2010 New Years' Resolutions for Disney Parks

Friday, January 01, 2010

Sure, I could make a few New Years resolutions for my own behavior, but isn't it much more fun to decide what Disney should do? So, in honor of New Year's Day 2010, here's a bit of unsolicited advice for Disney Parks:

Revive the Yeti! Expedition Everest, at Disney's Animal Kingdom, is home to the most amazing audio-animatronic in the world.....when it's working. And it's not. Remember the moment you first flew by the Yeti, and he took a big hairy swipe at you as you tore through the mountain? All the themeing in the queue, the beautiful and intricate art on the ascent to the summit, and even the projected shadow-figure tearing up the track perfectly suport that moment, which now falls flat when you enter the strobe-light room where the Yeti stands, stock-still (unless you're lucky enough to catch him on one of the rare moments when he's rumored to be operational). Yes, I'm sure it will be expensive to repair such a complex machine, and the downtime will be substantial, but isn't that preferable to the Yeti remaining permanently in B-mode?

Beware the deep discounts. Park attendance is high at Disney Parks, but at what cost? The deep discounts on hotels are cutting into the profit margins, and it's not clear whether Guest spending on food and souvenirs in such uncertain economic times can justify the erosion of that profit margin, or the long-term impact on Guest expectations for future deals. (One exception: The bonus 3-month extension for Annual Pass renewals is a smart way to reward some of the company's most loyal customers, and should be continued.) Some would argue that without these deep discounts, Disney's at risk for losing market share to other theme parks (especially Universal), but I'm not convinced.

Consider expanding Give a Day, Get a Disney Day. Given my concern about deep discounts, you might expect me to be adverse to giving away park admissions through the newly-launched Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promotion, where Guests contribute their volunteer hours and in return will receive a one-day, one-park pass (or other perks, if they're already in posession of Annual Passes or other multi-day park admission media). But no. As I've mentioned before, the company's encouragement of volunteerism in this economic climate can only be good for enhacing the Disney brand. However, some of that brand enhancement will be lost if the promotion tears quickly through the 1,000,000 free Disney Days promised, especially if any critical mass of volunteer actvity has been unleashed. Disney should carefully track the promotion's progress, and consider increasing the number of Disney Days available if demand may overwhelm supply.

Think about the global Guest. Seriously. I know I know I know, there just aren't enough Guests who frequent multiple Disney Parks worldwide in a given year to justify providing any special deals or perks. But Disney must know that multi-resort synergy matters, or it wouldn't offer its Coast-to-Coast Race Challenge. And if Disney can work out the corporate relationships to give US parks ticket discounts to AAA members, is it really that hard to find a way to give me a few bucks off my AP at Disneyland Paris once I show you my WDW AP? Geez.

Never, ever, ever let up on that industry-leading Guest Service. As we talk about what could be better, let's not forget the core competency! I've written about it before (like in my last column here, and in a 2007 trip report on Broke Hoedown), and I'm sure I'll write about it again. The Magic just wouldn't exist without the hardworking Cast Members, and we often become most aware of this when something goes amiss and the CM's on the line to make it right, whether it was their problem or not. The Buzz Lightyear mug given to a teary child, the moose boxer shorts brought to the table at Le Cellier for a woman who's suddenly been drenched in eau du keg party, and the patient advice given to a nervous birthday girl who's just misplaced her park tickets and gift card all add up to making Disney Parks a place that you trust that you'll be taken care of. Many of us can also recall counter-examples, but it's the critical mass of good experiences that build our trust and brand loyalty.

[UPDATE 1/2/10: Now wait, did I say they should consider expanding Give a Day? Let me amend that: It's been open fewer than 48 hours, their systems can't handle the load, and they're reassuring people that the million tickets won't run out this weekend. I reinforce my statement that they should consider expanding the program, and add the irritated coda that they need to get those systems fixed ASAP. Not like I've been sitting here trying to register or anything, nope.]