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Disney World Plans Vacation Club Expansion at the Polynesian

March 15, 2022, 11:15 AM · Disney is proposing to add a new Disney Vacation Club building at Walt Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort.

The DVC expansion will include an undisclosed number of Villas for DVC owners and guests as well as "new recreation offerings and dining options," according to Disney. The expansion is planned to open in late 2024.

New DVC building at Disney's Polynesian Resort
Concept art courtesy Disney

"It's no secret that our Members and Guests love the monorail resorts at Walt Disney World," Disney Vacation Club senior vice president and general manager Bill Diercksen said. "Expanding our Disney Vacation Club offerings at the Polynesian would give our Members and Guests yet another incredible option for staying close to the magic while making vacation memories that last a lifetime."

Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows currently has 380 Disney Vacation Club villas, including two-bedroom "Bora Bora Bungalows" located over the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

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Replies (21)

March 15, 2022 at 12:32 PM

I just don't get the mixed messages that Disney has been sending recently. They have been making clear moves since the beginning of the pandemic to attract more first time visitors while reducing advantages/perks for DVC and locals making frequent trips to WDW. Just before the pandemic struck, Disney had announced and began groundwork for Reflections - A Disney Lakeside Lodge, which was to be an exclusive DVC property on the old River Country site. Construction on that project has been idle throughout the pandemic, and there's no sign that it will resume any time soon. Now Disney comes out and announces another DVC expansion for the Poly (on top of the uber expensive Villas and Bungalows) without any update on the Reflections project.

They can't have their cake and eat it too, and while there's still demand for DVC (as evidenced by limited inventory right now for current owners, mostly because DVC owners didn't use any points in 2020 or 2021 and need to use them in 2022 before they are lost), but is DVC really a good investment any more given the reduction in benefits and increases in fees? Why did they spend money on design work for a DVC resort only to let it sit idle and then design another Poly expansion?

March 15, 2022 at 5:01 PM

This move is as brilliant as it is obvious. They already have two gate crasher attractions still to open in the parks. Then comes the new Futureworld at EPCOT. Meanwhile, UO has no e-tix rumored or announced for its existing parks. This leads us to reasonably believe that there will be no major Universal attractions until UEU which opens (maybe) in 2025.


A DVC resort generates a captive subscriber audience.

Well played Disney.

March 15, 2022 at 1:20 PM

In other, not-unrelated news, the Spirit of Aloha show is not coming back and now officially is closed permanently.

March 15, 2022 at 1:21 PM

OK TH, then how do you explain Disney abandoning Reflections? If Disney wanted to increase their "captive subscriber audience", they already had a path to meet demand with the previously announced and now seemingly abandoned project.

Also, if Disney is so desperate for a "captive subscriber audience", why have they continually undermined DVC owners since the pandemic with new policies and procedures that remove advantages for frequent guests? This is just another high end cash grab.

March 15, 2022 at 1:39 PM

"In other, not-unrelated news, the Spirit of Aloha show is not coming back and now officially is closed permanently."

BOOOOOOO

I guess Disney's retort would be, "You can go to Aulani!" I never had a chance to see Spirit of Aloha, but it was on the bucket list. Hoop De Doo Revue laid off its cast earlier this year, so that dinner show is probably done too.

March 15, 2022 at 1:43 PM

RM: "OK TH, then how do you explain Disney abandoning Reflections?"

Me: I don't, and I can't. But neither can you -- without knowing the details of the buildings' designs or the nature of the sites or the projected operating costs of each property. And by the way, the concept for this property could have been in the works for years. It could have followed Reflections. Disney might have flopped the schedule. Also Reflections could still be built some time down the road. Neither you or I have definitive information indicating one way or another.

RM: "If Disney wanted to increase their 'captive subscriber audience' ..."

Me: Um, "if"? They announced their plans so I don't think it's a matter of "if".

RM: "... they already had a path to meet demand with the previously announced and now seemingly abandoned project."

Me: And they no doubt evaluated that "path" and elected to go in another direction.

RM: "Also, if Disney is so desperate for a 'captive subscriber audience' ... "

Me: Who said they were "desperate"?

RM: ".... why have they continually undermined DVC owners since the pandemic with new policies and procedures that remove advantages for frequent guests?"

Me: I couldn't say. But this one guy recently posted "...there's still demand for DVC."

RM: "This is just another high end cash grab."

Me: And?

March 15, 2022 at 2:29 PM

I love it TH!!! Your silver lining perspective on Disney never wavers. Don't you find it concerning to see DVC pushing what appears to be a higher margin project (on a very aggressive 2.5 year delivery schedule) over a project that was more geared to address the major inventory problem with DVC? There's no doubt that additional DVC units at the Poly will be very popular (and lucrative) - Disney hints at this by noting the love of Monorail units in the press release. But for rank and file DVC owners, the points needed to stay at Monorail units is prohibitive, and accessibility of inventory to these owners won't be addressed with this addition. DVC needs additional mid-level units, which would have been addressed with Reflections, not more high-end units created with this addition. It's another example of Disney going after the high-end cash grab for short term financial gain instead of the broader audience that will ensure long-term loyalty.

It's difficult to tell whether these decisions will impact the overall popularity and financial success of WDW down the road, but it's certainly part of a concerning trend of Disney casting off the blue-collar crowd that scratches and claws every penny to afford a WDW vacation in favor of the white-collar travelers that generate high per-cap numbers but aren't nearly as loyal. If nothing else, this announcement should be a clear signal to fans that Disney considers itself a luxury brand reserved primarily for 6-figure incomes.

Also, what makes you think UO won't build another e-ticket at USF or IOA between now and 2025 (FWIW, YOU brought up the competitor down the street, not me)? They recently closed Shrek 4-D, and rumor has it that either a Secret Life of Pets or Kung Fu Panda clone would replace it (both fringe d/e-tickets). They just reopened Poseidon's Fury, and have reportedly put up new construction walls around parts of KidZone. While I wouldn't expect any massive, jaw-dropping additions before Epic Universe opens in 2025 (by nature, all the best ideas are going to be slated for the new park for the greatest impact), it doesn't mean that UC will be completely ignoring their existing parks.

After GOTGCR and Tron, what does Disney have on the horizon? The mythical Future World remake that is progressing on geologic time (aside from the Moana splash pad)? The oft-rumored Indy reskinning of Dinoland USA at DAK? Frankly, if you look at the current projects and long term rumors, as much as Universal is clearing the deck for Disney right now through the end of WDW50, Disney is similarly clearing the deck for Universal in 2025 for Epic Universe.

March 15, 2022 at 2:29 PM

How will this impact the monorail during construction? Getting cranes and heavy equipment under the beam would be difficult, or swinging a crane boom over it would be even more difficult. I would suspect a portion of track needs to be removed for some period of time. They probably won't build a new station for this stop, as they don't have a specific one for Baylake Tower or Grand Floridian DVC

March 15, 2022 at 2:41 PM

@K2fourski - I would expect a crane to be mobilized in pieces, and then assembled on the lake-side of the Monorail track. Even smaller mobile cranes used for deliveries and smaller lifts could easily drive under the track and then boom-up on the construction site. The concept drawings appear to put this addition right on top of where the Spirit of Aloha show building is currently (between Poly and Grand Floridian), which is why the closure accompanied this announcement.

I would not expect an additional Monorail stop for this addition as none was provided for Bay Lake Tower nor the Grand Floridian DVC expansion. It looks to be @5-8 minute walk to the Poly Monorail Station (about the same as Bay Lake Tower is to the Contemporary Station).

March 15, 2022 at 5:14 PM

RM: "... certainly part of a concerning trend ..."

Me: "Concerning" to whom, exactly? And you never answered my question about who claimed Disney was "desperate"?

RM: "... of Disney casting off the blue-collar crowd ..."

Me: First Disney has put millions into upgrading and renovating the rooms at their econ resorts -- Pop Century, the All Stars, the Caribbean, etc. While that may not be new construction, it still represents a substantial investment in the "blue-collar crowd" (your words) that "scratches and claws every penny to afford a WDW vacation" (also your drama queenesque words)." Incidentally, if this "claw and scratch" crowd (who you have previously referred to as "Disney drones" -- which is just so classy) is facing this sort of hardship, any level of timeshare would seem to be out of their reach. Thus wouldn't you be attacking Disney in the same manner if they had built Reflections?

RM: "... in favor of the white-collar travelers that generate high per-cap numbers but aren't nearly as loyal."

Me: Where is data that proves that difference in loyalty? Is the intensity of that "drone" feeling really dictated by class?

RM: "After GOTGCR and Tron, what does Disney have on the horizon?"

Me: Well there is Play Pavilion at EPCOT, for starters. But I have to wonder, if UO opens UEU in 2025 (which is not guaranteed and has not been officially announced) that would mean, at a minimum there would be a four year gap between e-tix (dino coaster to UEU). Now if you are fair minded and allow Disney the same legroom that would mean it would be acceptable (by your standards) for Disney to follow a 2023 TRON with a new gate crasher in 2027.

NEXT!

March 15, 2022 at 4:16 PM

??

March 15, 2022 at 7:56 PM

not to beat a dead horse here, but disney has always been reflective of society in this way. DVC running low on mid-range units isn’t a problem for Disney — it’s a problem for people unwilling or unable to spend their way to a more expensive vacation.

the upper class (or upper middle class, or whatever you prefer) is brand loyal, too. you wouldn’t believe how many land rovers these people buy in a lifetime.

March 16, 2022 at 8:15 AM

@TH -- My family and I just returned from 11 days in Orlando, and set foot on Disney property exactly twice, something that would have been unfathomable as recently as a couple of years ago. (Once to mini-golf, and once to eat and shop at the Springs). Disney has always had a "teen problem," which morphed into a "tween" problem. It's grown beyond that. My 6 and 9 year olds now prefer the UO experience to Disney. The "dino coaster" (as you refer to it) is the best addition to an Orlando Park since Hagrid's. These are the types of experiences that were solely created by Disney in the past, but not anymore. Yes, Rise of the Resistance is amazing, but securing a spot to ride it has now become a challenge of both patience and the pocketbook. It honestly seems like Disney has created the world greatest multi-system, narrative ride that is an "up charge, add-on" to your park experience. I grew up ten minutes from Disney World...I was still living there when Universal opened. So, for me to say that my family enjoys the overall experience of Universal...it is hard. But the facts are the facts: The "value" resorts at Disney are out of the way, poorly themed, and the kicker...so small you need one of the beds to be a murphy bed!?!?! Contrast that with Cabana Bay, which has the cool So Cal vibe of the '50's with normal sized rooms (and bathrooms) and two actual for real beds. All within a 5 minute bus ride of the parks.

The biggest challenge I see in the future for Universal is how do they successfully integrate a new park that is miles away across busy streets like I-Drive, and not shatter the illusion that you are at a singular themed resort.

One last thing on the perceived value: with all of the changes Disney has made removing perks and now up charging for them or similar offerings. This was something that always seemed below Disney. Like, that is something that Six Flags would do, but Disney saw the low hanging dollars, and grasped with all their might. (Something I don't mind as a shareholder). However, that Disney difference, that perceived value that was inherently Disney is now erased. They are just another vacation spot that is trying to upsell the next LL or genie plus.

March 16, 2022 at 9:34 AM

OK TH, I'll play...

If Disney wasn't desperate, why are they fast tracking this new Poly expansion? I agree that there's no way to know whether the design work for this new tower was done alongside or even before Reflections, but the announcement (including opening timeline) of a project that hasn't even broken ground ahead of another resort that broke ground but has been sitting idle for nearly 2 years is pretty telling that Disney is desperate for higher end DVC owners, not satisfying existing mid-level owners.

When it comes to DVC, I think you misunderstand how many prospective buyers approach the program. The blue-collar folks that I describe purchase DVC as a value proposition and a way to make their regular WDW vacations more affordable. In fact, the "Do You Wanna Know a Secret?" campaign that DVC used through the 2010's explicitly targeted guests that took frequent trips to Orlando and were looking for ways to save money as the prices of these annual (or more frequent) trips continued to rise and eat into their disposable income. Blue collar folks that live on more constrained budgets were "scratching and clawing" to afford regular trips to WDW (and other vacations), so DVC represented a way to save money and better control annual vacation costs. That's really been the success of DVC as a hedge against inflation, but recent changes have started to erode the value of the product that made it so appealing to blue collar guests, who could purchase APs, Tables in Wonderland, and other programs that decreased costs while staying at WDW on top of increased maintenance fees and eroding point transfer ratios and unit availability. It's absolutely true that whether you're purchasing a unit at the Grand Floridian or Saratoga Springs, DVC ownership by its nature establishes a sense of loyalty, but I've always believed (and there's plenty of data to support) that guests who spend a larger percentage of their income on a product are going to be more loyal and apt to use it than someone where a purchase is a relative drop in the bucket. Those blue collar DVC owners are rarely going to allow their points expire, and are going to maximize every benefit of their DVC ownership (eroding Disney's margin as a result) compared to the white collar DVC owners that are still loyal to Disney, but not as motivated to extract maximum value from their investment (increasing Disney's margin). By prioritizing a higher-end (Monorail) DVC expansion over Reflections confirms that Disney sees higher margins from these more expensive units that doesn't help the average DVC owner looking for value from their ownership when their home resort is consistently sold out due to pent up demand generated from the pandemic. Yes, it's probably a smart short-term business decision, but it's definitely rubbing some long-time, loyal Disney fans the wrong way who were already growing frustrated with the recent operational changes across WDW.

So what about Play Pavilion? Is Imagineering even working on this project right now? Is it even an e-ticket? When the Moana splash pad was announced, the renovation of Wonders of Life was brushed under the rug, and reports are that there is nothing going on inside the pavilion right now. As far as observers can tell, the Play Pavilion project is in the same bucket as the Mary Poppins attraction, an announced project sitting in limbo. Also, you seem to discount Universal's ability to fast track projects even though they have a long history of moving major attractions from the drawing board to opening in less than 2 years. Disney has 2 "gate crashers" presumably opening within the next 18 months, but nothing even rumored to be on the drawing board between 2023 and 2025. While UC is probably putting most of their resources into Epic Universe right now, they at least have a history of being able to develop e-ticket level attractions much faster than WDI, and could supplement the current parks with a "gate crasher" style attraction during a time where WDW is taking a pause following the flurry of activity they've done in preparation for WDW50.

March 16, 2022 at 9:13 AM

Next

March 16, 2022 at 9:36 AM

Disney said it is their new business model to limit capacity for less crowds so it should not surprise anyone that if they are adding hotel capacity its for higher net worth people. I would be shocked if they ever added anything "value" ever again TBH unless something changes they don't seem to have any problems filling up their parks.

Also this is just another example of why never to buy a timeshare or put yourself into any kind of box/long term agreement with any company ever. Changes in management, changes in market conditions, or companies just locking you in to set you up for the eventual screw-over...these things happen. Play with snakes you're going to get bit.

March 16, 2022 at 10:42 AM

I agree with your assessment Russell, my thought is that Disney sees no more money to extract from guests in that income bracket as costs continue to outpace wage growth. Those same guests that spent a large portion of their income on a timeshare (which I would not recommend, but I empathize with!) are guests Disney, like many (perhaps all, even!) corporations, do not value beyond the next dollar they can hand over.

So here we are. The company is moving on, not because it no longer values customer loyalty or because it now values a bigger wad of cash more than it values customer loyalty, but because it never valued that loyalty all that much to begin with. Rectifying that dissonance is, in my mind, why so many people are upset.

It doesn't make me feel good, but there's no part of engaging with this economy that makes me feel good. It's just, you know, the deal. I have no illusions that it operates otherwise.

March 16, 2022 at 11:12 AM

You're absolutely right Jacob, but I think Disney's current tact is very short-sighted. They were getting plenty of big spenders over the past 25+ years, but still managed to carve out places at the table for more value conscious guests. I'm under no delusion that a vacation to WDW was ever "cheap", but there have always been ways to make a Disney trip more affordable (there's an entire cottage industry that arose from increasing demand to save money on a Disney vacation). Also, those guests that found savings and value were able to return year after year after year (many buying DVC to feed their addiction to WDW), which generated deep loyalty and fanaticism. However, reaching into more and more deep pocketed guests appears to be occurring at the expense of the Disney loyalists that made WDW so popular in the first place.

To me it's like the sports team that is mediocre for a number of years, but does things to court and maintain their core fans and season ticket holders. As the team improves and makes its way up the standings in successive years, demand for tickets and interest in the team increases, triggering price increases and reduction of benefits for even long-time fans that supported the team when it was non-competitive. When that team wins a championship, the demand reaches its heights, and EVERYONE wants to be a part of the success, causing ticket prices to soar even higher to capitalize on the success to the point where even the most loyal fans have to stretch or make compromises to afford their season tickets. Success in sports is fleeting, and the big spenders that didn't mind the crazy ticket prices to watch a championship team no longer want to support a rebuilding one, yet the core fans that supported the team through the dark days are gone because they got priced out. Now that team has to woo fans all over again to rebuild their core audience, which is far more expensive than the profits earned through increased prices resulting from the successful run.

Disney is in the same boat as a championship sports team. WDW is the king of theme parks, but is leaving many of its core fans that supported the resort through thick and thin out in the cold with the company's actions designed to court deeper pocketed visitors. Like sports teams, Disney will probably recognize plenty of short-term profit from these big spenders as long as it is a winning product, but just like in sports, big spenders can be very fickle with their money, while loyalty from hard core fans is much more stable and long-lasting. Disney is chasing a golden ring while leaving their golden goose standing in the cold.

March 16, 2022 at 7:27 PM

I want to begin by saying that my first post on this thread just offered up my thoughts on the decision to build this DVC property. I think with two solid attractions about to open at WDW, the decision to add DVC rooms and lock-in subscribers seems to be a wise one. Especially since the second place theme park/resort model down the road has no announced attractions set to open before 2025.

I did not engage Russell at all. In fact, if I had responded directly to him when he asked "but is DVC really a good investment any more given the reduction in benefits and increases in fees?" I would have replied that I never believed it was a good investment even when there were perks.

This back and forth started because he couldn't let me voice an opinion without demanding I explain myself. Keep in mind this is the same guy who once declared he wouldn't "allow" me to call Disney Springs a theme park.

And frankly Russell, I am not sure where you and I are clashing. When you ask "If Disney wasn't desperate, why are they fast tracking this new Poly expansion?" you absolutely have to admit your assertion the project is being fast tracked is pure conjecture. Additionally, when you post "I agree that there's no way to know whether the design work for this new tower was done alongside or even before Reflections ..." I would contend there is a way to know -- which would be if you were on the company's construction team and not just reading tea leaves and generating theories. It would be more accurate if you had written that "there is no way that you or I currently know if the design work was done simultaneously, OR if the project is being fast-tracked, OR if Disney is acting out of desperation."

RM: "... but the announcement (including opening timeline) of a project that hasn't even broken ground ahead of another resort that broke ground but has been sitting idle for nearly 2 years is pretty telling that Disney is desperate for higher end DVC owners."

Me: What do you mean it has "broken ground"? How much of the underground work had been complete? How many contracts had been issued to the core trades? How complete were the drawings? 50%? 30%? And what are the material and labor quantities for each resort? How much has the cost to construct Reflections escalated? And how do those costs compare to building the Poly tower? If we don't have answers to those very basic questions then any claims about the motives behind the company's decision have no value.

And by the way, Reflections is a completely new concept. Disney has already followed the model for the Poly tower when it built Bay Lake Tower next to the Contemporary. Back-of-house facilities, utility infrastructure and a chunk of other operational considerations are already in-place. Reflections would have required a ton of new stuff.

As for Disney focusing on what you theorize are less-than-loyal white collar customers I'll shrug my shoulders and ask, so what? Does this mean Disney going to lose loyalty from all of those "blue collar" guests? Maybe. I mean how could I argue with that assertion when there is "there's plenty of data to support" that "that guests who spend a larger percentage of their income on a product are going to be more loyal and apt to use it".

Granted none of that data is presented here. Data specific to theme parks or fabric softener. But ... well, whatever.

But (again) since you have previously characterized those folks as "drones" I am not sure that anyone can conclude the impact will be all that substantial. And I wonder when that impact will be felt? Got any theories on that?

As for the new attractions stuff and Universal pumping them out in two years (the way they did on concepts like 'Fast & Furious: Super Charged' or 'Race Through New York') I don't disagree, nor did I ever discount their ability to build stuff quickly. I am saying that Disney has two big attractions that will be opening in the near future and that (as of right now) with the exception of UEU (which may open in 2025) Universal Orlando has "nothing even rumored to be on the drawing board between 2023 and 2025".

March 16, 2022 at 1:56 PM

@MLB: "dino coaster" (as you refer to it) is the best addition to an Orlando Park since Hagrid's."

Me: I agree that the 'VelociCoaster' is great. However 'Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure' opened in an Orlando park in June 2019. I think 'Rise of the Resistance' (which opened in December 2019) is a more impressive themed entertainment production than Hagrid's ("as you refer to it").

MLB: The biggest challenge I see in the future for Universal is how do they successfully integrate a new park that is miles away across busy streets like I-Drive, and not shatter the illusion that you are at a singular themed resort.

Me: Kirkman Road is being extended past the Martin Marietta building. That extension will be complete in 2025. This means they won't actually have to deal with International Drive. They may also be building a bypass lane that will travel straight through to the park. Which would be great.

March 16, 2022 at 7:09 PM

to TH's point, people getting screwed (my word) by a large entity that they love but does not appear to reciprocate doesn't always... you know... lead to a breakup. pick your contemporary example of choice.

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