Quick Chat With Joe Rohde

Joe Rohde
Walt Disney Imagineering Joe Rohde is senior vice president and creative executive at Glendale, Calif.-based Walt Disney Imagineering, the master planning, creative development and project management arm of The Walt Disney Co. Most recently, he and his team designed and developed Aulani, the 359-room Disney resort that opened last month in Ko Olina, Oahu, with more than 50,000 square feet of meeting space. Rohde, who began with Disney as a model designer at Epcot some 30 years ago, recently chatted with M&C about Aulani.        

What makes this property different from other Disney resorts? Even though Aulani is a Disney resort, it's not about Disney -- it's about Hawaii. The resort has a Hawaiian voice, and Disney only serves as the medium to present Hawaiian stories and culture.

How did you bring the Hawaiian story to life?
We spent a lot of time researching Hawaiian history and culture to make sure our portrayal was accurate. Real Hawaiian aesthetics are exceedingly refined, not the jungle-like, tiki-bob, beach-party misrepresentation. Everything from the landscaping to the carpets incorporate traditional Hawaiian design. We also have a large collection of local art on display, much of which is embedded right into Aulani's walls, windows and hallways.

What is the significance of Ko Olina? The site harkens back to the early days of the monarchy, when the kings of Oahu used the area as their private retreat. The fact that the area is still used for leisure is deeply appropriate.

What's the story behind all of your earrings?
I've been collecting them for more than 20 years, during my travels to different countries. It's too bad that I can only wear nine or 10 at a time. Friends call it my National Geographic earlobe.

On the Move

PlannersGerald F. LongoGerald F. Longo has been appointed vice president, conferences and events, for the 4A's (the American Association of Advertising Agencies), based in New York City.Suppliers The 444-room Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., has hired Ty Brassie as director of sales and marketing.

Cosimo BruzzeseCosimo Bruzzese has become a partner and taken on the new title of vice president of business development at New York City-based event management company Briggs Inc. Bruzzese joined Briggs in 2002 as director of sales.

William Buckley has been appointed director of sales and marketing for the 123-room Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, and 878-room JW Marriott Los Angeles. Both properties are part of the L.A. Live complex.

At the 200-room Fairmont Yang­cheng Lake, China, Karina Davies has been named director of sales and marketing.

Kevin M. HintonKevin M. Hinton has been selected chairman-elect of Meeting Profes­sion­als Interna­tional and will become chairman of the board effective July 1, 2012. Hinton currently serves as the executive vice president of Associated Luxury Hotels International.

Raymond Landry has been appointed director of operations at the 669-room Kahler Grand Hotel in Rochester, Minn.

Carol QueenAt the Gas­tonia (N.C.) Confer­ence Center, to open this fall, Carol Queen (right) has been named director of sales.


In Carlsbad, Calif., Robert Moore, general manager of the 161-room Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach, also has been named general manager of the 215-room Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa, which will open in spring 2012.

Brett SmithBrett Smith (right) is the new executive chef at the 301-room Ren­naissance Re­sort at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.

The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau has named Michael Tarr, CMP, as vice president, convention sales.

Tina S. TruesdaleThe Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans has hired Tina S. Truesdale (right) as director of sales. The property has 500 guest rooms.

Craig Waterman has been named general manager at the 224-room Westward Look Resort in Tucson, Ariz.

Keva Washing­tonKeva Washing­ton has been appointed executive meetings manager at the Austin (Tex­as) Convention and Visitors Bureau.