Disney strives for authenticity in 'Adventures'


LOS ANGELES -- Disney sees its entry into the group vacation market in Hawaii and Wyoming as an evolutionary step firmly based on a core Disney activity: storytelling.

Lisa Haines, a spokeswoman for Disney, put it this way: "We're using our storytelling expertise to tell the great and fascinating stories of the places we're visiting at each destination."

The stories, in other words, will be fact-based rather than fairy tales. "Our goal is to provide an authentic experience," said Haines.

Hence, "Adventures by Disney."

To test the concept this summer, Disney will take 75 families, about 400 to 450 loyal customers, in groups of 35 or less, on one-week trips to Wyoming and Hawaii. The company is recruiting its guests from Disney Cruise Line, the Disney Vacation Club and the World of Disney retail store in New York.

The groups will be rigorously quizzed each step of the way to see what works.

The Hawaii itinerary, called Escape to Paradise, will include Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai.

The Wyoming trip, Quest for the West, will visit the Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park.

The target is Disney's existing customer base, "families who love to vacation with Disney," Haines said, adding, "We know there's a market out there. ... We think it's a perfect opportunity for us to explore."

Mouse or gorilla?

Will the Mouse become an 800-pound gorilla in the tour market? Operators don't think so, at least not yet.

"I don't perceive it as any kind of a threat," said Classic Custom Vacations' chairman, Ron Letterman. "The Hawaii market is serviced by some pretty sophisticated operators. I think they [Disney] are going out of their core competence. They built a business around Disney locations, with advantages they gave themselves based on the parks and their hotels. Going out of that, I think they are going to be challenged."

At Pleasant Hawaiian, a spokesman said, "Disney is certainly very good at almost everything it does. It brings something new to the marketplace, and that's good. If they include Hawaii's historical and cultural information, that would be good because that's one of the main reasons people go to Hawaii."

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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