Meetings in the Magic Kingdom

By Heather Baldwin

When you think of Walt Disney, what comes to mind? Mickey Mouse? Snow White? Meetings? Wait a minute – meetings? Yes, and spurred by growing demand for its meetings expertise, Disney is now seeking to expand that aspect of its business through additional programming and training sites. “We have discovered an ever-increasing demand from the meetings market for Disney’s innovative approach to education,” says George Aguel, senior vice president for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We’re convinced that the time is right for us to take this successful business to the next level.”

That “next level” will include shifting the focus from individuals to groups, bringing Disney Institute programs to Disney’s six meeting resorts and expanding the number and type of programs offered at those resorts. What does all this mean? First, Disney Institute is abandoning its open enrollment programs where one or two individuals from a company could sign up and attend a seminar. Now, say Disney officials, the sole focus will be on groups. At the same time, the physical Disney Institute buildings will be vacated and turned over to other Disney divisions as the company aggressively expands its meetings services at its six meetings resorts.

Finally, because Disney is no longer focusing on individual programs, all the employees tied to those programs – including designers, facilitators, support people, etc. – will move over to the group business to run the growing number of group meetings and develop new programs. Currently, Disney’s program topics include Quality Service, Leadership Excellence, People Management, Loyalty, Organizational Creativity and Value Chain Management. Disney’s marketing and program development team are working with customers now to determine what other topics and new types of programs should be added to that list. The company anticipates reaching some decisions by the end of the year.

In the meantime, Disney Institute just launched a redesigned web site, www.disneymeetings.com, that includes comprehensive data on Disney’s meeting resorts, theme park events, Disney Cruise Line and Disney Event Productions – a one-stop source for complete meeting support services. The site offers meeting planners three options for submitting RFPs; enhanced visuals with 360-degree tours of meeting space, lobby areas and guest rooms at each of Disney’s six convention resorts; floor plans, menus, room specifications and complete brochures that can be downloaded and forwarded to attendees; and a subscription to Disney Meetings Magic Circle, which offers free case studies of real meetings and meeting ideas and insights. The bottom line: Disney isn’t just Mickey Mousing around with its plans to expand its presence in the meetings industry.