Set a short walk from famed Waikiki Beach, the Hawai’i Convention Center is an event destination like none other, say its operators. They don’t exaggerate. Walk into the vast lobby and you find yourself in a captivating environment of airiness, light and space.
Here, live palm trees soar toward distant glass ceilings on slim trunks while huge fans circulate the tropical air. Mezzanine terraces provide gathering places, and escalators sweep upward to a multitude of meeting rooms and conference halls. The International Association of Exhibitions and Events voted this Center, completed in 1998, the most beautiful in the world.
“A comment we frequently receive from meeting planners is that their attendees feel more relaxed in Hawai‘i and in our beautiful open-air building,” says Teri Orton (left), general manager of the Hawai’i Convention Center (which is managed by LA-based venue-management organisation AEG Facilities). “Indeed they’re in an environment that inspires networking and collaboration.”
Visitors can connect easily in the sprawling common areas and choose between 47 meeting rooms. The 1.1 million square feet of meeting space can accommodate events for more than 13,000 attendees.
There’s a 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall, two theatres, a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and a registration lobby of the same size, as well as a vegetation-fringed, 2.5-acre landscaped rooftop events terrace used for banquets and receptions.
There are more than 30,000 overnight rooms in Waikiki, and more than 28,000 of them are within a two-kilometre radius of the center, which is 10 kilometres from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and close to some of Hawai‘i’s top museums, shopping, dining and entertainment spots.
The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific. So why would international meetings organisers choose to hold an event here? It’s an easy question to answer, says Teri; Hawaii is centrally located for visitors from North America and the Asia Pacific, with not-too-trying travel times.
“They see value in Hawai‘i because of our accessibility, multi-ethnic food, wonderful weather all year round, and the opportunity to rejuvenate and relax. And just because it’s paradise doesn’t mean you can’t get business done.”
Getting business done
Plenty of visitors realise this, she says, as did the American Dental Association recently when it hosted its annual meeting here. It was one of the biggest gatherings ever hosted by the HCC, attracting over 16,200 dentists, dental professionals and hygienists from 52 countries over five days.
Hawai‘i claims to offer the best of business and leisure. It features a world-class meeting and convention facility and is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations on earth. It’s also known for its innovation and leadership in medicine, technology, business and science.
For PCOs considering it, there’s much assistance on hand. Meet Hawai‘i, a collaboration of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), HTA’s Global Marketing Teams and the Hawai‘i Convention Center, has an extensive local network of professionals and outreach initiatives – including the Elele Program, which enlists the support of community leaders, known as ambassadors, who have ties to professional organisations. These volunteers often have insights and personal relationships that help the Meet Hawai‘i team craft more thoughtful bids and reach key decision makers, they say.
Many national and international conventions require an invitation from a Hawai‘i contingent to consider the islands as a destination, so the local ambassador can be a valuable asset in securing business for the Hawai‘i Convention Center and hotels in the state. “The Meet Hawai‘i team also has representatives in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Oceania,” says Teri.
Value for money
Critics say PCOs find it hard to get the same bang for their buck in the US as they would in Indochina, for instance. The Meet Hawai‘i team is clear on this: it depends on how you define value, on who you are and what you seek. They say they take time to understand their clients’ objectives, program needs and budget. Then they apply their knowledge of the destination to ensure the right results. she says.
The center hosts a variety of events. At the end of November it hosted the Pacific Rim Futsal Cup. This tournament will be held on the new indoor athletic courts for the next four years, using the nearly 89,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall 1 to set up five courts for simultaneous play. Statewide spending for this event alone is estimated to be around USD $3.8 million.
Sustainability in mind
The HCC has been designed in alignment not only with what the locals call the Hawaiian sense of place, but with sustainability and efficiency principles in mind, and careful attention being paid to reducing waste in each stage in the event process, says Teri.
It recently launched its “Hoʻomaluō Program,” a comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability aiming to “enhance the guest, planner, staff and community meetings and events experience”. This project was launched in conjunction with the 2018 American Dental Association meeting.
The center has won a swag of sustainability accolades, such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification. And through its One Million Trees effort, it supports reforestation on the Hawaiian Islands. “The awards recognise the dedication of our staff to providing a world-class experience in Hawaii,” says Teri Orton.
Meanwhile the operators are continually seeking ways to improve the conference experience for exhibitors. Such steps recently involved the addition of massage chairs, charging stations for mobile devices, a new business center, plush furniture, an online interactive map and 3D floor plans that allow exhibitors to view and tour services and spaces.
“Our guests, planners, staff and communities have come together for more than two decades to preserve, protect and enhance the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands,” says Teri Orton. “Since our opening 20 years ago we’ve been deeply committed to a multi-faceted approach to environmental conservation that inspires everything we do and touches everyone we serve.”
More information, visit www.hawaiiconvention.com
Hawai‘i Convention Center
1801 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: +1 (808) 943-3500
Fax: +1 (808) 943-3099