WAIKIKI -- As the Hawaii Convention Center celebrates its fifth
anniversary this year, officials look back on its successes while
contemplating a future in which the meetings, conventions and
incentives market continues to wane and corporate budgets and
booking windows continue to shrink.
"It's not just business as usual anymore," said Joe Davis, the
convention center's general manager. "We have to be extremely
nimble to adjust to the new, more competitive environment."
The $350 million facility, located within a one-mile radius of
10,000 hotel rooms here, opened in 1998. Since then, it has hosted
an average of 35 offshore events per year, with about 3,000
attendees per function, according to Davis.
In 2003, the facility has generated 222,000 hotel room nights
and approximately $360 million in visitor spending. A total of 40
offshore conventions plus another 175 local events will have taken
place this year.
But shrinking booking windows present coordination difficulties,
especially when many national and international groups book and
convene in the same year. That's why Davis stresses the value of
repeat business, which usually is determined well in advance.
"Convention center business is booked in cycles, and we need to
build our reputation and create a network of repeat customers who
will begin to sustain us with predictable re-booking schedules," he
The center this year was buoyed by a successful meeting of the
American Association of Orthodontists. The organization is
returning in 2012 with an expected 18,000 delegates.
Another key meeting in August brought more than 4,000 members of
the American Society of Association Executives. According to the
group, historically about 20% of its delegates book their own
firms' meetings in the host city within five years.
"We see the center as a key asset in the state's economic
development," said Davis. "With the assumption of the marketing
function by [Philadelphia-based convention management company] SMG
in January, we concentrated on developing a marketing plan and
Previously, SMG managed the facility and the Hawaii Visitors
& Convention Bureau (HVCB) handled the worldwide marketing. But
state legislation dictated that marketing responsibilities be
transferred from the HVCB to SMG at the beginning of the year, amid
some hostility and skepticism from area hotels.
However, Davis said, communication has helped the center work
with the hotels instead of compete with them.
"We're really their meetings-room component," Davis said.
"There's a lot of synergy there. Our philosophy is that if it can
fit in a hotel, it should go in a hotel. We don't want to be
snagging business that really ought to be acquired by private
For more information, call (808) 943-3500 or visit www.hawaiiconvention.com.
To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].