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Is free admission to a Disney theme park on your birthday really a good enough reason to schedule a "Celebration Vacation" ?

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Is free admission to a Disney theme park on your birthday really a good enough reason to schedule a "Celebration Vacation" ?

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Okay. It's time to test your observational skills. Please check out the photo below of a typical NYC street scene and then identify the person and/or items that don't quite belong.

Photo by Jim Hill

That's right. It's the guy with all of those Mickey Mouse balloons who looks out of place in modern day Manhattan. Especially when you take into consideration his turn-of-the-century Main Street USA-type garb.

Photo by Jim Hill

Ah, but this was a deliberate choice on Disney Parks' part. They didn't come to the Big Apple to blend in. The Mouse wanted to make a statement. Which is Disney invited a hundred or more travel & entertainment professionals to drop by the Edison Ballroom late yesterday morning ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... So that they could then hear all about Mickey's plans for 2009. Which involves the Walt Disney Company embracing this brand-new trend in travel: the "Celebration Vacation." Where people will deliberately schedule a family trip around the celebration of some milestone event (i.e. a birthday or anniversary) and/or in recognition of some recent personal accomplishment (i.e. a graduation or retirement).

"So how exactly are the Disney Parks going to capitalize on this trend?," you ask. Well, as Jay Rasulo -- Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts -- explained to all those assembled in the Edison Ballroom yesterday ...

Photo by Jim Hill

"We've rolled out plenty of celebrations in the past. Disneyland's 50th anniversary. Walt's 100th birthday. But these were always our milestones. In 2009, it's your milestones that we'll be looking to recognize. This time, you get to be the star of your own celebration."

And to prove that the Mouse means business, Jay first screened the TV commercial that will help kick off this new "What will you celebrate?" promotion for the Parks (Which will begin airing nationwide next week) ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... Then Rasulo revealed the big hook for Disney's "Celebration Vacation" campaign. In that -- throughout 2009 -- anyone can receive free admission to one of the Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks on their birthday. All they need to gain entry to theat Park on their special day is a valid ID that verifies your birthdate.

The travel professionals that I spoke with yesterday thought that this free-admission-on-your-birthday promotion was a brilliant idea on Disney's part. Particularly given what's going on with the economy these days. As my luncheon companion explained:

"Think about all of the people in Southern California and Central Florida who'll now be visiting a Disney park in 2009 just because their son or daughter kept pestering them about that free admission offer. That's how Disney is going to recover all of the costs involved with this campaign. Through all of those additional admissions that they'll then sell to the friends or family members of those birthday boys & girls."

And speaking of lunch: Everyone who attended yesterday's press event got a personalized dessert ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... And -- no -- mine's wasn't ticking.

So what you think of the Disney Park's new "What will you celebrate?" campaign? Do you think this "Celebration Vacation" concept will really be enough to get people to schedule trips to the Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World Resorts in 2009? Or is it going to take more than just free-admission-on-your-birthday to get those turnstiles turning next year?

Your thoughts?

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  • Being as we are AP holders, this promotion doesn't really affect us.  On the other hand, maybe some locals will make a day trip to the parks that wouldn't have gone otherwise.

    I'm not sure that a family of four would plan a trip based on one person receiving free admission for one day.  Either you can afford to make the trip or you can't - I don't see how this promotion will bring more guests into the parks.

  • I think the more interesting announcement that came out today according to mouseplanet.com is that starting in November SoCal DL passholders will be able to pay for their AP's over 12 months. I wonder if we will be getting that over here at WDW. It would make it alot easier for FL residents to get AP's if they did this. Universal and the Busch parks offer this. Mine and my wifes Universal and SW/BGT passes are paid for this way. We haven't been able to renew her WDW pass cause we simply don't have the $360 to drop right now on a pass but we could do it if it was spread out over 12 months. I guess we will see.

  • No, you're dessert wasn't ticking ... officials were simply hoping all that sugary sweetness would put you in a diabetic-induced coma.

    Actually, this does make a lot of sense in driving up local traffic and maybe induce some families farther away to make a trip.

    The free ticket is only one part of the story, however, and I'm disappointed you didn't publish the other neat aspects. For example if you're an AP or visiting on a park-hopper you can exchange the free ticket for a special fast pass to get up to six guests on six attractions OR you can get a pre-loaded Disney gift card for the (likely discounted) value of the free ticket to use for food or souvenirs.

    As I told a friend Disney's offer sure beats a free dessert from some restaurant or that free single-scoop ice cream cone from Baskin-Robbins.

  • I think this is a great idea, I think that the ad is quite cute as well.  Quite brave that for an advert for Disney Parks, they hardly show any of the parks!  

  • Isnt the ad with the castle in the clouds just a clone of the YOMD ad?  You'd think that could have come up with something more "birthday" themed.

  • Most people have been focusing on the free birthday ticket offer, but "What Will You Celebrate" encompasses more than just birthdays. That's why the ad isn't more birthday themed.

    As an AP holder, the free birthday promotion works out great for me. Sure, there's the choice of getting a gift card or the birthday FASTPASS, but the free ticket is also fully upgradable (on that day only). Since my AP expires four days after my birthday, I can apply the ticket towards the cost of my renewal.

  • I think this is a good idea as well. It will certainly drive up local traffic (very few people are going to go to DL alone on their bday).

    True the price of a one day ticket for a multi day vacation isn't much, but psychologically it makes a difference. How many of us drive out of our way to save 5 cents a gallon on gas (5 cents x 20 gals = $1.00) or buy something just because we have a 20 cents off coupon??

    This may be the excuse to go to DL or WDW that they were debating before. Or to go to DL or WDW instead of SeaWorld or Cedar Point or Universal.

  • I know that a friend of mine forwarded the Disney official site explaining the offer to her whole address book as soon as she heard.  So some people think it's cool enough to spread the word... and I agree.  Smart marketing, and GREAT public relations.

  • I think it's Brilliant! Great marketing!

    What better way to get people to spend money than to give them something for free.

  • It's an old practical joke folks... Give the father of 5 kids ONE free pass to the circus.

  • That ticket will likely be over $80 in 2009. Even if you bring a friend on your birthday that free admission is like a 50 percent discount. Family of 4, 25% off and so on. For WDW, that means only one guest out of every 365 is non-paying, which doesn't "cost" them nearly as much in "lost" admissions as we APers who go once a week. I'm surprised they haven't thought of it earlier.

  • Being from nowhere near either Disney property, this doesn't affect me all that much. A trip to Disneyland costs upwards of $2000 anyways, so by then a free single day doesn't mean a whole lot. It doesn't help that my birthday is at one of the busiest times of year, so I wouldn't really want to go unless I already happened to be in Los Angeles two days after Christmas anyways.

    I can see where it will bump up local attendance, which is great. Not so meaningful for me though.

  • Cute cake.  You should make that your new logo.  Time to replace that tired old JHM font logo.

  • The campaign as a whole--What will you celebrate?--seems catchy.  The free ticket on your birthday is is a local promotional idea that will be broadcast to the whole nation.  That part doesn't make much sense.  The bulk of people across the country who had a chance to win something each day in the Year of a Million Dreams campaign won't be able to make it to a park on their birthday in order to take advantage of the offer.

  • Brian WDW74, most people are focusing on the birthday aspect because Disney is focusing on that aspect.  No where do I see that you get anything free for being there on your anniversay or for coming for your family reunion or celebrating a graduation on your vacation.  There are plenty of opportunities for Disney to sell you items during those event but you only get something free for actually being there on your birthday.  

    Therefore I think that the castle in the clouds logo with teeny tiny balloons , and pretty much the actual concept, is lame.  A birthday cake or at least an invitation of some type would work better since THEY are focusing on birthdays.  But in the end, people want new shows, parades, fireworks and rides.  That is what will attract them to a Disney vacation.  Not a free set of Mickey ears (maybe costing Disney $3) or a certificate to come back for one day within the next year (and spending minimum $2000 for a many of four to get there.)

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