• 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?
RD:
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?
RD:
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?
RD:
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.

Event planning and experience design go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano.

 

In the midst of the pandemic last year, Loris Menfi joined San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk as general manager. At the time of her hire, Rivercenter had recently unveiled a renovation to its 70,000-plus square feet of meeting space.

 

Dorothy Hecht was just 16 years old in 1937 when she waited on her first table at what was then Fischer’s Restaurant in downtown Frankenmuth, and ecstatically earned her first 25-cent tip. When she met and eventually married William “Tiny” Zehnder, whose family owned Zehnder’s Restaurant across the street, her happiness continued, and a legacy began.