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The 4 most important decisions the Disney Parks and Resorts ever made

Creating Disney Vacation Club

 christiantlambert, Flickr (license)

Image: christiantlambert, Flickr (license)

For a lot of people, the word “timeshare” conjures up images of poorly-maintained beachside properties with draconian rules and iron-clad decades-long contracts. Sold on the promise of “vacation ownership” and advertised alongside too-good-to-be-true freebies, timeshares are almost synonymous with scams.

And, in point of fact, many are total scams. But, for some reason, the Walt Disney Company looked at its hotels and looked at the timeshare market and said to itself, “Eureka!”

To be clear, the Disney Vacation Club is not a scam, and it is this fact that makes it one of the most popular and influential vacation schemes on planet earth. Since Disney opened its Old Key West resort in 1991, 13 other DVC properties have launched around the world, including resorts at Disneyland Resort in California, Vero Beach in Florida, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, and Ko Olina in Hawaii.

DVC resorts are among Disney’s most beautiful and most unique, and the flexibility to transfer DVC membership points between resorts and even Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney has made the program essential for lifelong Disney fans. It has been so profitable for the company, that it continues to build new DVC properties at a blistering rate, with the newly-signed contracts offsetting construction costs dramatically.

Launching a timeshare in the 1990s was not a guarantee of success, and yet Disney managed to do it without breaking a sweat. And their product is so fantastic, it still is growing faster than ever before.

Taking food seriously

 aloha75, Flickr (license)

Image: aloha75, Flickr (license)

In 1993, the world met an upstart cable channel called the TV Food Network. Eventually, that station shortened its name to Food Network, and America was never the same again.

Celebrity chefs, cooking tutorials, and food documentaries changed our relationship to the things we eat, creating a space for food to exist not just as sustenance, but as a hobby. Now, you can identify as a “foodie,” and the world knows just what you mean.

The era of the Food Network continues today, with American pop culture becoming subsumed by its love of the culinary arts, and somewhere along the line, Disney decided to ride that wave as far as it could.

For a long time, food at the Disney Parks was either secondary or gimmicky. Cone-shaped “handwiches” represented the ultimate of Disney cuisine, alongside enormous but sinewy turkey legs and simple but tasty popcorn. The most exciting culinary offerings at Walt Disney World were fettuccine Alfredo at the Italy pavilion at Epcot, or the luxe cuisine at the French pavilion.

Those days are long gone now, however, with Disney seeking out new and exciting flavors to feature and up and coming celebrity chefs to partner with. Gone are the gimmicks, and in their place are real, bold flavors.

And, as a capstone project for its decades-long transformation into a foodie’s paradise, Disney created the Epcot Food and Wine Festival as a beacon of hope to all who love to eat. It’s Epcot’s busiest time outside of the holidays, and it was born entirely out of Disney discovering a commitment to flavor as a human experience worth cultivating.

What’s the next big decision that changes Disney as we know it? We’ll surely find out soon.

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