What's your dream theme for a theme park hotel?
Social media's been buzzing this week over reports that Walt Disney World has been surveying guests about the appeal of a Star Wars-themed resort hotel on Disney property. Parks survey guests all the time about a wide variety of sometimes far-fetched ideas, so there's no guarantee that Disney's actually got plans in place for such a property. Heck, it'd be foolish to spend the money to develop plans and then
survey people as to whether that's a good idea. (Remember, surveying fans is just step 2 in our 10-step process for developing theme park projects
But, hey, it's fun to imagine a bunch of crazy, creative ideas. The way that theme parks spark our imaginations is one of their many endearing qualities that make us fans. So why not dream about a Star Wars hotel? Or hotels themed to one of the other top-grossing entertainment franchises in the industry right now?
It's one thing to ask if you're interested in staying in a Star Wars hotel. (Um... yeah!) But I think it's more interesting to ask people which franchise theme for a hotel appeals to them most. Okay, you like a Star Wars hotel. And a Harry Potter one. And Marvel. But let's say you've got to pick one. Which do you choose?
For our vote this week, I've selected hotel themes from five of the top entertainment franchises currently represented in theme parks. These are hardly the only possibilities out there (sorry, Minion fans), but let's make this the heavyweight fight, shall we?
Before we get to the vote, let's clarify something. We're not talking about themed rooms in the way that the Disney's Art of Animation rooms are themed to a particular Disney film. We're talking about a hotel that creates a completely immersive environment, one that is the location from the franchise, not just a standard hotel room decorated with pictures and toys.
That's a really tough challenge to master. If you're staying on a Star Wars Imperial Destroyer, can you have windows in your room that betray you're still here on Earth? People have romantic ideas about staying in Hogwarts, the Batcave, or a pirate ship, but they also have sharply well-developed expectations for what a (probably rather expensive) hotel should deliver, and those might stand in direct conflict with the romance of the theme.
So what gives? As we learned when Universal opened a real-life Krusty Burger, you never skimp on the guest experience. In The Simpsons' world, Krusty Burgers tasted awful. But in the Universal theme parks, well, I find Krusty Burgers delicious. Universal caved on the theme in order to protect the customer experience of eating in its theme parks.
Would license holders allow Disney, Universal or another theme park company to do that in a hotel? From multiple reports, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling won't let Universal develop a Potter-themed hotel in part because of this inherent conflict. Why play a game that forces you to choose between cheating your theme or cheating your guest?
Maybe, then, we'll never actually see a truly immersive hotel built for any of these themes. Maybe the best we can hope for is standard rooms, decorated with reminders of these franchises. Disney, at least, can create some amazingly well detailed hotel rooms when it brings its "A" game. But remember how I said one of the joys of being a theme park fan was how parks inspire our imaginations? Let's imagine that we don't have to compromise and that we can have a immersive themed hotel with an amazing guest experience. If all of these were possibilities, which would you choose first?
Let's play hotel designer, and tell us about your dream themed hotel room, in the comments.
If they're running a grand a night I won't be seeing the inside anyway, so I could give a rat's end.
Wow, Harry Potter wins again, even after the two Wizarding Worlds, people want even more? The Star Wars hotel sounds a lot like the former Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, which was great. But my vote - how about a castle hotel?
What about a real Hollywood Tower Hotel? Have it be like a real glamorous hotel of the era, with modern amenities including Wi-Fi, TV, and working elevators that take you to your floor, not just a weird trip back to where you started.
I said Pirates, but I couldn't afford to stay at any heavily themed hotel anyway.
I voted Hogwarts dorm. Seems obvious that the lack of a full sized school at the top of the hill is something we definitely need. Imagine the possibilities.
I love Randy's HTH idea but I think the elevators should randomly drop you to the basement when you least expect it! At least 3 times a day. It would make every elevator trip suspenseful.
I don't want an overly themed hotel. When I'm in the parks I want my senses to be stimulated but for the hotel I want it mildly themed in a very relaxing way. Kids rooms in family suites could be themed more elaborate but as an adult I like to wind down and relax. But I'm sure any of the presented hotels in this survey will bring in a ton of cash.
How about Westworld? Perfect integration of hotel and theme park... Only suggestion is to change a few of the storylines hehehe
My billion dollar fantasies would include:
I don't know if guests are really going to buy into this "full immersion" concept. It sounds great and all, and I'm sure both Disney and Universal could both offer a quality experience. However, the only current comparable right now are Escape Rooms that are getting decent traction in most metropolitan areas. Those experiences put guests into a fully immersive environment for about 1-2 hours at a time, and then the guests can go back to the real world. Would guests really accept full immersion for 2+ days, and at what cost? Disney pulled it off with The Adventurer's Club, but again it was only a few hours at a time, and guests could walk out the door whenever they got bored or tired of saying Kungaloosh.
I would think that the pirate ship would be great, but I would also like the bat cave. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo has a wide price range with a huge variety of room types - lightly themed to heavily themed ( http://www.madonnainn.com/features.php )
For a regular hotel, I actually think this sounds like a rather silly concept. Immersive themed lands work really well inside the parks because guests experience them for two or three hours at a time, so it is possible to pretend the outside world doesn't exist until you decide to leave the area. However, most people would have difficulty separating from the outside world for 2-3 days while staying at one of these fully immersive hotels, and even if they could it is likely something would break the illusion at some point. I'm not against the idea of a themed hotel, but it needs to be a hotel first and an attraction second, not the other way around.
Harry Potter FTW!!!