Walt Disney Travel Co. acts as 'distribution channel'

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Walt Disney Travel Co., as its president, Randy Garfield, CTC, sees it, is simply another distribution channel for selling admissions to Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California that also helps Disney-owned hotels fill their rooms.

Distinguishing the Walt Disney Travel Co. from other operators is easy, Garfield said. The firm's slogan is "We don't just sell Disney, we are Disney."

That means financial stability, a dedication to serve agents and clients, and dealing with employees who want to work for Disney, he said.

In fact, the company sells nothing but Disney, although it will book select non-Disney "Good Neighbor" hotels around Orlando and beachfront hotels elsewhere in Florida, but only in conjunction with a Disney theme park visit.

Because all of Disney Travel's middle managers and senior executives are certified travel counselors, the operator's staff understands the agency business, Garfield said.

One of Disney Travel's goals is to minimize agent's time waiting for a reservationist, Garfield said, adding that the best time to call is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Nearly 500 Disney reservationists answer phones seven days per week in Florida and California, Garfield said, and as an incentive, they are given noncash internal awards for providing extraordinary service.

The Walt Disney Travel Co. has its own guest services department for handling calls from clients who run into a problem during their trip, Garfield said. The department's "working relationship" with the Disney hotels is excellent, he noted.

The Disney Florida product line ranges from three-night, economy-priced Fall Fantasy vacations to inclusive, seven-night offerings such as the Grand Plan, covering everything from upscale hotels; a Cirque du Soleil performance; a fireworks cruise; a spa treatment; behind-the-scenes tours; boating; unlimited golf and other activities, and, of course, unlimited theme park visits.

The three-night and longer Resort Magic is one of Disney Travel's top-selling programs because agents know it meets the needs of a wide variety of their Florida clients.

The program includes a choice of economy to upscale hotels; unlimited admission to Disney parks, and a choice of "flex features" such as boating, character breakfasts, golf and special-interest walking tours.

A Dining Disney Style prepaid meal option, also commissionable, is available. Because reservationists sample what they sell, Garfield said, agents can get firsthand information to relay to clients.

Despite the advantages of booking the Walt Disney Travel Co. product line, if agents choose to book with other wholesalers authorized to sell on-site Disney hotels, that also is fine with Garfield.

In fact, Garfield said those other 200-plus worldwide operators are not his competitors, but his allies. They are helping to fill Disney's hotel rooms and theme parks in Florida and California and its two cruise ships.

When Garfield wears his other hat as Walt Disney Attractions' senior vice president of sales and travel operations, the other tour operators are viewed by him and other Disney travel industry marketing department employees as customers.

What is bound to benefit everyone -- Walt Disney Travel Co., its allied tour operators and agents worldwide -- is Disney World's 15-month Millennium Celebration starting Oct. 1, Garfield said.

A related sales kit recently went out to top agents who sell the Walt Disney World Resort so they can tie in locally with upcoming consumer ad efforts. The parent Walt Disney Co.'s media holdings, including the ABC-TV network, and various promotions with partner companies that focus on the theme parks keep the public ever aware of Disney, he noted.

Therefore, name recognition is never a problem, Garfield said, and all agents have to do is follow through locally, contacting their clients and developing their own promotions. Those who fail to do so, Garfield emphasized "are leaving money on the table."

Fact Sheet: All in a day's work

Company: Walt Disney Travel Co.

Ownership: The Walt Disney Co., Burbank, Calif.

Founded: 1968.

Address: Box 22094, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. 32830.

Reservations: (800) 327-2996, Florida; (800) 854-3104, California.

Brochures: (800) 900-8080.

Web: www.travelagents .disney.com (bookings are accepted).

CRS: All major systems.

Number of employees: 671.

Reservations offices: Kissimmee and Tampa, Fla.; Anaheim, Calif.

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