For most of 2008, WDW officials knew that 2009 was going to be a real
challenge for the Resort. Which is why -- as far back as July -- they
began putting cost containment measures in place. Doing whatever they
could to lower Disney World's operating costs (i.e. cutting Fantasmic!
back to just two performances a week, eliminating character dining at
the Liberty Tree Tavern, etc.).
But then in October of last year, Disney Parks & Resorts execs got
some scary, scary news. Due to what was happening on Wall Street and the
continuing credit crisis, WDW's advance bookings had fallen off precipitously.
And unless something was done and fast, the Magic Kingdom (which can hold
65,000 - 67,000 Guests on its busiest days) might see weekdays in January
of 2009 where its attendance level would fall into the teens.
This was why Disney Parks & Resorts rolled out that Buy-4-Get-3-Free
promotion back in early November. Which seems to have done just what the
Company had hoped it would. Given that -- during the first 10 days of
January -- the Magic Kingdom saw weekday attendance levels in the 30,000s.
Mind you, the people who are visiting the Resort this month aren't spending
nearly as much on souvenirs as WDW officials would like them to. And some
of the cost containment measures that Disney World decided to put in place
last year are now having a pretty significant impact on Operations at
the Parks (EX: Dinner-time business at the Liberty Tree Tavern has fallen
off by almost 2/3rds now that character dining has been discontinued).
But that said ... The news coming out of Lake Buena Vista these days is
still lots better than anyone ever anticipated back in late October /
Which is why -- very quietly -- Walt Disney World has begun thawing out
some previously frozen projects. And -- no -- I'm not talking about those
"Pirates of the Caribbean" -themed rooms for Disney's Caribbean
Beach Resort. Despite what's been going on with the economy, that retheming
project (which will eventually involve 384 rooms in the Trinidad South
Village section of this hotel) never stalled out or even slowed down.
It just kept moving forward. In fact, the first 32 of these "Pirates"
-themed units were supposed to be ready for occupancy by this Friday. However -- due to some continuing construction problems -- this first set
of POTC rooms will now most likely not be available to Guests until sometime early next week.
Let the rebranding begin ! Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
No, I'm talking about WDW's family suites project. Which will involve
taking those half-completed buildings on the Legendary Years side of Disney's
Pop Century Resort and then turning them into two, three and four-bedroom
units where entire families can stay together during their Disney World
vacations. Just this past week, contracts were signed to begin the clean-up
/ preparatory phase on this construction project. Which will involve sending
survey teams into this long-empty structures to identify where repairs
need to be made. More importantly, what walls need to come down.
Now keep in mind that Disney is doing this work in early 2009 because
the Company genuinely believes that -- by mid-2010 (i.e. when the first
of these family suites buildings will actually be ready for Guests to
occupy) -- that the economy will have made a strong enough recovery that
there'll actually be demand for these types of rooms on property. And
as the economy gets stronger & stronger, more & more blocks of
rooms at Disney's Pop Century will be transformed into family suites.
Until this entire WDW hotel can then be rebranded as Disney's Animation
Inn and Suites.
"And how exactly did Disney Parks & Resorts execs determine
that it would now be okay to go forward with the Legendary Years project?,"
you ask. The Mouse gets its information from a variety of sources. Which
So taking all of this information into account, WDW's recession fears
seem to be receding. Though -- that said -- the Mouse still isn't taking
any chances. Which is why -- while Disney World has its Buy-4-Get-3 promotion
in place to lure stateside visitors during the first half of 2009 -- the
Resort is promoting a completely different vacation package overseas.
With the hope that free dining will be enough to convince international
visitors to come to WDW in the fall.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
Speaking of dining ... Given the impact that removing the characters
has had on advance reservations for the Liberty Tree Tavern, it's anticipated
that WDW officials will soon see the error of their ways and eventually
allow Mickey & pals to return to this Magic Kingdom eatery. But as
of right now, managers are still insisting that reservations at that restaurant
have fallen off not because the characters are gone. But
-- rather -- because of the economy.
And speaking of the economy ... It's important to note here that -- over
the past few months -- Disney World's traditional booking window has changed.
Where once Guests used to book their WDW vacations six months in advance,
now (in order to take advantage of attractive vacation packages like the
current Buy-4-Get-3-Free offer) people are booking trips just two &
three weeks out.
Consequently, there are those within the Disney organization who are
cautioning that things may not in fact be as good as they seem. That just
because theme park attendance & advance bookings are up for the month
of January ... Well, that then doesn't automatically mean that this pattern
will hold going into February and beyond.
But the sharp pencil boys, the folks at Disney Parks & Resorts who
drill down into the raw data, who actually keep track of trends ... They
seem to have enough encouraging info in hand to allow work to begin on
Pop Century's long-abandoned Legendary Years section. So that small bit
of construction news ... That's a good enough reason to have some
hope, don't you think?
Don't forget the announcement that the Space Mountain refurb will include the track replacement that was originally gonna be cut. That's great news!
Attendance worries have also troubled the folks in TDA out in California as well...but, the current figures are showing a trend towards a positive year here as well. Of course, this is a happy moment for the mouse empire. Still, entertainment here on the left coast, as it has in Orlando, has been slashed to a bare minimum and many of the things once taken for granted are now very limited in their appearance or happening.
The other good news is for the prospective cast members who work the California Resort. The hiring numbers are looking to be generated upward and this means more jobs for the local Anaheim/Orange Country area as well...which is a good thing. There is no way of knowing what the Florida aspects for new hires and job market will be, but, it looks better on the West Coast than it has in quite a few months for the Disney Company.
We may not have the ability to grow and expand the way Florida does, or, redress property lodging projects in order to better facilitate families on vacation, but, the overall experience here will undoubtedly profit from the currently perceived upturn in Disney income dollars.....
Well, as someone planning a trip for September, I've got my sights set on LTT for dinner one night and I don't need characters running around getting in the way. =) I'd be happier if they left off the character dining, but that's just me. :P
I'm glad to hear that the mouse thinks things won't be as bad as they originally thought. I should note that the DVC has actually got five projects under construction right now (Bay Lake Towers, Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Treehouse Villas, the Villas at the Grand Californian and the new Hawaiian resort) which will add substantially to Disney's resort inventory. I wonder how their sales have been doing since October...
Well, the "villas" at the Grand Cal are more a wing extension of the hotel itself...and, a large number of them butt up against the Mullholland Madness/Goofy's Flight School mad mouse coaster in DCA....which I do not think folks who are going to lodge in those rooms will find totally delightful.
That having been said, the sale of the Grand Cal DVC units has been rather good (asI have been told) and it looks as if there are a handful of them left to go....so, there may be a second wave of development of DVC units actross the street in the parking lot next to the Paradise Pier Hotel (currently cast and extended Dowtown Disney parking) - which would be, as far as sound pollution and other border line crowding situations go, a tad better than the wing at the Grand Cal....
One of the benefits the DVC has in Florida - the ability to have space away from the parks to build and develop in....
Skipperwest: that's interesting that the sales for Grand Californian DVC have gone so well....since they don't start until January 25th, and then only to current DVC members who purchased their DVC membership in California! Sales won't open to other current DVC members until March 25th. And I'm not sure when sales will open to the general public. Some speculate that may never happen, as they predict all the points will be sold to current DVC members before they can offer them to the general public.
Ooooooh. Skiperwest gets pwned!
The mouse also thought Bolt was going to do much better at he Box Office.
Well said Lifthill.
No, it just means that my source was dead worng with their information...it's no sweat off of me....I appreciate the update, though...and will relay it back to my friend in marketing over to TDA....
Thanks for letting me know...not everyone has the best information...and, sometimes all I know is what I have been told...much like Will Rogers only knew what he read in the papers....
best to all.
jbrowna - thanks again - and, I don't think then (if such is the case) that California DVD members would waste their time on getting memberships here and the trend will be the DVC members who are on the east coast or midwest who want something to help draw them to the west coast....
And Supergrover - hey, this is JIM HILL MEDIA site...I'm just holding up a site tradition and talking about faulty information.... ;)
whatever. As i sid a few days ago - i knew DISNEY wouldn't have to worry in the long haul.
Is it possible that Disney is, in expecting this recession to be ending soon, trying to take advantage of the lower prices for gas, supplies, and labor before we return to $4 gas again?
Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he talks about DCA's lack of advance planning, what Dick Nunis once called Walt and why it's important to take a two-tiered approach when discussing Disney World