A lot can change in 10 years. In part one of our peer into the future of the Walt Disney World resort, we looked at changes in the theme parks and ticketing (hint: ticket prices will rise). In part two, we look at the resort hotels, Disney Springs, and Disney transportation, which has a more exciting future than you might imagine. We know that the Disney company is planning to develop more land on property, due to this report on a request to increase the amount of land it will restore on its preserve to offset wetlands development. Ultimately, any additions will be focused on accommodating ever-increasing crowds and growing revenue.
New resort hotels: Rising attendance and demand will continue to drive the development of new resort hotels in Disney’s never-ending quest to keep as many travelers in the Disney bubble as possible. Recently, high-end additions such as the Polynesian bungalows have stirred talk that Disney is catering to the “1 percent,” and neglecting middle-class travelers. To counter that notion, future development will include well-themed value or moderate resorts along the lines of Disney’s Art of Animation. The new resorts will offer more variety in room sizes, responding to a demand for larger family suites. As more “Star Wars” sequels are released, a Star Wars-themed resort will capitalize on the success of Star Wars Land and become an attraction that draws visitors beyond the parks. The success of Pandora-The World of Avatar expands attendance at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, creating demand for additional rooms near that park. Perhaps an Asian theme would complement the African-themed Animal Kingdom Lodge, though likely without the live animals of that resort. Alternately, if next year’s animated feature “Zootopia” is a big hit, Disney may opt for a more cartoony version of an animal-themed resort.
Ever-expanding DVC: The continued growth of Disney Vacation Club is a matter of simple economics. Each addition and expansion brings instant cash flow to the Disney company with every point sold to new and existing members of Disney’s version of a timeshare. However, it is a balancing act — grow too much and supply outpaces demand, which will bring down existing contract prices and depress the resale market. Thus, in 10 years, I would expect about three or four new additions to the DVC portfolio. We already know that the next expansion for DVC will be additions to the Wilderness Lodge, including lakeside cabins, along the lines of the Polynesian bungalows. This continues the recent trend of converting and adding on to existing resorts. The most recent additions on property have been around the monorail loop. Where could DVC go next? The area of Fort Wilderness Resort could be a possibility with the long-abandoned River Country site holding prime real estate along Bay Lake. Otherwise, you might see a resort that provides prime access to one of the other parks, likely Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s also the possibility that expansion could happen far from Florida, as we saw with Aulani in Hawaii. As for existing DVC properties, expect a surge in popularity of Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. Its proximity to Disney Springs will become even more attractive as we’ll read next.
Disney Springs ahead: We’re already seeing the fruits of Downtown Disney’s transformation into Disney Springs as it becomes even more of a dining and shopping destination with each new restaurant and store opening. The next 10 years should bring changes in entertainment offerings as well. We know that the languishing Disney Quest will be put out of its misery next year to make way for The NBA Experience attraction with a restaurant and retail store. What about the Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba, which premiered way back in 1998? By 2025, it’s likely a different Cirque du Soleil show will have replaced La Nouba. Could the venue be used for another purpose? It’s possible, but unlikely since the structure was built specifically for Cirque du Soleil. But it seems reasonable that another entertainment venue comes to Disney Springs. A dance club makes more sense for this location than the Boardwalk area, where the Atlantic Dance Hall is arguably the least popular venue on resort property. A larger concert spot that could draw popular acts would be a complement to the smaller space at House of Blues and yet another draw for Disney Springs.
Next-gen transportation: This could be the biggest game changer to transform the experience for visitors to Walt Disney World, and it could happen sooner than we think. Say goodbye to those 20-minute waits for a bus to the parks. Say hello to automated, on-demand transportation. We’ve heard about driverless vehicles being developed by Google, Tesla and other automakers. A fleet of driverless shuttles will be transporting people around a Silicon Valley business park next year. Take this emerging technology, add the infrastructure of MyMagic+ and you have a perfect fit for a place where getting there — from monorail to people mover — has always been part of the fun. I envision using the My Disney Experience mobile app to schedule a shuttle, then using a Magic Band to hop aboard. The shuttle, which would be smaller than your typical bus, would know how many people were planning on traveling to a select destination, it would transmit a time and pickup point, so you can spend any extra time you might have in the park, rather than at the bus stop. Heading to a meal at Boma from your room at Port Orleans French Quarter? Smaller driverless vehicles would be available for an additional fee for resort to resort transportation.
What do you think about this look into the not-so-distant future? Share your thoughts in the comments.