Disney spending $1 billion on technological services to improve guest experience

Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 11:36 AM | Contributed by Raven-Phile

Future visitors to Walt Disney World will be able to reserve ride times from their home computers and bypass hotel check-in desks once they arrive at the resort, the head of the Walt Disney Co.'s global theme-park division said during an investors conference Thursday. Those advances are among of a series of technological initiatives Disney is developing in hopes of making visits to its increasingly crowded theme parks easier to plan and less intimidating to navigate.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, February 18, 2011 11:41 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

I kept thinking about this in the QBot discussion. THIS is where the future is, methinks.

R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
Friday, February 18, 2011 11:58 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

In the future, Disney will be the first park to allow you to reserve your whole day (or vacation) in advanceā„¢

(been saying that one for WAY too long - had to add the trademark notice :) )

The future is now... or right around the bend, at least.

From the article:
Also, a new generation of technology-savvy travelers increasingly expects features such as customizable vacations and interactive attractions, he said.

"Their audience is so much more sophisticated now," Smith said. "If you're not investing in this already, you're going to get left behind. And the last thing Disney wants is to be saddled with the reputation of being old school."

Friday, February 18, 2011 12:47 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

I would bet all my money if I had any to spare and say that Disney will utilize RFID and NFC technology as soon as they can.

Why they're not already letting you check in to your hotel at an airport kiosk is beyond me.


Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Friday, February 18, 2011 1:05 PM
Jeff's avatar

I've never experienced a really long line to check in, but if I could skip that, I certainly would.

While I never go in the summer, I still can't say I've ever had a real issue with crowds down there. I do a few FastPasses every day, get a dinner reservation (mostly the day before, not counting le Cellier), and just go with it. This must really be targeted at the peak season.

Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

Friday, February 18, 2011 3:19 PM

I hope pre-planning your day will be available to all guests and not just those that stay on property. Although, it certainly would be another strong selling point for staying at one of Disney's resorts.

Friday, February 18, 2011 3:53 PM

Jeff said:This must really be targeted at the peak season.

The difference in Florida between peak and off-peak season is dramatic.

If you've ever seen all of the rope queuing that is possible at Pirates of the Caribbean, just imagine that full, with the rest of the park the same way, with Florida heat, and humidity, etc.

Add to that the general "war march" mentality of the average "once in a lifetime trip to Disneyworld" visitors, and you can see how anything that can lessen the 'stress' of the day, would pay huge dividends.

My family loves Disneyland, couldn't care less about Florida Disney, and they live in the Eastern Time Zone. Their number one complaint, the hyper "conquer it all" atmosphere of the Florida experience. If I told them that they truly could pre-arrange most of their day (including staggered FastPass-esque waiting), character interactions, dining, etc. they would be all over it.

I won't be too thrilled about it all these changes, as I already have a bit of a problem with the Disney Parks being unfavorable to the short time visitor. However, as a DL local, I use the parks very differently than how they were designed, and know that's my issue, not Disney's. (Yes, I understand that the money is made targeting multi day guests, and I'm not arguing against it). However, DCA is out of FastPass viewing tickets for World of Color by 2:00pm most days. That makes it nearly impossible to "go out after work, enjoy dinner, a ride or two, and then catch the show." I don't mean unable to get good tickets (in the better viewing sections), I mean No access at all.

Now imagine that scenario, in Florida, on steroids. Clueless visitor shows up, with family in tow, gates open and BAM, almost all of the Fast Pass returns are already late in the day, or worse, already gone. Fantasmic, shows, Character interactions, which are a zoo in FL, but accessible for those who wait, now all booked up and gone. Dining, same thing. etc. obviously capacity constraints come into play, but you can imagine how the slightest tweaking of the capacity for pre-reserved items (booked 90 -180 days in advance), could ruin the idea of a spontaneous trip to Disney.

Disney has a tough needle to thread here, with programming your day in advance (and all of the related revenue add-ons) versus human nature and past practice on how theme parks are used.

Friday, February 18, 2011 5:02 PM

Here is a thought....by getting guests to "pre" reserve their daily experiences filled with with attractions shows and dining, Disney now has a lot of control over your daily length of stay at a particular park. In other words, similar to CreditWh0re's thoughts, going to the Magic Kingdom for a "few hours" in the morning, heading back to the hotel for a nap, and hitting Epcot in the evening to catch Illuminations may now be not that attractive of an option if the "reservation system" doesn't allow for this. Remember, Disney knows that when you go back to your room to take a mid-day nap, you aint spending anything.....just one example.

Think of it this way, if you map out your day, it would be very easy to Disney to "force" you to arrive at a park at opening (so you can make your 9:15am Space Mountain reservation, for example), and have to stay in the MK all day so you can make your 7pm Pirates reservation, because who is going to miss Pirates.... Disney is smart enough to "spread out" all of your activities in a day so you are pretty much have to stay in a park for the entire day, if you want to enjoy everything.

What is a main reason for the Magical Express? To get guests in the parks earlier.

What is a main reason they want to eliminate face to face check in? To get guests in the parks earlier.

Disney has their revenue stream down to an exact science, and if they can increase your daily length of stay, you will likely spend more in the park(s). Brilliant.

Friday, February 18, 2011 6:49 PM
Jeff's avatar

I'm not sure I see that as a point of optimization. I mean, I don't try to power-park, but I pretty much spend most of the day at the parks anyway. And I tend to end at Epcot because that's where the restaurants are. Disney isn't going to get in the way of that.

But I would also agree that the casual half-day spender isn't who they want in the parks anyway. I don't have a problem with them shaping the experience for the kind of customer that they want. They've been doing that for a long time, and it seems to work for them.

Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

Friday, February 18, 2011 7:58 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

It seems to work for me, too. I think I might be right in their target audience. :)

R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
Friday, February 18, 2011 8:10 PM
rollergator's avatar

^And you have the markings to prove it! ;)

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:46 PM

That makes it nearly impossible to "go out after work, enjoy dinner, a ride or two, and then catch the show." I don't mean unable to get good tickets (in the better viewing sections), I mean No access at all.

You could always do the picnic deal.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:50 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Brian Noble said:
You could always do the picnic deal.

And that's a perfect example of the creative, upcharge preferred access (mentioned here) that the parks can do.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:52 PM
Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:13 PM
Fun's avatar

I see this online reservation program as a way to use your staff more efficiently. If you have x amount of groups pre-register to ride Space Mountain, you can use this information in advance to schedule employees.

Same could be said for in-park spending. I can just see a conversation going like this "Ok, we've have a high pre-registration on June 10th from Asian countries, and we know they usually spend more on souvenirs and less on food, so let's take that into account, and beef up our presence of park maps for those languages."

Sunday, February 20, 2011 4:29 PM

One thing I do know, Disney has plans for how to get serious ROI out of this. $1B is enough to build you a new Dream/Fantasy class ship, and those things literally print money for the Mouse. The Dream launch has *increased* bookings on the older ships, rather than cannibalize them---essentially, folks are discovering that the Dream is sold out (or super expensive) for their dates, and they book something on the Wonder or Magic instead.

That's the sort of thing they are expecting out of this initiative.

Sunday, February 20, 2011 6:12 PM

I have had some long check-in's before, but during those times, the Cast members behind the desk gave the check-in a personal feel and answered many questions and gave many tips to people. For the guest that is a "regular" at the properties, I can see the skipping the check-in being useful, but feel first timers or people that aren't extremely familar with the properties check-in with a person is beneficical to them.

Now to plan your fast pass from home, what ever happen to going with the flow? Isn't suppose to be a vacation? The way I look at it, when I go to Disney this August, what I will know is when I check in and when I check out. From there it will be a free for all going where the mood/weather takes us. We will visit all the parks, when we enter that park, we probally will pick up a Fast pass for that "one" attraction we must ride, but that's about it. We rather be more relaxed than scheduled.

Sunday, February 20, 2011 6:31 PM
LostKause's avatar

I'm with you, Talonstruck. I like to go at my leisure, but I also don't want to miss anything. What's the point in adding all the details into a theme park if one is racing around following a schedule, and can't take their time and enjoy it? On the other hand, maybe not standing in long lines will allow one to absorb the atmosphere.

Sunday, February 20, 2011 8:11 PM

But maybe we're reading too much into this. Yes, right now Disney is doing a lot with pre-scheduling. But we also know that they are working very hard on dynamic crowd management techniques and with this kind of investment on facilities, it stands to reason that they have other innovations in mind.

Remember, the name of the game for Disney is to provide a uniquely fantastic customer experience. That is the basis by which they manage to convince millions of people to hand over hundreds of dollars a piece. And while there are people out there who want to schedule every minute of every day of their Disney Dream Vacation(™ I'm sure), there are also plenty of people out there like Talonstruck and LostKause (and RideMan, for that matter...) who don't plan their day out, and sometimes even get annoyed when circumstances make planning both impractical and necessary. I'm certain that Disney not only knows all about us folk, but is actively working to accommodate us as well.

Because after all, what do you get when you get a percentage of your customers to commit to a schedule? You get better information. Given that information, the next step is to turn that data into information that the people who didn't plan their day can use. That is to say, provide ways to get *accurate* up-to-the-minute advice to those of us who haven't decided how to spend our days. They can suggest which parks are going to be the least crowded, which attractions have the shortest waits, which restaurants are running specials, and in general use those same details, along with modern communications systems, to do what?

Oh yeah. To improve the "guest" experience. For EVERY customer. And why would they do that? Because it makes people like me want to give them some of our money.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Monday, February 21, 2011 12:56 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

LostKause said:
What's the point in adding all the details into a theme park if one is racing around following a schedule, and can't take their time and enjoy it?

Interestingly, but not surpsingly, I see it exactly the opposite. Without worrying about what I want to do, when to do it, what lines look like, where things are, what crowds are doing, I can just chill and enjoy the details that a park like Disney delivers because I know that I'm guaranteed to do everything I want to and I know when.

The schedule lifts any of those potential pressures and allows me to do a lot more between those rides other than worrying about the next ride or attraction.

Monday, February 21, 2011 1:44 AM
Jeff's avatar

I think the people who feel pressure are going about it wrong in the first place.

Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video


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