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Flashback – one year ago today

It was one year ago today that Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that Disney’s rumored Western Way expansion was a reality and that a Four Seasons Resort would be coming to Disney’s property. News continues to be good for the Orlando tourism business. And as far as I know both of these projects are progressing according to plan. Interestingly they represent opposite ends of Disney’s plans to attract and hold new customers to their property.

The Four Seasons, along with the recently rumored ‘Night Kingdom’ boutique adventure experience, (and the Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria opening adjacent to Disney Property) look to bring in the ‘Whales’, as they call them in Las Vegas. Those guests who don’t think twice about dropping large amounts on hotel rooms, special tours, and souvenirs. Since I’ve been a regular theme park guest (about the mid-90s) Disney has catered to this crowd in small ways. I expect that this area will be one of big growth for the company as new experiences and opportunities for these big spenders are created.

I haven’t driven past the area for the planned Western Way development. So I don’t know its status. But the Western Way hotels, even the addition of the family suites to Pop Century and the All Stars, are all efforts by Disney to expand its ‘affordable’ options to bring in the numbers. Just getting guests to stay on property and buy Disney theme park tickets is enough to pay the bills. Plus, as long as you still have a quality product, happy guests are your best marketing pieces.

What’s missing from this is the middle visitor. No new rooms have been added in the value or moderate category since Pop Century opened in 2003. I’m a bit surprised that the second half (the Legendary years) of the resort hasn’t been built out. There is obviously demand for the middle rates, but Disney doesn’t seem to be interested in that business these days. It’s only looking at the two extremes (and the DVC hotels, which pay for themselves via ownership, but aren’t attractive to the average visitor). I hope that Disney has some plan to attract these moderate to value visitors and get them to stay on property.

What’s your best guest as to what happens next?