For almost 30 years, Disney Vacation Club has been saying ‘Welcome Home’ to guests from around the world, allowing them to experience the magic in a whole new way. I for one feel a certain level of pride in the fact I am a DVC member. It’s almost like some kind of super-fan badge of honour perhaps? Given that purchasing DVC is such an investment, it gains an important place in your life. With that in mind and because I love Disney history in a broader sense too, I did a little reading around DVC history. Naturally, there are quite
It All Started With A…
During the mid-’70s, North America’s very first purpose-built, interval timeshare ownership resort, Sanibel Beach Club, Sanibel Island, opened its doors. Heading into the 1980s, the timeshare business grew significantly with large numbers of building programmes underway. These competitor resorts would have the potential to draw vacationers away from Disney resorts. Given that the timeshare industry had grown to be worth a reported $400 million in Central Florida. It is arguable that part of that success was because of Walt Disney World so Disney was always going to take notice because, at that point, they weren’t getting a piece of the pie! By the late ’80s, development had begun on the Disney ‘timeshare’ and a 74-acre site had been selected and 1991, The Walt Disney Company played their hand and opened ‘The Disney Vacation Club Resort’.
It is worth noting that while the timeshare business was booming in the mid to late ’80s, so was its reputation and not in a good way. Amidst an increasing level of complaints relating to miss-selling, aggressive sales techniques, consumer ill-treatment and poor practices, Disney were entering a new arena which would rely on the ‘Disney-way’ to convince consumers that it was not like any other timeshare. When the announcement was made in early 1990, Disney revealed that they were planning to sell “shared vacation ownerships”. It was notable that during the announcement, Michael Eisner did not use the term ‘timeshare’ although did state “not that they were afraid to use it”.
Ultimately, the successful opening of “The Disney Vacation Club Resort” was going to be a determining factor in whether Disney continued with this business model. When it opened in 1991, there were just 50 units, with the resort growing in phases which opened in 1992, 1993 and 1994. This success led Disney Vacation Club to additional resorts, as part of Disney’s original intentions to have DVC resorts in many American tourist destinations, the next being Disney’s Vero’s Beach Resort in 1995. With the opening of Vero Beach, there were now two resorts which necessitated a name change over at “The Disney Vacation Club Resort” which, as you know, became Disney’s Old Key West Resort in 1996.
It was a significant moment opening that first ‘timeshare’ in that it was a gamble, much like any business, but it was a gamble on an industry that certainly did not, on the surface and as per its reputation, seem to fit very well with the Disney culture. Thankfully that ‘gamble’ paid off otherwise we probably wouldn’t be sitting here using this site and interacting with such a wide community.
In addition, I would also go so far as to say that it would have also been somewhat significant to the ‘timeshare’ industry too. When Disney enters a marketplace with their ‘Disney-way’, history has shown, that for the most part, it has a positive impact on that industry too. Animation, Movies, Theme Parks, Hotels, Cruise Lines etc have all, in some way benefited from having Disney around. It creates a standard that consumers are familiar with which other companies then try to emulate. Not only was the opening of what is now known as Disney’s Old Key West Resort a great and important moment in DVC history, but it could also be argued that it was in some ways, a game-changer for the timeshare industry overall.
Many of us have a strong passion for our home resort. Some will go so far as to argue that their home resort is the very best DVC resort. In all fairness, each of the resorts has some incredible selling points and I am yet to ever hear or read anyone say that a particular resort is outright bad. That being said, there is one resort which often stands out when discussing the very ‘best’ of them.
Back in 1991 when Disney were laying the groundwork for their ‘shared vacation ownerships’, they registered their plans in the state of Hawaii. Interestingly, they did not establish an escrow agreement with the state at the time. In effect, this meant that Disney could advertise DVC in Hawaii but it did not allow for sales. That would all change in the mid ’00s when Disney began eyeing their eyeing their third, non-theme park resort on the island of O’ahu.
Opening almost 20 years after Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa was definitely significant in DVC history. Yes, it was their third non-theme park resort and sales have reportedly been
Of course, Disney and by extension, DVC, frequently work to a standard that far exceeds expectations when it comes to detail and cultural understanding but it is certainly arguable that in Aulani, they set a new standard. I am yet to visit the resort myself but you only have to watch a few resort guide videos or do some reading around the internet to learn that Aulani is incredibly popular because of the standards they set. Whether it is customer service, design, authenticity, luxury, beauty (I could go on…) it is clear that this resort ranks very highly and it has become one of those ‘dream’ destinations for many a DVCer.
The opening of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is a brilliant and significant moment in the DVC history which saw them raise their own pretty impressive standards to create a resort which manages to convey that Disney magic without sacrificing the authenticity of its location. Granted, the island of O’ahu is one of the worlds natural beauties which would be incredibly difficult (I will not say impossible because you never know what Disney might do next…) to replicate. This naturally gives Aulani a unique edge that no other DVC resort can have. That is unless Disney decides that the time is right to expand their portfolio of resorts to another area of natural beauty, wonder and tradition. At this point, it would be remiss of me not to mention that while on the creative design and customer service levels, this resort is astounding, it is not without its challenges. There have certainly been some bumps in the road along the way and the resort is not yet ‘sold out’ but that shouldn’t take away from everything they achieved at the resort.
The Happiest Place on Earth…
Once again, going back to the early days of Disney Vacation Club and as mentioned previously, Disney intended to have DVC resorts in many popular American tourist hotspots, not just alongside the theme parks. In essence, they were following an industry standard in that they were looking at destinations which could be considered premiere vacation destinations. Following the opening of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, Disney went so far as to announce that a new resort would be built at Newport Beach, just 20 miles away from Disneyland itself.
Given a lack of land at the Disneyland Resort, there were few options available for DVC to build so a Newport Beach location would have expanded their beach resort portfolio and would have been relatively convenient for those who wanted to make the trip over to the theme park. Unfortunately, at the time, sales of Disney’s Vero Beach and Disney’s Hilton Head were tougher. In addition, Disney had paid what many industry analysts considered to be too high a price for the land. Then construction was delayed due to design changes which were necessary to make the project economically feasible. Ultimately, this all led to Disney cancelling the project. At this point, the plans for a west coast DVC resort were no more.
While the portfolio of DVC resorts continued to grow over at Walt Disney World, there was still no resort over on the West Coast at Disneyland. That in itself sounds odd doesn’t it? A huge part of the Disney Vacation Club model is that it appeals to those who like to regularly vacation at the Disney theme parks yet there was yet to be an option for those who wish to vacation at the ‘happiest place on Earth’. For many a Disney fan, myself included, it is an essential must-do, without question.
A major expansion to the Anaheim resort came in 2001, with both Disney’s California Adventure and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa opening early that year but there was still no DVC resort. At the time, Disney did not appear to want to build DVC villas alongside the Grand Californian. It wasn’t until 2009, 15 years after the announcement of the Newport Beach project, did the west coast finally get a DVC resort, of sorts.
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is actually the smallest of the DVC resort offerings, with a maximum number of 71 DVC rooms available. Naturally, this means that demand is high and availability is low. Getting a reservation can sometimes be challenging but the resort itself is absolutely worth it. In another example of incredible design, stunning beauty and impressive detail, the Grand Californian feels like every bit of the home away from home (for me at least!) and is a fantastic addition to the Disneyland Resort.
The opening of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian will always be a significant and wonderful moment in DVC history because it was the moment in which Disneyland, finally, after 18 years since the first DVC resort at Walt Disney World, got in on the action.
Those are my picks for 3 Great Moments in Disney Vacation Club history. What do you think? Do you think there were other more significant or great moments since the opening of ‘The Disney Vacation Club Resort’? Let us know in the comments below…