ALOHA: A quick drive (17 miles) from Honolulu International Air- port brought me a world away to the brand-new Aulani, a Disney Re- sort & Spa, which is spread out over 21 acres in Ko Olina — lush green mountains on one side, over- looking a private turquoise lagoon on the other. I was among 25 trade-media and meeting profes- sionals participating in the Execu- tive Experience fam trip, Feb. 23– 26, sponsored in part by Hawaiian Airlines, which celebrated authen- tic Hawaiian culture from start to finish. Opening this past August, the 469-room Aulani pays homage to Hawaiian history and traditions in every last detail: design, fea- tured art, cuisine, and program- ming. We began our celebration of all things Hawaiian with a wel- come reception on the oceanfront pool deck.
DISNEY OVERVIEW: The following morning, over breakfast in the Ka’ala Ballroom in Aulani’s 14,545-square-foot conference center, Walt Disney Company Senior Vice President George Aguel gave us highlights of the “billions of dollars of invest- ments” Disney is making around the world — includ- ing Shanghai Disney, scheduled to open in four years, and Disney’s newest cruise ship, Fantasy, which took its maiden voyage last month. On the mainland, the first “Avatar”-themed “land” is in the works at Disney World in Orlando. Next, Disney’s chief Imagineer, Joe Rohde (pic-
tured), discussed how Aulani was designed in con- cert with Oahu’s native land and people. “Typically, people focus on the fantasy stories that Disney tells,” Rohde told us. With Aulani, “we are letting ourselves be the vehicle by which Hawaiians tell their story. There is something to be absorbed [about Hawaiian culture] by being here.” (Read a Convene interview with Rohde at bit.ly/Convene- Rohde, and view clips of him giving a tour of Aulani at convn.org/Joe-Rohde.)