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Disney’s Newest Hotels Could Be a Sign of Bad Things to Come

Where there is theming, it’s extremely immersive


Image: Disney

There is one new hotel which we haven’t mentioned, in part because it’s shattering every paradigm we’ve ever known from Disney lodging: the Star Wars hotel.

An ultra-luxe hyper-immersive experience designed to fit into the Star Wars universe, the new Star Wars hotel is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. And, in fact, it is not going to meet any of the concerns over theming that Disney’s Riviera Resort or Reflections have come up against.

But while those resorts are certainly coming under fire for lacking any real Disney-style theming, the Star Wars hotel might actually have the opposite problem: It might just be too much.

Some people aren’t going to want to stay in a hotel that has a television screen showing “space” outside instead of a real window. Some people aren’t going to want to shell out thousands of dollars to live in the Star Wars universe 24-hours a day during their vacation. Some people just aren’t going to have an interest in this kind of always-on role-playing vibe.

Why is that a problem? Well, if the Star Wars hotel is successful, Disney’s only going to do more of it, not less. There will likely be a Marvel hotel, and a Princess hotel, and countless other bites at the same apple. The days of relaxing, casually themed resorts will be long gone by. The problem isn’t these highly-themed resorts coming — it’s that they’ll be the only resorts coming.

“Value” no longer exists

 justzanna, Flickr (license)

Image: justzanna, Flickr (license)

But the single biggest omen coming from the Disney resorts is the lack of pure “value” resorts at Walt Disney World.

When the classification was created alongside the All-Star Resorts in 1994, the “value” category was meant to give anyone interested in an on-property Disney resort a way in to the experience. Most Disney resorts up until that point had been only for the most deluxe vacationers, with everyone else having to stay off-property at one of the separately-owned hotels on International Drive. Realizing they were leaving money on the table by not having a place for more budget-conscious travelers to stay, Disney opened the value resorts to make space for that class of traveler.

Now, with Disney focusing on building luxurious experiences like the Star Wars hotel and plussing current value resorts like Art of Animation and Pop Century by adding gondola access to the parks, the “value” designation is quickly becoming a thing of the past. That’s a shame, because entry-level hotel concepts are what keep guests coming back to Disney year after year.

Loyal Disney fans are created not through a single once-in-a-lifetime trip, but rather, through several trips throughout adolescence. Having budget-friendly hotels with classic Disney theming creates that personal connection that keeps people coming back again and again. Sure, one time, you might splurge and try a Star Wars-style resort, but most of the time, you need something lower down the price scale to serve as a bed to sleep in while you explore the parks.

The future of Disney’s resorts, at the moment, looks as exciting as it is bleak. Yes, there is new development coming to the property all the time. But, unfortunately, it’s either catering to a very niche audience, priced at a very high price point, or themed in a generic non-Disney way. That’s a shift for Disney.

Will this new lodging strategy pay off? Who can say for sure. All we know is, Disney’s changing right now in ways we won’t fully understand for another decade at least. How it all shakes out will determine how Disney is perceived not just right now, but for a generation to come.

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