Mickey Checks In
Disney and Hawaii: A match made in heaven?
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Disney Vacation Club (DVC) timeshare owners have long put Hawaii on their wish lists. Disney routinely surveys its 350,000 DVC members and asks, “Where else in the world would you like to have a Disney experience?” Hawaii is a constant response.
From a marketing perspective, Disney is as big as a brand gets. When people hear Disney, they think Disneyland and cartoon characters, but the corporation and its many arms reach further than that (see sidebar). When the Ko Olina project is complete, Disney will no doubt promote the property through its DVC membership; its media networks, ABC and ESPN; special merchandising and other venues. The Hawaii name will be attached at no cost to state taxpayers. “We’re going to promote Hawaii in a way it wouldn’t have been promoted in the past,” Rivers says.
Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Disney just might provide the family travel package currently missing in Hawaii, says Qimei Chen, associate professor of marketing at the UH Shidler College of Business. “I would view this Disney Vacation Club as a market creator, because we will draw families originally not planning to come to Hawaii for a vacation because the kids wanted to go to Orlando, L.A. or even Hong Kong,” she says.
The two brands complement rather than compete with each other. “One is a brand and one is a destination,” Chen says. “When we study branding, sometimes we’re asking whether the context is congruent with the offering of the brand. Here, Disney is the brand and Hawaii is the context.” This project will be the first Disney hotel outside of its theme parks. (Disney has DVC properties at Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head Island, S.C., which are both timeshare only.)
“This is really the launch of our new business in doing stand-alone resort complexes around the world in great places,” Rivers says. He declined to elaborate what those other great places might be, but it’s clear Disney intends to make West Oahu one of them.
West Oahu Boost
Rivers says Disney chose Oahu for a number of reasons: It is the most visited of all the Islands; visitor stay lengths are longer than on other islands; and it has the iconic attractions associated with Hawaii, such as Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, Ko Olina fulfills Disney’s “fun for the whole family” theme: Dad can golf, mom can go to the spa and the children can go to the kids’ club or the waterslide.
Since Ko Olina has already been zoned, the site was also chosen for more practical reasons. “From an entitlement standpoint, those costs had been taken care of already, so there wasn’t the kind of time delay you would see to get that done somewhere else,” says Council chair Todd Apo, who represents Ewa Beach, Kapolei and the Waianae Coast. He is also, it must be said, the vice president of corporate operations at Ko Olina Resort.
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