Wednesday, September 19, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 22 - Disney Vacation Club Expansion

Own a piece of the magic!


Disney Vacation Club refers to a timeshare offering created by Disney to allow guests to buy a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort.   There are currently fifteen Disney Vacation Club Resorts, located within the United States.  While most of the resorts are connected to the Walt Disney World Resort, there is a location at the Grand Californian in Anaheim, a resort in Oahu, Hawaii, a resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and a resort at Vero Beach in Florida.

Disney's Vacation Club puts a slight spin on the timeshare process, having the members buy points, which can be used at the guests home resort (i.e. where they bought the real estate interest) or at other Disney properties or connected timeshares.  This could be other Disney Vacation Club resorts, other Disney hotels (particularly for their international hotels), towards Disney cruises, towards Adventures By Disney guided vacations, or towards partner hotels worldwide in the Concierge Collection.

Plus, the Vacation Club resorts can also function as hotel rooms, allowing the unreserved rooms to be rented at rack rate (or similar) to guests who simply want to book at a Disney Hotel.

One benefit DVC brought to the Walt Disney World resort in particular was the addition of many new suites, allowing for more comfortable family stays.  Disney Vacation Club properties are generally composed of one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.

Disney has also had plans for several additional Vacation Club properties.  These included Newport Beach in California, Beaver Creek, Colorado, New York City, New York, an additional resort at Eagle Pines in Orlando, and National Harbor, Maryland.  The Newport Beach location became a Marriott timeshare location and the Eagle Pines location ended up as a Four Seasons in Walt Disney World, but the other locations never went much beyond planning.

Disney currently has the Riviera resort under construction connected to the Caribbean Beach Resort at Walt Disney World.  Further, plans indicate potential development at the Fort Wilderness/River Country location.  Plans for additional DVC locations are notoriously kept under very tight wraps.  New units cannot be announced until the previous location has reached a certain level of sell-through, so you get to such odd results as a very visible tower undergoing vertical construction next to the Contemporary Resort that cast members can only answer with "what tower?"

With that background, my goal would be an expansion of a previous Disney plan, to bring Disney Vacation Club properties to other highly trafficked vacation destinations across the United States and to launch the DVC internationally.

In reverse order, the easiest first step for Disney to expand the presence of the Disney Vacation Club would be to expand internationally in connection with its international parks.  The two that make the most sense for a first phase roll-out would be Paris and Hong Kong.  Paris is particularly well suited as Disney now owns the majority interest in the resort and there is already a similar Marriott timeshare resort near the Disney Golf location.  A Disney Vacation Club hotel could be added in the inner loop, closer to the parks and train station. In Hong Kong, as discussed in that park entry, Disney has the opportunity for a true beach front resort, making the property very lucrative.  Vacation club would be a welcome addition filling out the resort complex.

Secondly, the expanded locations within the United States would be combined with the Disney Regional Entertainment offerings discussed last week, to ensure that a Disney resort complex is the draw that it should be.  These hotels should provide entertainment and a connection to Disney experiences beyond just allowing for additional options for members to use their points.  In an ideal world, the resort locations would further be paired with locations that have existing or planned long weekend (or longer) Adventures by Disney vacations.  This would present an ultimate trifecta of synergy, where the Vacation Club location feeds the Regional Entertainment which feeds the Adventures by Disney excursion which feeds the Vacation Club location, etc.

Accordingly, my goal would not be to over-saturate the country with Disney Vacation Club properties, but to put them in a handful of key locations across the country, such that Disney fans could engage in a handful of signature experiences with a big Disney tie.

With that in mind, I would propose the following additional locations:

  1. Additional Disneyland presence - currently the Grand Californian only has 50 units for its DVC component.  As Disney looks to expand and add a fourth hotel, hopefully DVC would be a larger component of the process, allowing members to have more opportunities to book at this resort.  Even if the DVC hotel was closer to Garden Grove, with a complimentary Minnie Van shuttle service to the parks, it would be worth exploring (though ideally, any Disney branded resort would be in walking distance of the park).
  2. Mountain Resort in Colorado - This is a dream going back to Walt's days.  And a ski resort in many ways makes a lot of sense for a Disney resort location.  Immediate connection to a built in customer base, with potentially overlapping but different clientele than the Disney parks.  Opportunities for theming the resort from Swiss Chalet, to National Parks, to rustic cabin. Because it is the type of thing Walt would do, it's the kind of thing the company should do now.
    Disney Mineral King concept art for illustration (c) Disney
  3. New York City - To me, a Disney hotel in New York City makes a lot of sense.  Disney played a big hand in the revitalization of Times Square.  Disney currently has three shows on Broadway and in the past has had four productions at the same time.  Disney owns and offers backstage tours of the New Amsterdam theater where Aladdin plays.  There is a signature Disney store in Times Square, and offers a short excursion Adventures by Disney vacation in the city.  The Disney Magic cruise ship leaves from the Manhattan port.  And it would make an excellent location for a Worlds of Disney regional entertainment indoor park.  Disney could build an incredible Disney vacation with the city as its backdrop and a DVC hotel could be a key component.
    (C) Disney
    Disney video test
    Having such a large canvas could even allow Disney to play with the augmented reality screens like they did when the Disney Store in Times Square opened. Imagine continued Disney advertisements and videos like the one above in Times Square.
  4. San Francisco - San Francisco, like New York, presents Disney an incredible opportunity to create an inclusive Disney package for the visit.  Adventures by Disney currently has a short excursion in this location, connected to Lucas Film and the Walt Disney Family Museum. It has likewise been a port of call for the Disney Cruise Line.  A hotel here would be a welcome addition. 
  5. National Harbor (or somewhere similar on the east coast) - Disney had originally agreed to develop in National Harbor and the land is still available.  Disney's location was not connected to the water, but there are other parcels that could be explored, if desired.  I feel their original location was a strong one, as it in many ways seemed to be the pinnacle of the area.  The road from the coast lead straight to the Disney location.  With Disney's connection to Americana and their presentation of American history, Disney could have a strong presence here.  Add a short excursion to Washington, D.C. with Adventures by Disney, patriotic attractions like the American Adventure, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, or the Hall of Presidents and Mickey and the Gang in patriotic attire, and Disney could overcome its lack of a waterfront.
    Original Disney National Harbor plan
  6. St. Louis, Missouri - This one is a bit of an oddball, but it plays into discussion for next week.  Further, Disney had plans to develop a smaller park in St. Louis, with Riverfront Square.  This location, though, more than anything, would help tie Disney back to Walt's past.  To Marceline and Kansas City.  A location on the Mississippi river to again tie to Americana and its history.  I could envision a Worlds of Disney bringing back the Riverfront Square concept, with a DVC resort connected. Plus, I think Disney should be in riverboat cruises and this would be a prime location for that.
  7. Alaska - I think a Disney resort in Alaska, connected to the Cruise Line would be an excellent addition.  Again, opportunities for wildlife excursion with Adventures by Disney and the connection to the cruise line.  Here no attractions, just characters, excursions, and cruises.
  8. The Caribbean - San Juan or St. Thomas - again, a connection to the Cruise Line.  An opportunity for expanded Disney Vacation in connection with the Disney Cruises.  Their private island would be ideal, but from my understanding the bugs get too bad for anyone to stay on the island overnight.  A location at one of the ports of call for the Disney Cruise Line in a United States territory would make a good compromise.
  9. And of course, a DVC connected to Disney Texas.

That's all that I would propose.  I think that provides a good balance of properties and locations to keep families and guests interested and provides good connections to other Disney offerings.


Next in the series, the Disney Cruise Line.  As always, thank you for reading.

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