• Meet Robert Donahue, A Landmark Moment for a Disneyland Veteran

    POSTED August 13, 2019

    Group sales head Robert Donahue is ready to guide planners to a new galaxy.

For nearly 15 years, Robert Donahue has been responsible for group sales and services at the Disneyland Resort. That includes both theme parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure) and hotels (the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel).

This year, Disneyland is unveiling the eagerly awaited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The first phase of the new land opened on May 31, with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction scheduled to open later this year.

CAM+E: How does the opening of the new Star Wars land fit in with other big events that have occurred during your tenure?
A few months after I started in late 2004, we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Disneyland Park, which my team was involved with and was a really special time. Then there was the expansion of Disney California Adventure, the addition of Cars Land in 2012 and the 60th anniversary in 2015. All were amazing. But Star Wars is going to be a real milestone for the company—it’s opening at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and it’s unparalleled in terms of design, creativity and experiential storytelling. For our clients, it’s another great reason to come to the Disneyland Resort.

CAM+E: What other new offerings will meeting and event planners find at the Disneyland Resort?
Star Wars is the big exclamation point, but we have many great new developments. The first one I like to talk about is the complete redesign and refurbishment of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, which included all of the hotel rooms, lobby, concierge lounge and pool area. The results have been fantastic, and the hotel has never looked better.

Downtown Disney also has a lot of great news, with new dining, retail and entertainment options. Notable additions include Splitsville Luxury Lanes, Ballast Point Brewery, Salt & Straw Ice Cream, a virtual-reality experience called The VOID, and the immersive Pop-Up Disney! A Mickey Celebration. Add to that seasonal events like the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival and there’s always something new for groups to experience.

CAM+E: What do you want meeting planners to know about bringing a group to the Disneyland Resort?
We want them to know that we’re here to help them create an amazing experience for their conference and their attendees. We’re very respectful of the fact that their core message should be front and center. Our offerings are all integrated at their direction. We like to learn from meeting planners what success looks like for them and then help create that.

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.


You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.


Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.