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The marketing folks at Disney typically talk about guest visits to its destinations and theme parks, vacations onboard its cruise ships and participation in its family-friendly tours in a broad-based, multigenerational context. In the past, the promotional hook might have been about making memories or celebrating a themed anniversary year.
New research, however, is now giving the company and travel agents who sell the product more targeted marketing information in identifying six distinct guest groups for whom a Disney vacation may be a good fit based on the seasons of their lives, according to Ed Fouche, Disney’s senior vice president, travel agency sales, North America.
Speaking at last month’s CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando (which also included a three-night cruise onboard the Disney Dream), Fouche reminded agents that Disney has always been guest-centric and strived over the years to exceed guest expectations and deliver a vacation of a lifetime. But now, Disney is broadening its focus to make sure the company and agents who sell the product understand who the customers are, who they are not, what’s important to them, and what type of vacation fits best for the current season of their lives.
Fouche gave “an early look at what we’re learning” to the agents, noting that by understanding these six Disney client groups “it will help you market and sell better to clients.” He said that these are “working categories,” but they provide insight into those guests who provide the greatest revenue opportunities for the company and for agents.
Fans: This group comprises travelers who already have a strong and emotional connection to Disney. They typically have a higher income. They are willing to pay more than other travelers for premium leisure trips and spend approximately $7,000 a year on a vacation.
Fans generally spend a lot of their vacation time with Disney, using the brand as a backdrop for a birthday, graduation, family gathering and so on. Fouche urged agents to find these clients and “hang on, because not only fans willing to pay a little more [for the Disney experience], they’re also likely to visit multiple Disney destinations.”
Fans know so much about the Disney product that they want to be the first to experience what’s new at Disney such as the major renovations at Disneyland Hotel, the newly reimagined Disney’s California Adventure with the new Cars Land or the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World with a grand opening in December.
Travelers: Travelers are not as interested in the theme parks as fans. Instead, Fouche said this group will focus on many different types of vacations in their lifetime, including Disney. However, this is also a group agents want to hold on to, as it’s made up of families or experienced travelers who spend about $8,000 per year on vacation.
“They’re ideally suited for an Adventures by Disney trip,” said Fouche, in discussing the escorted vacation offerings in Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S. West. These diverse hands-on, immersion experiences provide the type of experiences these travelers seek.
Savers: These people focus on family time, have less money to spend, have a moderate income and are more budget-conscious; they spend about $3,000 when they take a vacation. They may not travel every year, but may go every few years.
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He said the new Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World offers themed family suites that sleep up to six. Guests stay immersed in the Disney theming even after they’ve left the theme parks, which is a good fit for such travelers. Agents need to promote to this group with communications and options that are full of emotional experiences. “Walt Disney built Disneyland with these families in mind,” Fouche stressed.
Actives: These folks are typically on-the-go, active parents, spend $8,000 a year on a vacation. While they value family time, the adults also want to spend time together without the kids. Disney Cruise Line, with its supervised children’s programs and distinct options that cater to adults, tweens and teens, as well as younger kids, plays well in promoting to this group.
Another Disney option that works well for these travelers is Aulani, the line’s new Hawaii resort, which Disney is already expanding. Guests are immersed in the beauty, culture and heritage of Hawaii from the moment they arrive. The contemporary Hawaiian art, the adult and teen spa programs, the children’s program, Water Wonderland, Volcanic tube slide, private snorkeling lagoons and other perks make it a good fit for this group.
Friends: This is the younger crowd; these people travel together, spend about $4,000 on vacation, and grew up watching Disney on TV. They have an affinity for the brand, but haven’t traveled to all the Disney destinations.
A theme park vacation, with dining, shopping, entertainment, rides and activities for different interests, works well. This group also just likes hanging out together, said Fouche, and noted that special events such as the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are found appealing by groups of friends. Friends particularly like shopping, dining and nightlife, so Downtown Disney areas are a good option. The one at Walt Disney World will soon feature Splitsville with bowling lanes, food, drinks, dancing and live music.
“This is a huge opportunity for friends to become repeat Disney guests,” Fouche said, urging agents to get this group engaged with the brand now, before they move onto the next season of their lives. They’ll engage in different ways as they age.
Grandparents: These folks grew up in the golden age of Disney, before theme parks existed. They remember going to the theater to see Disney movies. “Grandparents [with such pleasant Disney memories of their own past] want meaningful roles in the lives of their grandchildren,” said Fouche, talking about his own granddaughter Juliana and his experiences with her at Disney parks and onboard Disney Cruise Line.
People who want time with their grandchildren will both plan, and “well, you know, pay…and then pay again for a multigenerational family vacation,” Fouche stressed, as the grandparents in the audience chuckled. He noted that grandparents often have both the time and means to do so.
Theme park vacations and cruise vacations both work well for this group. Fouche stressed that he bought all the pictures onboard Disney Cruise Line when he sailed with his granddaughter. It’s a season of his life that he is savoring, and agents can find similar grandparents eager to get their kids and grandchildren onboard.