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February 26, 2010

Catering to Your Audience Part 1: Hotels

First of a multipart series comparing and contrasting Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

In the 1950s, when Walt Disney was constructing Disneyland, Anaheim was a small town. Prior to construction, the Disneyland site was an orange grove. Once the park showed signs of success, the area sprung to life. Hotels and restaurants popped up all around Disneyland. The park was soon trapped in the rapid development and had little room to expand. These circumstances were the impetus for Walt Disney to acquire the vast amount of land where Walt Disney World currently sits. Walt Disney World's "blessing of size" was designed to keep the outside world out. Once inside the Disney World compound, everything is under Disney's control.

Since the 50s, Anaheim has grown around Disneyland. Although recently Disneyland has expanded by adding California Adventure and their own Downtown Disney to create more of a resort, it's still very much a local theme park. Only three hotel choices exist if you wish to stay on-site: Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Hotel, and the Grand Californian (which is more similar to Wilderness Lodge than the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World). Because it is surrounded by a bustling tourism area, Disneyland has a Good Neighbor Hotel program. Hotels that are a part of this program can be booked directly from the Disneyland website or by calling the reservations line. The Good Neighbor hotels have, for the most part, more reasonable rates than the on-site hotels, whose rates range from expensive to really expensive. Guests of these hotels receive similar benefits to the guests who stay at Disney's hotels.

Walt Disney World, on the other hand, was designed to be an international vacation destination. There are 24 Disney owned and operated on-site hotels (including Disney Vacation Club resorts). 10 additional hotels are also located on Disney property. Even though the 10 other hotels are considered on Disney property, guests at these hotels do not receive the same benefits that guests of Disney-owned hotels receive (except for the Swan and Dolphin). The price range for the on-site hotels range from reasonable to ridiculous. Many other off-site options do exist; however their distance from the Walt Disney World parks and lack of on-site amenities makes these choices less desirable.

Walt Disney World's size gives it more control over where guests stay and generally secludes itself from the outside. Disneyland, realizing the cards it has been dealt, has embraced the outside community and allowed the surrounding hotels to take part in Disneyland's incentive package. Next time, I'll go into the tickets that can be purchased for the two resorts and a similar contrast between Disney World and Disneyland will develop.

(Link to original photo. I took the photo above on my last trip to WDW.)

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