Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Disney still hammering out details of "boutique park" a.k.a. Night Kingdom

Remember when news of a boutique experience aimed at attracting 2000 or so wealthy adult visitors to a new wild adventure concept called "Night Kingdom" was leaked to the Disney fan community? Well that was a trial balloon. Forces on both sides of the project were interested in seeing if the results they were getting in their $200 a head focus group were represented in the general public.

Guess what? The focus group was right. The idea was weak and quickly went on life-support. But a good idea never dies at Walt Disney Imagineering. It just gets tinkered with incessantly until it either changes completely from the original idea, or someone on the top shelves it.

I think we can all see what Disney wants to do with the "boutique park" experience. Catch some money from the deep pockets of those who expect a certain type of luxury when the travel, "whales" as they are known to the casinos. Five to Ten years ago, "Night Kingdom" as we first heard it, probably would have been enough. But since then the quality of luxury travel has been elevated to a new level. In part this is due to places like The Wynn Resort where guests are immersed in luxury from the moment they enter the resort to the moment they leave.

The new luxury for Walt Disney World would be a resort that does the same thing, immerses the guest in the show from the moment they enter to the moment they leave. And it has to do it on a new level. And it has to do it as part of the Disney brand (possibly the Indiana Jones or Star Wars brand).

Pick a theme, let's say Jungle Adventure. Put a waterfall, hidden treasure, secret map, and wild animals outside every bungalow. Provide adventure experiences (dining, water park, exploration events, full immersion dinner shows, etc) throughout the week, so that the guest never has to leave this boutique experience if they don't want to. And if they do, well the whole world of WDW is just a short luxury private people mover ride away.

The fact that Disney could provide something like this is why I've always thought that letting Four Seasons build on property was a bad idea. But I understand they owed an old friend (you know the Saudi Prince that bailed them out in Paris) a favor.

So, the idea of a "boutique experience" at Walt Disney World for those who can afford it hasn't died. "Night Kingdom" may emerge again, but it will only resemble its old self in name and location.

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