Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
April 9, 2008 Wednesday
SEEING THE WORLD
Disney pitches time shares as about more than theme parks. They're also about . . .
By Jason Garcia, Sentinel Staff Writer
Disney Vacation Club has grown rapidly in recent years, adding members and locations
at a dizzying rate. But now the Walt Disney Co.'s Celebration-based time-share arm is
trying to get over a uniquely Disney hurdle:
Persuading new buyers that Disney Vacation Club is about more than visiting Disney's
That challenge is at the heart of a new television commercial Disney has begun airing in
several key markets across the country. It is only the fourth TV spot the company has
produced to promote its time-share division.
Dubbed "Little Travelers," the 60-second version of the commercial opens with children
talking about the places they have been through their families' Disney Vacation Club
memberships. Viewers hear about the Grand Canyon, Costa Rica and England before any
reference to a theme park. They are treated to images of the Eiffel Tower and Venice
canals instead of Cinderella's Castle and the Epcot ball.
Sybil Woolfork, Disney Vacation Club's director of marketing, said the television
commercial aims to remove one of the "key barriers" keeping potential time-share buyers
from considering Disney's program.
"It really does help to dispel the myth that Disney Vacation Club is only Disney,"
Disney developed the concept with Upshot, a Chicago-based advertising agency whose
clients include consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble and beer-maker Miller
Brewing Co. The commercial was produced by a local company, Convergence of
Theme parks are no doubt a big part of Disney Vacation Club's allure: Six of the club's
resorts are at Disney World, and it is adding a location at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
But Disney also operates stand-alone time shares in Vero Beach and in Hilton Head, S.C.,
and plans to build an 800-room hotel and time-share resort in Hawaii, which it expects to
open in 2011. And Disney Vacation Club members -- who buy real-estate interests
expressed as points rather than bricks-and-mortar units -- are already eligible to use their
points at hundreds of non-Disney resorts around the world.
"What we really focus on is going after those consumers who have a real interest in travel
and have a respect for our brand," Woolfork said.
The effort to broaden its customer base illustrates both the strengths and weaknesses of
the Disney name when it comes to peddling time shares.
On one hand, Disney Vacation Club can command a premium price from customers
drawn by Disney's iconic family entertainment and legendary attention to detail. But the
strong theme-park association can make it harder to compete for other customers against
rivals, such as Orlando-based Marriott Vacation Club, that aren't so closely linked with
Disney is smart to address that perception, said Jeremy Glaser, a lodging-industry analyst
with Morningstar Inc.
"You think about Disney World, you think about Disneyland. You don't really think that
you can take this beach vacation or go skiing or take a Las Vegas vacation," Glaser said.
"Getting people to think about Disney not just as theme parks could be valuable."
Woolfork said Disney Vacation Club is testing the television ad in Chicago, New York
City and Philadelphia. She said Disney could broaden the ad buy depending on the results
in those cities -- whether orders for promotional DVDs offered in the ad rise or visits
increase to a Disney Vacation Club "Doorways to Dreams" sales center in a Chicago-area
Disney's fourth television ad for its time-share program comes with the U.S. economy in
the midst of a prolonged slump, in large part because of struggling real-estate and
financial markets. Glaser said the slump, which threatens to become a full-blown
recession, could eat into time-share sales.
"I think when people look at discretionary spending, time shares are places that are pretty
easy for some people to cut out," he said.
But Woolfork said Disney Vacation Club hasn't noticed a slowdown so far. "We've
actually seen some pretty healthy trends in our business," she said.
CONTACT: Jason Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-