HONOLULU -- Hosting U.S. corporate incentive groups is only one of
the ways the Hawaii Convention Center's new manager, Joseph Davis,
intends to boost sales at the 3-year-old, $350 million facility.
Davis took over the helm on Oct. 9 from general manager Dick
Walsh, who was reassigned to a position in Alaska.
Both Davis and Walsh work for SMG of Philadelphia, under
contract with the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
The HTA took over the management of the center in July from the
Convention Center Authority.
Both HTA chief executive Bob Fishman and HTA board chair Shari
Chang have let it be known publicly that the center's convention
sales are lagging and need a jump start.
Davis, who was most recently general manager of the Phoenix
Civic Plaza, said corporate incentive groups "will be a big part of
our focus in the future."
The key to filling in the big holes in the Hawaii Convention
Center calendar in the upcoming years is to be able to book events
and functions that can be organized on short notice, according to
One of the ways to do that is through corporate incentive groups
that throw parties and motivational seminars, he added.
"We're going to do a lot more in short-term bookings," said
Davis. "The corporate incentive stuff is short term, and right now
we are seeing a lot of interest from corporations such as
Since it opened in 1998, the Hawaii Convention Center has hosted
only a handful of conventions sized at more than 5,000 people. Last
year, 34,000 dentists came to town and used the center, and in
June, there were 20,000 Lions Club members using the center.
Davis said that in three to five years, the center should be
hosting 40 to 50 conventions "with no less than 3,500 people" each
as well as 100 local events a year.
Opening the doors to local events was another big change that
came when the HTA took over the convention center -- a change that
Davis will oversee.
Before he came on board, no local group was allowed to use the
"The policy at the time was [to secure] off-shore conventions,"
Part of the strategy to secure local events was to allow people
the opportunity to get a glimpse of the inside of the center.
When Davis arrived, he said he found the building "buttoned up
tighter than a drum," with grim looking security guards who were
scaring away visitors and residents who would try to peak their
head into the center.
"We used to lock down every single door here," said Davis. "Now
the doors are open. We needed to relax. We put our security guards
in aloha shirts."
Now the center has a meet-and-greet person at the front door who
hands out information on the center and allows visitors to step
into the lobby.
Davis said that local business now can be booked a few months in
advance, as opposed to waiting years for the larger, mainland
groups to put the center on their convention rotations.
Davis said he also is making a push to hire more salespeople. He
has three at the center, which is "probably half of what we need."
(The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau also sells conventions
at the center.)
In addition, the convention center is producing a CD to send to
meetings planners. The CD will feature video testimonials of groups
that have used the convention center in the past.
Davis said he also plans to create a newsletter,
direct-marketing pieces and a calendar of events.