Vote of the week: The Tom Staggs plan for more advanced reservations at Disney theme parks
Published: February 17, 2011 at 11:26 PM
We are currently developing an innovative system that will, in essence, create a version of FASTPASS for their entire Disney vacations. Now we define the guest experience as beginning from the time a potential guest sits down at a computer or picks up a phone to make a reservation. Our new tools will help them better understand all that we have to offer and better plan their time with us. They’ll be able to create a personalized itinerary that gives them the exact Disney vacation they want.
Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions... secure seats at our shows and spectaculars... make dining reservations... and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house. We also plan to simplify the check-in process so that guests will arrive at the resort with room key in hand. They will be able to go straight to their room or a theme park – again, allowing them to get to the fun faster.
Fans already are cracking jokes about booking FastPasses for their unconceived children to visit Disney World in 2019. But what Staggs is talking about really isn't that revolutionary. I've already checked into hotels without having to stop at the front desk. Many all-inclusive resorts plan detailed guest itineraries before those guests leave their homes. And many Disney fans long have marked their calendars for six months before their arrival date to snag the priority reservations at their favorite Disney World restaurants.
The Staggs plan is simply the next iteration in this evolving development of the full-service family vacation. I can get an airline boarding pass on my cell phone right now; why not a hotel room key? If we can restaurant reservations online and book Broadway show tickets in advance, why shouldn't we be able to reserve boarding times on theme park rides or a photo appointment with Mickey Mouse as well?
Because if I can do all this in advance, with the resulting assurance that I won't miss I thing I really want to experience, wouldn't that make me more likely to book that vacation?
That's Disney's hope. Heck, every time I take the whole family to Orlando, we book at least one night at a Universal Orlando hotel because Universal's front-of-the-line pass for on-site hotel guests provides us the certainty of being able to see whatever we want without a wait.
But at Universal, we don't have to schedule our visit down to the minute. In fact, part of the reason why we like visiting Universal that way is because the front-of-the-line pass frees us from having to do any advance planning at all. We go where we want, when we want.
Which brings me to our vote of the week: Do you want the Staggs plan? If it were reality tomorrow, would you choose a vacation that you could pre-plan in advance to that level of detail, or not?
Personally, I don't see how Disney could pull off making advance ride reservations mandatory for all its guests. Theme park attractions don't operate with the up-time of restaurants and movie showings. If Thunder Mountain goes down for 20 minutes because of a crying child in the dispatch station, that could throw off the reservation plans of hundreds of guests, who couldn't be accommodated if all other ride times after them were booked for the day.
Any reservation system needs some "stand-by" option for these types of displaced guests, creating openings for walk-up visitors should those extra times not be used. Staggs' plan would not completely eliminate queues at the Walt Disney Resort, either. In his presentation, he talked of expanding interactive queue technology, signaling that on-site attraction waits will remain part of the Disney experience.
Let's hear your thoughts, in the comments. Obviously, anyone reading this website is interested in advance planning for a theme park vacation. (If you weren't, you wouldn't be here, would you?) But how much advance reservation work do you want to do? What could Disney (and other theme parks) do to improve your enjoyment of your visits with them?