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Q & A with Brad Gessner, VP of Convention Centers - AEG Facilities

On Jul. 3, the HTA announced the selection of AEG Facilities to manage the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC) from Jan. 1, 2014. They will be responsible for the management, operation, and marketing of the HCC. Brad Gessner, vice president of convention centers for AEG Facilities shares his insight and AEG’s plans to take the HCC to the next level in 2014 and beyond.   
Q: What are some of the assets that AEG Facilities will bring to Hawaii and the Hawaii Convention Center? 
AEG has an unparalleled network of resources and team members from around the world that we will draw from to benefit the management and marketing of the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). As part of a worldwide corporation with a network of venues, including the Brisbane Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, Qatar Convention Center and most recently the Los Angeles Convention Center, we will draw from our extensive network to provide management expertise. Our resources include AEG Encore customer service training, AEG S.A.F.E. safety and security programing, AEG Energy Services, AEG 1-Earth sustainability programs, AEG Marketing, AEG Real Estate Services, which includes facility design and master planning to name a few. AEG also has more than 400 corporate partners that we will activate to consider utilizing the Hawaii Convention Center for their corporate and incentive meetings, increasing the MCI business for the state of Hawaii. 
Our company has invested billions of dollars of our own money in public assembly venues and entertainment enterprises, and understands what it takes for them to be successful. We will bring that same passion and commitment to excellence that we bring to our own operations.
Q: How many facilities does AEG manage?
AEG owns, manages or is affiliated with approximately 110 public assembly facilities worldwide, including stadiums, arenas, theaters and convention centers. AEG is affiliated with the best venues in the world’s greatest markets which benefits our clients through our worldwide network.
Q: What is AEG Facilities doing to prepare to take the reins at the Hawaii Convention Center in January?
Our primary focus at this point is to start by meeting with and transitioning the existing employees at the HCC. Retaining the talent and expertise of existing team members, who can provide a wealth of knowledge and understanding of both the HCC and destination, is important to AEG and the success of the HCC. We are also reviewing all existing policies, rules, contracts and operations to familiarize ourselves with them and prepare necessary modifications to those areas deemed appropriate. Our team is also familiarizing ourselves with the “Meet Hawaii” sales and marketing plans and team in order to ensure a seamless transition.
Q: What are some of the strategies that AEG Facilities will bring to the table? 
As indicated above, we will initially focus on the employees of the HCC and develop a strategy to retain the talent and expertise that we will build upon. We will then analyze the current operations to determine areas that require more immediate attention for improvement. Our strategy will be to utilize the vast array of AEG corporate resources to enhance the operations to include programs like AEG 1-Source purchasing programs; AEG Encore customer service training powered by Disney, and AEG 1-Earth sustainability programs that will allow us to improve the environmental sustainability programs at the HCC.
Q: How do you plan on collaborating with HTA’s Meet Hawaii team to market Hawaii as a business destination?  
One of the major attractions of this opportunity for AEG was the recent restructuring of the sales and marketing efforts into the “Meet Hawaii” organization. We feel this collaborative approach will be more successful in marketing the HCC and the destination. We are presently getting oriented to the existing sales and marketing initiatives and look forward to working with the “Meet Hawaii” team to activate targeted AEG assets to support this new approach.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in managing and marketing the Hawaii Convention Center?
Everyone at AEG is excited about this rare opportunity to be involved with and support a truly unique, vibrant and cultural destination like Hawaii. We are looking forward to being active partners in the local community while also bringing increased event activity, visitor spending and arrivals from guests originating from across the globe.
Q: What are some challenges you foresee and opportunities ahead?
We feel our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity. That is realizing and achieving the great potential we know Hawaii holds as a major destination for meetings, conventions and incentive business.
To learn more about AEG’s plans and the MCI market, sign up for the 2013 Hawaii Tourism Conference “We Mean Business” concurrent session II on Aug. 22. Mr. Geoff Donaghy, group director of AEG Convention Centers Worldwide will be part of a panel of Hawaii group meeting sellers, senior leadership and respected industry partners who will be discussing MCI updates, trends, our competition and how they are building Hawaii’s business brand. 

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