With today coming to be known as the date on the calendar in celebration of all things Star Wars, it’s definitely the most appropriate day to discuss the recent moves that Disney has been making to engineer a resort product that caters to fans of this franchise. Importantly, there are a few great lessons for all other properties, even if you are small or independent one.
With its theme parks, resorts and cruise lines, this is hardly the company’s first entrance into the hospitality space, but that hardly makes it any less bold. Dubbed ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’, the dual construction at both the Anaheim and Orlando locales is already underway, but it’s the Star Wars Hotel at the latter theme park that concerns us today.
All guestrooms will be appropriately bedizened to resemble the movies we’ve all come to love, while the lobby spaces will look like that of an interplanetary spaceship. Moreover, aliens and droids from the Star Wars universe will comprise the frontline staff while costumes will be available to all visitors upon check-in so they too can blend into the environment. To round out the immersive nature of this resort, guests can partake in lightsaber training or starfighter piloting courses. I don’t doubt for a second that there will also be some sort of Mos Eisley-esque cantina where you can stop off for some repetitive last night jazz while you slurp down an exceedingly wild beverage and avoid getting in fights with stray Aqualish thugs (but only after you pick up a few power converters from Toshi station).
As you can probably tell, I have high hopes for this property. If it’s a success, expect to see far more new products launches at both the luxury and the family midscale levels.
Your gut reaction may be, however, that this is nothing more than a giant gimmick. We are indeed talking about a themed resort which unfortunately is a categorization that traditionally does not inspire confidence regarding the level of amenities and services one can expect while onsite. In a twentieth century context, you would be entirely right, but now you have a series of property that are backed by Disney which has a full playbook for top notch fanciful experiences and a reputation to uphold as well as an exhaustive lore to draw upon and a rabid international fanbase. In other words, even though the construction has a price tag in the billions, it’s turning green from day one ad infinitum so long as they maintain their service standards.
Putting this move into its broader context, though, this is but one more activity befitting that of the ‘experiential age’ we know find ourselves living in. Disney might represent the gold standard in this regard, but that’s no reason not to incorporate the principles of this trend into your hotel or resort. While there are now numerous statistics out there to reveal just how much consumers prefer great and unique experiences over, say, owning a particular product, what’s more important than reciting any percentages or ratios is how this customer shift applies to every other property out there.
In essence, a hotel can no longer be just a hotel; a resort can no longer be just a resort. The OTAs and alternate lodging platforms have opened the world to a vast array of new accommodation offerings, so you need to stand out. Bring something extra to the table by inviting your guests to experience the extraordinary and something they can’t get anywhere else.
Start by thinking about sensory activation – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. And anything is possible when you get creative. Perhaps your ‘theme’ is exceptional F&B with a strictly local focus combined with cooking classes or foraging trips. Maybe your property is located two blocks from the city’s fine arts museum, in which case you could pivot to become an ‘art hotel’ by sponsoring local artists and showcasing their works throughout the building. Or if you have a unique onsite amenity, you can engineer other operations to thematically resemble or reinforce this feature.
Those are but three general directions you might take, and as every property is different it’s your job to embellish that difference. If you’re looking for a few more ideas specific to your own hotel, reach out to me to discuss. And, of course, may the force be with you!