Disney puts faith in Pop Century
Posted 22 December 2003 - 12:35 PM
Disney puts faith in new 'Pop' hotel
By Donna Balancia
Floridians want to go to Orlando, visit their favorite theme park and stay overnight.
And to brace for the swarms of local as well as out-of-state visitors expected in 2004, Walt Disney World has added a new Disney's Pop Century Resort to its successful lineup of value hotels.
But it's no small task to open a 2,880-room hotel in time for the holidays, yet at the same time brace for what is traditionally the slowest time of the year -- January and February.
But Disney is putting its faith in the value properties -- its hotels that sell from $55 to $77 a night -- to get it through the toughest time on the tourism calendar.
"At Walt Disney World we have been experiencing strong demand in the value segment," said Dave Vermeulen, general manager for Disney's Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts.
"All-Star resorts are also in that value category, where 50 percent of the rooms are connecting rooms and it's an economical price. We will continue to see strong demand in the future."
Tallahassee resident Elaine Smith and her family certainly agree. The Smith family waited two years to get into the Pop Century.
"We had a great time," Smith said upon checkout from the hotel. Smith, with her family, celebrated friend Jonny Cabibi's 50th birthday. "We've been looking forward to this for two years."
The Pop Century was originally slated to open in December of 2001. However, following the events of Sept. 11, tourism took a dramatic downturn and Disney postponed the opening of the hotel.
However, things have rebounded.
For 2004, 64 percent hotel occupancy is projected for the Orlando metropolitan area, according to the Orlando Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The bureau tracks occupancy rates of the more than 450 hotel and motel properties in Orange, Osceola and Seminole County.
Global Insight, a national consulting firm based in Eddy Stone, Pa., said visitation to Orlando from within Florida is expected to hit 24.6 million in 2004.
That's an increase from 23.7 in 2003.
Vermuelen said that the Pop Century is booked solid through early January, but it is after New Year's that the slow time starts. Disney, like other resort areas, is discounting its inventory.
Despite the slow time, though, there is still staff to be paid and contracts to be honored.
The 2,880-room, 10-building hotel, which opened last Sunday, has taken steps to open blocks of rooms over a gradual period of time and is bringing staff on from other Disney properties in groups.
"First of all, approximately 80 percent of cast members at Pop Century transferred from another Disney resort," he said.
"So they have come on at different intervals based on pre-opening requirements. Housekeeping came on closer to opening. But we had a small group early in the process."
Disney does not release numbers on occupancy, but said its first week has been successful.
The hotel has collected more than 700 pieces of memorabilia, which Vermeulen said the customers adore. But of all the preparations made, having the staff ready to go was most satisfying.
"When we're ready to open, it's pretty simple in a way," he said.
"All of the cast members are trained. Landscaping and buildings are in tip-top shape. We had test nights, which culminated the training cycle, and we invited Disney cast members and their family to stay in the hotel to give ourselves practice and shake down the rooms."
Posted 19 January 2004 - 11:06 PM
My friend is down staying there right now. She loves it and has said these are some of the nicest CMs that she's met at the resorts.
From the CMs that work there, there aren't any big problems so far.
Posted 19 January 2004 - 11:53 PM
Good. There were a few thigns that I didn't like and I left them know of the issues. Usually hear back from Guest Services but have't yet.
Glad things are going well.
Posted 20 January 2004 - 12:29 PM
Some friend....if she was really your friend, she'd know no CM can compare to you.