This resulted in creating significant exposure and awareness of the Affordable Meetings programs through feature stories in all of the meetings publications.

Kahn continued his efforts which brought him to HSMAI in the first place by working on the Adrian Awards committee and eventually heading up the Judging program for the Adrians until it was eventually taken in-house by HSMAI.
The Winthrop W. Grice Award was established in 1989 and named in honor of Winthrop W. “Bud” Grice, CHME, a long-time senior marketing executive with Marriott, who was the award’s first designate.

The HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards Selection Committee consists of 11 former recipients and selects winners based on skill, leadership qualities and demonstration of innovation, among other credentials.

In its 57th year, the HSMAI Adrian Awards competition has evolved into the world’s most-renowned and prestigious advertising, public relations and digital marketing competition specifically tailored for the hospitality, travel and tourism industries.

About KTCpr
KTCpr is celebrating its 24th year as one of the leading public relations firms specializing in the hospitality, travel and tourism arena. Boutique in size, but large in influence, the firm has represented entire regions such as the Caribbean, destinations from the Philippines and China to St. Maarten and Dominican Republic among others, a variety of major travel industry associations including HSMAI, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, Vacation.com and the Society of American Travel Writers and a wide assortment of hotels, travel agencies and tour operators.

About the author

Yndiana Montes

For over 25 años, Yndiana Montes has traveled around the Caribbean to promote the tourist attractions of this beautiful region of our continent. She currently lives in Wilmington, NC (USA), from where she runs Solocaribe Inc.