BY HENRY MAGENHEIM
Reed Travel Features
ORLANDO -- Agents and others booking a stay or a meal at a
restaurant at the Walt Disney World destination resort take their
reservations handling for granted.
But reservations handling is a gigantic task for Disney,
according to the man with overall responsibility, former Amtrak
executive Bob Gall.
As vice president of the Disney Central Reservations Office and
the Walt Disney Travel Co. tour operation, he is charged with
expanding the reservations services as the resort complex
For example, a fourth theme park -- Animal Kingdom -- opens in
1998; in March 1998, Disney Magic, the first Disney Cruise Line
vessel, sets sail from Port Canaveral, thereby increasing demand
for a hotel-cruise combination vacation package, and conventions
will be on the increase with the opening Aug. 1 of Disney's
In addition, Disney's Wide World of Sports -- practice fields,
indoor gyms and stadiums -- opens in stages during the next few
months, drawing thousands of athletes, both amateur and
And next March, Atlanta Braves fans will come to see their team
play at their new spring training facility.
On Disney real estate alone, there are some 22,000 hotel rooms,
with more on the way; the bulk of these are Disney-controlled, but
all are on line for Disney reservationists.
Moreover, within the past two years, the Walt Disney Travel Co.
began offering bulk air space on six airlines with its land
offerings, Gall said.
"Nearly overnight, it became one of the biggest sellers of
airline seats into Central Florida, offering a full range of
package products with all components at highly competitive prices,"
Growing room inventory and the physical expansion of the
43-square-mile site, coupled with Walt Disney World's 25th
Anniversary Celebration, which ends Dec. 31, led to the decision to
open a satellite reservations office last November in Tampa,
according to Gall, who is based at the football-field-sized,
unmarked reservations building in Orlando, a few miles from the
That structure houses more than 600 workstations and employs
more than 1,000 reservationists, he said.
Resort bookings are handled 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m.
to 6 p.m., weekends. The Walt Disney Travel Co. bookings are taken
8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., weekdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays.
The smaller Tampa center, he said, has 550 workstations, and in
January, 312 persons were hired to work there. Similar hours apply
Disney World-related reservations also are handled in
Celebration, the Disney community near the theme parks.
Here, however, 30 reservationists concentrate on Disney Cruise
Line bookings from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
weekends. Virtually all of these reservations call for a land stay
at Disney World first, followed by a cruise.
In Orlando and Tampa, the reservationists all have their
specialties, such as handling the Walt Disney Travel Co. package
calls, the Disney resort hotel rooms and the hotels' in-house
packages, plus the bookings from AAA retail agency outlets and Dine
Line, (407) WDW-DINE.
Because 60 of the 90 on-site restaurants require a reservation,
it is not unusual to find 80 reservationists assigned to the Dine
Line, according to Gall.
But Orlando and Tampa reservationists also have been trained to
take over other lines if the influx becomes too heavy in one area,
The call volume is monitored constantly, and projections are
made to assure that peak periods are staffed adequately, he
Last year Walt Disney Travel Co. signed up more than 30 "good
neighbor" hotels in Kissimmee and Orlando for Resort Magic package
housing when officials realized demand for Disney on-site rooms
during the 25th anniversary would outstrip supply.
By booking these hotels for agents, according to Randy Garfield,
Walt Disney Attractions' senior vice president of travel operations
and sales, the agent is not forced to look elsewhere for space; at
the same time, Disney retains customers for the theme parks.
Garfield also is president of the Walt Disney Travel Co.
Although Disney maintains its own tour operation, it also does
business with more than 200 international tour operators, Garfield
said, adding that domestic wholesalers and agents are serviced by
27 district sales offices.
Booking numbers for travel agents are (800) 647-7900, for resort
rooms only and (800) 327-2996 for the Walt Disney Travel Co.
To book the Disney Cruise Line, retailers can call (800)