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The BLOGFlume--2005 Lookin' Good

Disney and Universal both in good position for next year

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: December 29, 2004 at 8:49 PM

The Ultimate Bellhop
Orlando Sentinel 12/29/04

In an interesting move to try to increase on-site hotel bookings, Disney has announced a new baggage delivery service called Disney’s Magical Express, which will begin in May 2005. Guests booking rooms in on-site Disney World hotels and flying certain airlines (Delta, American, Continental, Song, United, and Ted) will be able to go from Orlando International Airport straight to the parks, and not have to worry about bags or transportation to their hotel. Upon booking on-site rooms, guests will be given special tags to place on their bags, and when they arrive in Orlando, there’s no need to wait for the bags at the carousel, as they will be picked out by special baggage handlers and delivered straight to the guests’ rooms. That’s not all. Disney will also be offering free motor coach transportation to and from the airport through Mears, so guests will no longer have the hassle of hailing a cab or paying for a bus service to Disney World, which can be quite costly, especially for larger families.

While these new services are costly to Disney (as much as $40 per guest), the concept is pure genius. Guests are freed up from airport and transportation hassles, so they can spend more time, and more importantly money, in the parks. Not only that, but by providing free transportation, on-site guests are less likely to rent a vehicle and visit other parks (sneaky). With the likelihood of guests spending at least one extra day at the parks (encouraged by the new pass pricing schedule), Disney will easily make back their expense. The service is also quite a luxury, especially for those guests staying at the lower end Disney properties, and is the type of service that will encourage repeat visits, as long as the system works correctly and bags are delivered to the correct room.

2004, The Disney Roller Coaster
Motley Fool 12/29/04

The Motley Fool has assembled a timeline of Disney’s economic year. It was a real roller coaster ride for the entertainment giant, but the year appears to be ending on a nice upward trend. The Disney/Pixar war and the attempted takeover by Comcast defined the early part of 2004. Spring brought the no confidence vote among shareholders and the pitiful performance of Home on the Range. The summer showed a moderate improvement within the Walt Disney Company, and aside from the astounding performance of competitor DreamWorks’ Shrek 2, which went on to become the #1 grossing film of 2004, things were looking up. The fall and end of the year showed more improvement as Eisner made his future with Disney known, the sale of the under-performing Disney Stores was completed, and a bold park admission increase was witnessed. While Disney will likely lose the overall box office title to Time/Warner, considering the number of bad movies Disney released this year, the year has to be seen as a moderate success. Throw in the dramatic improvement in ABC, thanks to Lost and Desperate Housewives, and the further expansion of the ESPN family of networks coming in 2005 (The U—I can’t wait!), Disney is looking pretty strong for 2005. $27.95 per share may seem like quite a bargain!

Let the Tie-Ins Begin
Screamscape 12/29/04

There have only been a few instances of Universal and NBC working together up to now. However, things are changing, as one of NBC’s hottest shows, Fear Factor, will be taping at Universal Orlando in January. For those who are unfamiliar with Fear Factor, the reality show assembles “normal” people in a competition consisting of 3 fear-inducing stunts. One of the stunts usually consists of eating or touching an unusual or sickening animal, while the other 2 stunts are usually physically instensive in nature. Each stunt eliminates contestants until after the third and final stunt where a winner is declared and cash prize is awarded. There have been many different spins on the show including casting Playboy Playmates, dating couples, twins, and singles.

The show taping at Universal Orlando will pit newlyweds against each other. January 7th will feature a stunt at Islands of Adventure, January 8th will feature the “gross food” stunt at Universal CityWalk, and the final stunt will tape January 9th at Universal Studios. The episode will air sometime during the May sweeps period. While the NBC/Universal merger was big news earlier this year, very little has been done aside from an inundation of Universal Orlando ads during NBC primetime. I’m not a huge fan of Fear Factor, but its popularity cannot be denied. This Universal Orlando tie-in airing during May sweeps should give the resort some good publicity leading into the summer.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on December 30, 2004 at 12:44 PM
Very good! It looks like the competition will be heating up for Disney and Universal. Though the service is costly, I think it will help the Disney hotels get filled since it is one of the larger perks about staying there. Universal is also doing well and will prove a competitor with WDW!
From Derek Potter on December 30, 2004 at 10:10 PM
The Disney luggage thing isn't a bad concept....However, I worry enough about airlines and airports losing my luggage, let alone worrying about Disney losing it as well. That's the motto of business at Disney...monopolize their time, so they don't even drive the streets of the town. No wonder downtown Orlando is dead.
From Anon Mouse on December 31, 2004 at 8:17 AM
If your luggage doesn't arrive, Disney will be on the hook to find it. Perhaps that's the real benefit. You won't have to worry about calling the airlines and making the arrangements. Disney will have to deliver or offer a solution.

If you're on-site, you can still rent a vehicle. I think Enterprise is located on WDW property. Just rent a car for a day.

I think the WDW resort are extremely overpriced. This was my experience after several visits. An off-site room is significantly cheaper; by as much as half off when compared with the cheapest room in WDW. If you plan on visiting during the off-season, it makes more sense to get an off-site room due to the shorter park hours. There are more entertainment offerings at off-site locations when things are sparse.

I extremely dislike the new ticket pricing. It is just too inconvenient and it doesn't encourage staying on property. What if you use one day admission without park hopping at Animal Kingdom. What are you to do when the day is over? Usually, you'll hop over to an open park. If most guests do not get the park hopping option, you'll be out of luck.

An a la cart ticketing option is too confusing. My feeling is the public will feel discouraged by the ticket plans. It will have an impact, but who knows the final outcome until this time next year.

From Russell Meyer on December 31, 2004 at 10:24 AM
That's the whole point of the new ticket scheme. Who actually travels all the way to Orlando and just spends 1 day at Disney, and never comes back? As long as the days never expire, it's a great deal just to buy the 7 day pass(10 days really with plusses), and if you don't use them all, just come back. We bought a 6 day hopper 4 years ago and have been to Orlando for 2 trips, and still have 2 days and 1 plus left. The new system makes the plus options simpler, and gives an even greater value to 7 day passes. The old system geared the best value to 5 and 6 days.

I would agree that on-site rooms are pricey, but I have never stayed anywhere on-site aside from the old Fort Wilderness Campground, so I cannot vouch for the ammenities and advantages of staying on-site. It's actually really cheap to stay over by Universal and Sea World, and if you add the price of parking at Disney to the average daily off-site hotel rate, you're probably looking at a $50+ per night savings. However, I think staying at one of the really nice on-site hotels (Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, or Animal Kingdom Lodge) is something everyone should try, and we may do that on our next visit in November (maybe). I would surmise that an on-site room would be great for the kids.

From kyle sussman on December 31, 2004 at 12:24 PM
I would not do it. Disney is at most a 5 day gig, and to be stuck there without a car for your whole vacation would be boring. It is smart of them trying to keep people on their resort instead of at seaworld, universal ect.
From Anon Mouse on December 31, 2004 at 12:33 PM
"The new system makes the plus options simpler, and gives an even greater value to 7 day passes. The old system geared the best value to 5 and 6 days."

The new system makes things harder because park hopping and expiration dates are optional. It is much more expensive if you're staying 1 to 4 days.

I think the new passes will more likely benefit MK and EPCOT. Those are the parks that have longer hours and more things to do.

Another thing, the complicated ticket scheme seems to remove the advantages of instant travel from airplane to room. The packages should be all-in-one inclusive packages. If convenience matters, why stop short?

"I think staying at one of the really nice on-site hotels (Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, or Animal Kingdom Lodge) is something everyone should try"

That's ridiculous. If you can afford it, it is great for you to go, but for most people, the prices are outrageous. Rooms average $400 a night and start from $200. It is better to visit the resort. There is nothing wrong with visiting the resort restaurants and grounds.

I also heard you can use the other resort pools if you stay on-site. Perhaps you can stay at All-Stars and hop over to the Grand Floridian pools.

On amenities, you can't beat the transportation and the convenience of staying a short distance from the parks. If you're staying off-site, travel time may be a consideration. However, some hotels offer shuttles which take the sting out of driving.

From Derek Potter on January 1, 2005 at 1:08 PM
I can think of a few reasons why Disney is only a one day thing. They are Universal Studios, Sea World, and the beach.
From Robert OGrosky on January 1, 2005 at 3:37 PM
We spent 5 days at wdw recently and while we did do just about everything we wanted to do, i could easily spend more time at the parks and dtd. There is never enough time to do everything you want.
From David Klawe on January 1, 2005 at 7:04 PM
Interesting to note, Fear Factor has filmed complete episodes at USH before, plus many single segments but really didn't plug where they were. Guess in the future, we should see some Universal Logos on the walls ;)

But heck, it isn't as bad as Mexico's version, it is sponsored by a Sport Drink, and after EVERY stunt, you see the contestant drinking one....


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