What's your dream theme for a theme park hotel?

April 19, 2017, 8:45 PM · 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.

Replies (19)

April 19, 2017 at 8:55 PM · If they're running a grand a night I won't be seeing the inside anyway, so I could give a rat's end.
April 19, 2017 at 9:35 PM · 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?
April 19, 2017 at 9:49 PM · 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.
April 19, 2017 at 10:04 PM ·
April 19, 2017 at 10:39 PM · I said Pirates, but I couldn't afford to stay at any heavily themed hotel anyway.
April 20, 2017 at 12:08 AM · 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.

Not listed is a Disney Princess suite. Imagine living like Cinderella or Belle.

April 20, 2017 at 5:28 AM · 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.
April 20, 2017 at 6:12 AM · 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.
April 20, 2017 at 6:32 AM · How about Westworld? Perfect integration of hotel and theme park... Only suggestion is to change a few of the storylines hehehe
April 20, 2017 at 9:33 AM · Sarah,

That elevator drop sounds too much like "Robert's Old College Dorm" hotel to me. /triggered

April 20, 2017 at 9:37 AM · My billion dollar fantasies would include:

1) Zootopia

2) Hogwarts

3) Rivendell

4) Minas Tirith

5) Monstropolis or Monsters University

6) The Shire, Bree and Lake Town

7) The Death Star

April 20, 2017 at 11:25 AM · Robert,

I think that's a staple of every college dorm....everywhere......ever...in the history of college dorms... :)

April 20, 2017 at 11:59 AM · 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.

It's definitely intriguing to consider the thought of checking into Hogwarts/Starship Hotel, being shown to your room by the Head of House/Squadron Leader, and then spending the next 2 days being enveloped by everything HP/SW (playing Quiddich on the lawn, learning spells from the Dark Arts teacher, eating a feast in the common room, watching a Tri-Wizard Tournament, learning the ways of the force, getting X-Wing pilot lessons, avoiding the Pit of Sarlacc, pod racing, and more), but I wonder if guests would at some point need to escape. That's the beauty of theme parks. If you get tired of something, or just grow uncomfortable with where you're at, there's almost always something else that will interest you. This is also why we've yet to see a full theme park successfully dedicated to a single IP. In a full immersion concept, you're all-in, and unless you're willing to walk away from an experience you've already paid for, you're stuck in the world until it's over. That sounds too much like work to me, and not a vacation (though some would say any theme park vacation is too much "work" these days).

I have no doubt that Disney could find 1,000 people every 2-3 days to fill up their boutique Hotel Starship and participate in the fully immersive entertainment. However, at some point you'd think the guests will grow tired of the experience, or will be unsatisfied with what's going on to the point where they'll want to check out pre-maturely. Then you have to question the repetitiveness of the itinerary, and whether guests would spend the same amount to go live through the same script, or how frequently scripts need to rotate to keep guests coming back.

I think this concept seems like a home run, but is not as ideal as you would think. Certainly the uber-nerds would be all over something like this, but how many of those are really out there, and how many would continue to shell out for an experience that has to stay relatively consistent to ensure guest satisfaction? Can you tailor the immersive experience to the entire family, or are you splitting families up to cater to each member's specific interest? It's a very slippery slope, and an idea that really should be tested on a smaller scale before Disney goes all in on it.

At some point, wouldn't it just be easier to implant memories of an immersive vacation, so we don't have to trek all the way to a distant planet? Kuato lives!!!

April 20, 2017 at 8:12 PM · 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 )

Other ideas from the them park apprentice game a few years back are here: http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=945507050

I still think that Knott's Berry Farm should do more than the couple of Snoopy (lightly) themed rooms. A more themed western feel would make it more of a resort destination.
(I also think that the theme park apprentice game should make a comeback.)

April 20, 2017 at 10:20 PM · 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.

For a specialty overnight experience, however, I could see something like this working if the IP was right (Harry Potter is the best fit of the IPs above). It probably would need to be relatively small (no more than 1,000 guests per night), but there might be an audience for that type of attraction.

April 21, 2017 at 12:20 PM · Harry Potter FTW!!!
April 21, 2017 at 6:03 PM · The full immersion hotel is really like taking a cruise on dry land. It's like committing to going on a cruise ship on open water for two days and being cutoff in that way from the world. The hotel functions like a cruise ship in that way: you check in and the immersive experience begins...and you stay in that bubble for two days and then check out.

You could have so many different variations on this. I'd love to stay at Hogwarts. But, I'd also love to stay in The Haunted Mansion too. Imagine staying in a "real" haunted place like that and getting to sleep "in the Mansion" and having things to explore and little mysteries to solve. That would be incredible for me, with little scares and frights. But I doubt it would get a lot of interest from the general public who'd want to be in that spooky environment for two days.

April 24, 2017 at 6:20 AM · I think a star wars death star would look very cool. If Disney were to make one, I would hope they would make it look similar to Epcot's Spaceship Earth.
April 24, 2017 at 1:17 PM · PLAYBOY Mansion circa 1977. Every guest gets a monogrammed smoking jacket, while "Hef" holds court at The Grotto. Who needs the parks?

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