Category Archives: Disneyland Paris

How technology can improve theme park resorts

Large theme park resorts are often quick to boast about expensive new attractions that pack-in a host of unique and advanced technology. Yet their customers experience whilst visiting the parks and staying in on-site hotels is often made less enjoyable by reluctance from the resorts to move in to the 21st century.


To be fair to many resorts, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, they have made huge leaps online in order to ensure every part of booking your trip is quick and easy. Guests can now book their tickets, hotel and transportation all in one place and, in some resorts, make all their dining reservations for the trip from the comfort of their own home.

But once the resorts have your money the technology-based offerings seem to come to an end, leaving guests stressed on a trip which they planned on taking in order to get some rest and relaxation.

Disneyland Paris is notorious for this. As soon as guests get to the check-in desk they are bombarded with an abundance of leaflets, tickets and key cards which allow them to take advantage of a number of services offered around the resort.

At an ideal resort the majority of this should be condensed into one key card. The technology is available to put a guest’s room key and park tickets all on one key-card, yet many resorts seem reluctant to roll out a system which would make life infinitely easier for its customers.

Many places also allow you to charge purchases to your room on the very same key-card, a godsend for visitors looking to take a trip on a water ride, yet some resorts still fail to offer this service which forces guests to either take cash or a credit card, something which may force guests to bring along a wallet or purse when they don’t really need to.

Combining all these features in to one card may come at a cost for the resorts, but it will no doubt make a guest’s trip more enjoyable and may lead to repeat visits as well as visitors spreading a positive image of the resort to friends and family – in essence free advertising.

Speaking of free advertising, social media is another thing many resorts fail to utilise, despite the fact it’s a direct route straight to the computers and mobile devices of their target market.

Most if not all theme park resorts have some kind of social media account. Walt Disney World has a Facebook page, Twitter account and shares the Disney Parks Blog with Disneyland Resort over on the West Coast.

For the most part Walt Disney World often uses its social media accounts in order to promote new attractions, link to news articles on its main website or offer helpful tips to the people who read the various accounts.

Whilst this is all well and good potential customers now expect more of large organisations on social media sites. The key word is social and theme park resorts should be ready to interact with their visitors and potential customers rather than just offering a one-way communication system as so many resorts currently do.

Answering reasonable questions from guests via services such as Twitter is a great way in which to do this. By answering specific questions a theme park resort will create an image that they care about their visitors and want to help them, an image which may persuade a consumer to chose that resort as opposed to a competitor.

Sea World Parks and Entertainment have been particularly successful in this area with their @Shamu Twitter account, which offers a host of free giveaways and interacts with followers in a non-serious manner – giving the potential customers an idea of just how fun the parks will be.

Guests should also expect a similar level of interaction once they get to the resort. A Twitter account for wait time information would be a godsend at many resorts, replacing the increasingly outdated tip boards which force guests to walk in the opposite direction from where they want to go simply in order to check the wait time at an attraction.

It may seem like a service that would be hard to keep up with but it is certainly possible, as proven by London Heathrow Airport, whose Twitter account will quickly answer any questions which one of its 66 million passengers over the course of a year may ask.

Even better would be if the parks offered a wait times application for their parks in a similar style to Lines by Touring Plans, which offers incredibly accurate wait times, park hours and other useful information directly to your mobile device.

Of course checking park hours online can be a problem if you don’t have access to the internet at your hotel, a service which is becoming increasingly common at hotels around the world but many theme park resorts have yet to catch up with their counterparts.

Many guests now carry electronic devices on vacation with them, whether that be a laptop, mobile phone or another system which has internet connectivity. Anyone who caries such a devices will tell you how much they appreciate free or cheap Wi-Fi and how tempted they will be to return to the resort if such a service is offered.

There are many more features which could be added to resorts which would make guests trip much easier, but these are some of the more basic things which guests would enjoy and, if theme park resorts value their customers, should start looking into in the near-future.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under British parks, Disneyland Paris, Planning, Sea World, Walt Disney World

Toy Story Playland opens at Disneyland Paris with no news on Ratatouille dark ride

Toy Story Playland, the new section of Walt Disney Studios Park, was opened to the public yesterday, featuring three new attractions in a detailed themed environment.

(Photo provided by Parc d’Attraction)

The all-new area, opened to coincide with the resorts ‘New Generation Festival’, is reported to have cost in the region of €70 million and is intended to make guests feel as though they have been shrunk down and placed in a garden with characters from the hit movie series.

The area plays host to three new attractions, a half pipe coaster themed around RC Racer, a spinning ride based on Slinky-Dog and a parachute drop featuring the Green Army Men.

One section of the new land features an archway leading to an area themed around the hit Pixar movie Ratatouille, including benches featuring the movies main character Remy.

There has long been speculation Disney are considering an attraction based around the movie and the latest additions make the attraction look a more likely prospect.

Before the opening of Toy Story Playland a sculpture of Ratatouille character Gusteau on an archway leading to the potential attraction site was covered over, an action taken in order to ensure focus was totally on TSP rather than the forthcoming new addition, Theme Park Daily understands.

Reports have suggested the potential Ratatouille attraction could feature a trackless ride system and cost in the region of $150 million.

Leave a comment

Filed under Disneyland Paris

What does the future hold for the theme park industry?

The financial crisis has forced the theme park industry to re-evaluate the way they operate in order to ensure they survive the recession. The question is, how much will this crisis change the way in which theme parks are run in the future?

(photo by Diana)

Before the current recession many theme park operators aimed to produce the biggest and the best parks in the world. Universal opened Islands of Adventure in 1999 to critical acclaim whilst Disney opened the $4 billion Tokyo DisneySea in 2001, a record cost for any theme park in the world.

Theme parks were in with tourists, as proven by the ever-increasing number of visitors hitting Central Florida each and every year to take in Walt Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

The popularity of parks led to a number of destinations looking to add theme parks to their offerings to potential visitors. The most notable plan for a themed entertainment destination was Dubailand, a huge destination set just outside the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The recession put an end to many of the expansive projects planned around the world. Dubailand dates have been put back considerably or halted altogether whilst a number of the major theme park operators have kept very tight-lipped about their plans for the future that hadn’t already been announced pre-financial crisis.

But whilst Tatweer are struggling with finance for their entertainment super-destination in Dubai another project in the same city has been a huge success.

Sega Republic, a small indoor theme park in Dubai Mall, represents a new age of themed entertainment which puts quality over quantity. I was personally incredibly impressed by the number of highly-themed attractions in the park which kept me wanting to ride over and over again.

Despite its great selection of well-themed, quality attractions there’s no doubt the price to build Sega Republic will be considerably less than even the smallest parks produced by the major operators in the industry.

This begs the question is, are theme park operators ready to rethink their future plans in order to ensure they are safe from external shocks?

Whilst Sega Republic is only one small park in a huge industry there is other signs that major operators are trying to bring some of their theme park magic in a more compact style around the world.

Recently the Walt Disney Company started a huge refurbishment project for their stores around the world, which included adding a number of high-end, interactive, experiences which are aimed at keeping guests in their stores for longer.

Whilst the store refurbishments are by no means fully-fledged mini theme parks what they do represent is Disney shifting their operations strategy after the recession in order to bring some of the Disney Park ‘magic’ to customers rather than them having to travel to one of the five international resorts themselves.

There’s no doubt it has become incredibly hard for developers to obtain the credit needed in order to build new large-scale parks and this could well mean we see more and more of these smaller outlets coupled with further expansion of the already established major destinations, with a prime example being the major expansion of Disney’s California Adventure.

Of course once credit markets loosen up we could see a return to the more traditional style of theme park development, but until then we could be looking at an all-new way in which the theme park industry is run.

Are you following Theme Park Daily on Twitter?

Leave a comment

Filed under Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland Paris, Sea World, Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Captain EO returns to Walt Disney World

According to the Disney Parks blog the popular 3D show Captain EO will be returning to Walt Disney World this summer, delighting many fans of the show, who will be able to experience the attraction from July 2nd.


The attraction, staring Michael Jackson, will open at Epcot in the summer, further adding to the reasons to visit Central Florida in 2010 with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter set to open at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the Summer Nightastic event coming over from the West Coast to debut at Walt Disney World.

The show had made its comeback at Disneyland following the passing of its star Michael Jackson and the popularity of the show over on the West Coast was the key reason Disney Parks & Resorts decided to take the show to the East Coast to add to the Walt Disney World line-up.

Interestingly, the show will also be featured at Disney’s overseas parks in Tokyo (June 30th) and Paris (June 12th), a bold move by Disney, especially in Paris where shows are rare due to the need to please both French and English speaking guests.

Captain EO will come into the Theatres currently holding the ‘Honey I shrink the Audience’ themed shows.

Leave a comment

Filed under Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney World

Toy Story Playland: Big hitter or instant flop?

Anyone whose visited Walt Disney Studios in Paris recently will tell you it’s been crying out for an expansion to help turn this half-day park into a fully-fledged Disney destination. Toy Story Playland, set to open later this year, is Walt Disney Imagineering’s answer to the pleas, but is it going to be good enough for the Disney name?


For those who aren’t familiar with the new land over in Paris, Toy Story Playland is themed to the popular Pixar movie franchise of the same name. Guests will be shrunk down to the size of the toys and will experience a number of attractions based around some of the more familiar characters from the Toy Story movies.

The most talked about of the attractions at Toy Story Playland is the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, a conventional parachute drop tower themed to the green army men from the movies. The attraction takes riders up to dizzying heights, where they’ll spend a number of minutes, before being lowered back to the ground.

The attraction is a slightly controversial one, primarily because of its appearance. The tower is huge, especially when compared to other attractions in Walt Disney Studios. To say the big green tower sticks out like a sore thumb would be an understatement; it’s a very worrying addition when taking into consideration the atmosphere of the park.

Of course it’s not all bad. There’s no doubt the Toy Soldiers will give some great views over the park and, as with most Disney attractions, it’s designed for all ages. Capacity may be an issue, with it carrying a lot less than many of the popular attractions around the resort. Expect long lines, especially when the land first opens.

Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin see’s guests hop aboard the famous Toy Story character whilst he chases his tail round and round in circles. Unlike the Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog is a relatively small attraction that’s low to the ground. The ride system is tried and tested over at Tokyo DisneySea where it’s gone down a storm, surely a good omen for its Paris debut.

For me this is the best attraction coming to the new land. It’s fun for all the family and doesn’t stick out too much. The theme looks to be well done, which is going to be crucial when it comes to the long-term success of the land, and it’s based on a character which anyone familiar with the movies will know and love.

The third and final major attractions set to appear at Toy Story Playland is the RC Racer, an attraction similar to a half-pipe coaster seen at many Iron Parks, but thankfully with a much more detailed theme. The attraction will take place on a bright-red Hot Wheels track which will play host to the RC Racer car, which will go back and forth along the half-pipe, taking riders up and down at high speeds.

The attraction looks to be the most thrilling of the three big hitters in the new land, bit faces similar problems to the parachute drop. Firstly, it’s got a low capacity, which means lines will get big on busy days. Secondly it’s a standard midway ride which has been dressed up with a Toy Story theme, occasional guests may not notice but regulars certainly will. Thirdly, it’s quite an eyesore when seen from the rest of the park, though admittedly not as much as the Toy Soldiers Parachute drop.

Disney fans will likely see this expansion as something similar to what Paradise Pier initially looked like over at Disney’s California Adventure, and I’d have to agree. The attractions, for the most part, a fairly conventional midway rides and capacity is low, two factors which can easily give a new land a bad reputation.

Hopefully Walt Disney Imagineering have come up with a way of ensuring that the attractions fit in well within the confines of the relatively well-themed Walt Disney Studios, but the jury will certainly remain out on this one until the final product is unveiled.

1 Comment

Filed under Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris – Hotel Santa Fe or Hotel Cheyenne?

It’s pretty simple to break up the Disneyland Paris hotels into four distinct categories, much like you can with the hotels at Walt Disney World. Firstly there’s the Value Resorts, Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne and Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe.  Then there’s the Moderate Resorts, Disney’s Newport Bay Club and Disney’s Sequoia Lodge. The most expensive options are the Deluxe Resorts, the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hotel New York. Finally there’s Davy Crockett Ranch, which can be put into its own category due to the activities it offers.

Disney's Hotel Santa Fe

Although Disney doesn’t place the hotels into categories like this officially it is an easy way to work out the quality of the hotels on-property and compare them to those hotels you may be used to at Walt Disney World. During my last two trips to Disneyland Resort Paris I’ve stayed in the two Value Resorts, Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne (February ’08) and Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe (August 09) and I thought it would be a good idea to compare both in order to help readers decide which hotel is the best option when on a budget.

Price

I’ll start off by talking about price, simply because it’s the easiest to discuss. There’s really no difference between the price of both hotels, many times when I’ve been planning a trip the prices have been identical. Every now and again prices at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe may be a little cheaper than the Cheyenne but this is only by £10-£20 per person which when compared to the price of a two or three night stay is minimal, although it is something to take into consideration if you do see price differentials when booking.

Rooms

The rooms at both hotels are very similar, both sleep four people, have an en-suite bathroom, television and a fan in the centre of the room for those hotter days and nights. The main difference comes with the types of beds. Rooms in the Hotel Santa Fe have two double beds whereas the Cheyenne has a double bed and bunk bed that sleeps two. If you’re travelling as a party with two adults and one child either may be fine, in fact the Hotel Cheyenne may be easier as the kids wont have to share, however, if there’s two couples sharing a room or people who may not be able to climb to the top bunk the better option may be the Santa Fe.

Another think to take  note of is that the Cheyenne has two-story buildings only, whereas the Santa Fe has some three and four story buildings. The four story buildings do have elevators but it’s always a good idea to consider that the elevators may be out of order at some point during your stay. Of course this shouldn’t be a problem as you can always request a ground-floor room if there is someone in your party who may not be able to walk up multiple flights of stairs. On the same subject many of the two-story buildings don’t have elevators, so I’d always suggest requesting a ground floor room if there is any trouble with members of your party going up stairs.

Proximity to the parks

This is one of the big aspects in the decision making process for me. Both parks are a fair distance from the parks. Walking from the gates of Disneyland Park up to the lobby of the Hotel Cheyenne will most likely take you around 15 minutes minimum if walking at a fast pace. The Santa Fe on the other hand may take 10 to 15 minutes longer to walk to the lobby from Disneyland Park. Whilst both hotels seem to be very close to each other when stood along the ‘Rio Grande’ the far end of the Hotel Santa Fe is pretty far from the river that separates the two resorts, meaning it can be a long walk to your room at the Santa Fe, especially when carrying bags when checking-in.

Both parks do however offer shuttle services, although you will have to wait for a shuttle and may be behind a considerable line at peak times, although I never witnessed large lines at either of the hotels shuttle stops. My use of the shuttle service is a good way to illustrate my point about the proximity to the park, during my stay at the Cheyenne I used the shuttle services once, whereas during my stay at the Hotel Santa Fe I’d use the shuttle service near enough every time I went to or came from the parks, which isn’t too nice on a hot and crowded day.

Disney's Hotel Cheyenne

Service

I had two different experiences checking in at the Value Resorts. The check-in at the Hotel Cheyenne was quick and simple. It was around 25 minutes from walking into the hotel lobby to dropping my bags off in my room and heading out to the parks. The Hotel Santa Fe took a lot longer. There was snaked lines at check-in which took around 15 minutes to get through and the whole process seemed to take a lot longer. Add onto this the longer walk to the room and it took me a lot longer to get from check-in to the parks.

As you’d expect both hotels met the expected level of service that Disney has long provided at all of its resorts. Staff were friendly and always willing to help with anything we needed. This isn’t something you’re going to have to worry about when choosing between the two hotels as both offer exceptional levels of customer service. That’s the ‘Disney difference’ as they say.

Amenities

Both offer very similar amenities to each other. Both come with complimentary (though basic) continental breakfast. Both have counter-service food available as well as a dinner and lunch buffet that takes place at set times. Both have fully-stocked bars.

There’s a gift-shop at both hotels so you can chose from a limited selection of products that you may have seen during your visit to the two parks or the Disney Village. Disney Hotel Santa Fe does can boast having an arcade whilst the Cheyenne can’t. However, the Hotel Cheyenne does have a playground as well as pony rides. This may mean that the Cheyenne is more suited to younger children whilst older children may find more to do at the Santa Fe. Let’s not forget though that there’s two of the worlds best theme parks on your doorstep, why would you kids want to spend time in the arcade or playground?

Theme

It wouldn’t be a theme park blog if I didn’t discuss theme. For me the Hotel Cheyenne wins this hands down. All of the buildings at the Cheyenne have highly themed exteriors, even if they are a little lacing inside. All buildings look like realistic Western buildings and some, dare I say it, wouldn’t look out of place in Frontierland. If either one of these hotels is going to capture the imagination of your kids, it’s the Cheyenne.

The Santa Fe does have a theme, though you wouldn’t really be able to guess. All the buildings look very bland externally and the whole place just looks a tad run down (of course they’re not, but it’s just the way the place looks). It’s worth noting this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as the hotels are near enough identical inside, but it’s worth noting that the Santa Fe isn’t much to look at, especially in comparison to it’s theme rich counterpart over the river.

Conclusion

Where would I stay? Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne. The location is a lot better than the Santa Fe and the whole place is more visually appealing. That’s not to say that the Santa Fe is a bad hotel, in fact I really enjoyed my stay there. It’s just that I think the Hotel Cheyenne offers a little more and with little to no difference between the price of the two hotels I’d much prefer to stay in the Hotel Cheyenne.

If you agree or disagree with me feel free to mention it in the comments section.

M. Owen

Leave a comment

Filed under Disneyland Paris, Planning