What kind of tourist are you?
If you've booked a vacation with Disney or Universal recently — of if you own a seasonal pass with any of the regional amusement park chains — you've probably been asked to complete a guest survey at one point or another. (I fit all of the above categories, so I get these surveys via email all the time!)
The especially interesting surveys, to me, aren't those that ask about my recent visits to the parks. The ones that really get my attention are those that are looking for some information that the parks can use to guide their future development. Now, almost all of these surveys have some confidentiality requirement attached, so I can't write about any specific surveys I've seen. (And some of the surveys that ask about specific ideas for new stuff are just tests that don't actually mean the park is actually considering building those things.) But a common theme I have seen on multiple companies' surveys tries to get at defining what kind of tourists we are.
I thought that would be an interesting topic of conversation for us here. So I have gone ahead and created our own Theme Park Insider survey to ask "what kind of tourist are you?" (A Google account is required to answer the survey, so that we can limit the responses to one per reader.)
Allow me to get the conversation flowing with my answers.
Familiar or New? This question was the toughest call for me, because the nature of my job here requires me to keep coming back to the destinations most popular with theme park fans. (I've been to Orlando five times this year, with a sixth trip planned for next month.) Don't get me wrong, I enjoy every visit to familiar destinations, but going someplace new excites me too... well, so long as it is somewhere I want to go. Wow, what a cop-out answer. Anyway, I picked "new" here.
Journey or Destination? Journey for me, easily. I am Mr. Roadtrip, after all, and I'm also one of those seemingly rare souls who loves being in an airport. Walking into the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX makes my heart soar, because I know I am not just heading for a far-off destination, but that I get to enjoy the privilege of the journey to get there.
Group or Immediate family or Solo? I remain emotionally scarred by school and Boy Scout trips that shepherded me in a crowd through wherever we were visiting. Whenever I got the chance to go off alone, I took it. I've loved going on roadtrips with my family over the years, but I most enjoy traveling on my own, at my own (usually breakneck) pace and doing whatever it is that I want. So... Solo.
Luxury or Utilitarian? Ask me this 20 years ago, and my cheap ass would have answered utilitarian without hesitation. These days? In the immortal words of Roger Murtaugh, "I'm getting to old for this s---." Luxury. But... I feel bad about it?
Service or DIY? This was the clearest choice for me. I took a cruise for the first time this summer, and I realized on it how much I cannot stand the loss of freedom to go do stuff for myself. And let me carry my own darned bag, please. DIY, all the way.
Plan in advance or Play it by ear? What is my job again? Yeah, I make a living based upon people's need to plan stuff in advance, and I do practice what I preach. We are going to have a significant selection bias on this one, given that it's our survey. All this said, I always am happy to considering ditching a plan for a better, unforeseen alternative, but I believe in first having a plan to ditch.
Step by step or General concepts? This one might seem redundant to the previous question, but the Internet has made these two distinct qualities, IMHO. People who plan in advance can go either way here, but so can "play it ear" people. The "play it by ear" by people who need step by step instructions are the ones you see pulling out their phones to Google a plan on the fly, just as soon as they decide what to do. While I gladly will fire up Waze to get me though traffic, I generally prefer to stick to general concepts and not get tied down with inflexible step-by-step itineraries.
So, in summary, I like to plan in advance to fly solo to a variety of destinations, while enjoying the journey even more, staying in as nice an accommodation as I can afford, so long as they let me handle my stuff and my business myself.
What about you? Please fill out the survey above, then fill in some detail in the comments.
I’m surprised you take the confidentiality agreements seriously. They are largely general questions. Will they sue you for revealing your own answers to their questions? They can try. I try to be helpful, but I feel they are about marketing than improving their services or new attractions.
I'm in a unique position because I cover the parks for a living, and I strive to do that as ethically as possible. So if I say that I won't reveal something, I won't.
It's funny, I used to be a HUGE advance planner, but since moving to Orlando two years ago, I get to go to Disney/Universal all the time and thus have the luxury of just strolling down to the parks to do whatever for a few hours. It's helped me relax when I go to other parks that aren't local and kind of go with the flow. I still answered "plan in advance" because I do like to have strong knowledge of what the destination has on offer, but I'm no longer rigidly locked into one specific gameplan months before I arrive at the front gate.
A lifelong personal friend of mine is a world traveler and loves to fly by the seat of his pants. He hates "package tour deals" and refuses to follow any kind of rules or plans. I on the other hand am the polar opposite. So when he said to me "the next time you go to Disney, I am going along", you can only imagine how THAT trip would play out!
Interesting questions, but many of the answers, for me, could easily be both/all. And, for me, depending on the answer to one question, it would affect the answer to another; ie plan step-by-step when travelling with family VS play it by ear when by myself. Love the journey with friends or self VS get me to the destination ASAP with family (please, for the love of gawd, get me there!). Love going somewhere familiar with new-and-added luxury (thank-you increasingly expensive Disney World hotels) VS can go somewhere new and happily sleep on a park bench.
Familiar or new was also a challenging question for me. As much as I enjoy visiting parks for the first time and experiencing something novel, the only new parks I visited this season were Alton Towers and Quassy. I find myself returning to the 2 Texas Six Flags parks regularly and this is for both entertainment and economic reasons. Both have coasters on my personal top ten steel coaster list and both are serviced by low budget airlines. The destination rather than the journey is everything with one exception: I'll be making my 2nd trip this year to Six Flags New England at the end of the month because I discovered that I enjoy travelling by train. And I do prefer to travel alone because that way I can do what I want to do whether that means riding Iron Rattler 10 times or having lunch at an ice cream stand. As to accommodations, my budget doesn't usually allow anything other than strictly utilitarian although over Labor Day weekend on a trip to Dollywood I did pay for a room with a whirlpool. That being said, there are definitely new places I'd like to visit, Fuji- Q Highland being at the top of my bucket list, but I don't see that happening for economic reasons.
I think some of these questions can be interpreted in slightly different ways.
I recently got a survey from a competitor to Disney (it's confidential remember ;-) .
With "theme park world" becoming obesessively driven by apps with options to pre-book everything then those who "play it by ear" will become increasingly rarer and at a distinct disadvantage unfortuately. Guests' experience is becoming robotic.
Neglected to address the planning issue. Trips to local parks are often last minute but trips out of the area have required advance planning to the extent of booking a flight or train and hotel room. An international trip is a different story altogether. For my trip to Alton Towers I had to book a flight to London, package for Alton Towers including hotel/park entry/Fast Track and roundtrip on Virgin Trains. I was somewhat apprehensive as to whether I would be able to retrieve my prepaid train ticket from a machine at Euston station but it worked fine and to this day I continue to get emails from Virgin Trains despite the fact that it may be a long time before I get back to the UK.
When I go on trips I have to plan them out very carefully because I never just go one place. For example last year I went on a trip to China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia. It's pretty much impossible to see a lot (not only parks, but historical sites as well as other things I want to see) without a huge amount of pre-planning.
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