The Force is strong with travel advisors when it comes to selling Disney's new Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
The Walt Disney World Resort hotel, which will open in Orlando on March 1, is selling well, and it already has theme park fans wondering if its concept -- almost like a land-based version of a cruise -- will catch on with other popular franchises and parks.
Disney unveiled plans for Galactic Starcruiser in 2017. Billed by Disney as an "experience" instead of a hotel, guests will follow an itinerary over their two-night stay, including a theme park visit.
"I think it's a genius idea," said Sue Pisaturo, president of Small World Vacations (No. 51 on Travel Weekly's 2021 Power List) in Washington Township, N.J. "How wonderful to give families a place to come together and get lost in this alternate reality. I think it's the next step for entertainment and vacationing."
A mock-up of a cabin aboard the Halcyon starcruiser. Photo Credit: David Roark/Disney
Galactic Starcruiser will be located near Disney's Hollywood Studios, home to its Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land. It has been designed to look and feel like a spaceship, dubbed the Halcyon. Guests will be transported to the "ship" via a launch pod for their experience to begin.
Once guests "board," they will spend the next two days following their itinerary, including meals and activities.
According to a sample itinerary, guests will be occupied for most of their time on the Halcyon. They will have choices to make that will make their stay unique. For instance, they might opt to join a smuggling ring or hide a stowaway to aid the Resistance. Entertainment includes riding the blockbuster attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, lightsaber training and live music.
The best way to describe it is a "cruise-type booking," said Lisa Federico, president of Academy Travel in Manahawkin, N.J.
Clients, and advisors, are booking. Federico herself spent six hours on hold to book her family, and a number of clients are gifting stays to Star Wars-loving family members for Christmas. Weekends have been the top request. Some clients have even booked more than one date in 2022.
"I feel this will be an immediate hit," she said. "And once the first visitors start posting on social media, it will go crazy from there on out. I also think many people will go more than once, will bring back family and friends, ultimately spreading the Force. People are loving the idea of an immersive experience that allows them to be part of their own Star Wars adventure."
MEI-Travel CEO Beci Mahnken on the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Beci Mahnken agreed. The CEO of MEI-Travel and Mouse Fan Travel of Issaquah, Wash., said Star Wars fans immediately booked when reservations opened in October.
Bookings have slowed since, but Mahnken believes as soon as posts start hitting social media again, more guests will consider adding a stay at Galactic Starcruiser to their Disney World vacation.
In the first few weeks bookings were open, Glass Slipper Concierge in San Antonio booked more than 70 families for the hotel, president and founder Cara Goldsbury said. Suites sold out "in a matter of weeks," and only standard cabins are currently available through September (the latest dates for which reservations are available at the moment).
Talking the Star Wars talk
Pisaturo estimated that Small World Vacations agents have handled around 150 reservations. And with a price tag starting at about $5,000 for two people per two-day experience, it's a nice commission, especially when paired with a Disney resort stay or cruise.
Her agents educated themselves on all things Star Wars to prepare to sell the hotel, something Pisaturo recommended any agent do if they have Star Wars fans among their clients.
A rendering of the Crown of Corellia Dining Room at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm
"The guests will feel they're in good hands, that you 'get' them," she said. "I think it'd be a disservice not to. This is such a specific product. It's such a specific experience."
Federico's agents have also been linking Starcruiser stays to Disney Cruise Line sailings featuring Star Wars Day at Sea.
Advisors believe there is a long pipeline of Star Wars fans waiting to stay at the Galactic Starcruiser, and the fan base is continually widening, Goldsbury said, especially with new Star Wars content premiering on Disney's streaming service, Disney+.
Waiting on Hogwarts
The popularity of the Star Wars hotel has many wondering if more themed experiences like it will be forthcoming from Disney, or perhaps its nearby competitor, Universal Orlando Resort.
"I'm sure Universal's brain is ticking away as we speak," Goldsbury said. "It's surprising to me that a Harry Potter-themed hotel has not already opened at Universal, given the extreme popularity of those areas of their theme parks."
Mahnken said she believes it's "just a matter of time before others jump on the bandwagon" if Galactic Starcruiser is profitable. Her mind immediately jumped to the possibility of Harry Potter, as well.
"The idea of a disruptor in the hotel space is really exciting," she said.