Connaissez-vous ce nouveau programme de visites guidées à travers le monde proposé par Disney depuis 2005? De deux itinéraires à ses débuts, le succès en a fait pousser 21 autres depuis. De la Chine à Hollywood, de l'Italie à la Grande Barrière de Corail, il y en a pour tous les goûts. C'est du Disney dans le service, l'organisation, l'art de raconter des histoires et faire vivre des aventures fabuleuses à toute la famille, mais dans des environnements réels et sans mettre des personnages à toutes les sauces.
Le site officiel:
Le NYTimes propose à ce titre un article récent vraiment intéressant, qui revient sur les raisons de ce succès et le programme en lui-même, ainsi que ses quelques changement depuis trois ans.Disney Ventures Far From the Parks
WHEN Karen Gammiere heard that the Walt Disney Company had started offering guided tours to places like Peru
, the San Diego
mother of two was skeptical. She didn’t want to arrive at the Great Wall of China to find Winnie the Pooh shaking her hand. “Shudder,” she said.
Still, Ms. Gammiere decided to risk it after reading glowing online reports, booking a nine-day Disney tour called Viva Italia that would take the family to Rome, Florence
and Venice. The verdict: “We loved everything about it and so did the kids,” she gushed, citing adults-only wine tastings and first-class Eurostar train seats. “And I never once saw a costumed character,” she said.
Restraint and sophistication are not words that you would typically use to describe a Disney vacation. In fact, the company has built its $10.6 billion theme park, hotel and cruise
empire around the opposite. Pass through the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth and you’re encouraged to eat fudge, hug Goofy and wear mouse ears. Stay for the parade and you’ll be picking confetti out of your hair for a week.
All that sweetness is great — an estimated 117 million customers lapped it up at Disney resorts last year — but the company realized a few years ago that it was missing a vast pool of potential customers.
Jay Rasulo, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, says the idea is to “take the magic on the road.” In other words, apply some of the company’s hallmarks — exceptionalcustomer service, an emphasis on storytelling and safety — to the guided tour market.
Evolving with the traveling public has always been part of Disney’s approach to the vacation business. In the 1950s, Disneyland
tapped the nuclear family going on vacation in their new cars. Florida’s Walt Disney World
, built in the 1970s and 1980s, was about the flying vacation. Then came the hugely popular Disney Cruise Line in the 1990s.
Now, with participatory vacations booming and the Internet making international travel less daunting, the company is trying to expand again. Adventures by Disney is designed to take families to places they might be too timid to visit on their own — without loading on the schmaltz. Hiking Machu Picchu
with an 8-year-old would be daunting for most travelers. With Disney promising to handle everything, it might seem doable.
Linda and Steve Heck of Alpine, Calif., recently booked a Disney tour to Italy
for just that reason. They wanted to treat their granddaughter, age 13, to a summer vacation but worried they wouldn’t know how to entertain her for nine days in a foreign country. “My husband and I don’t want to get to Italy with a 13-year-old and be looking at each other and thinking, “‘Great, now what do we do?’” Ms. Heck said.
The strong response to Adventures by Disney has caught the company by surprise because it has relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing. The company dipped its toe in the business in 2005 with two itineraries. In 2008, it booked 17 itineraries in 13 countries, with a total of 370 scheduled tours of up to 40 people each. For 2009, Disney will add eight tours, including one to Africa
. Age requirements vary, but most tours accept travelers age 4 to 94.
The push is risky for Disney because its vacation business has always turned on fantasy and on maintaining utter control. But guided tours are about reality. Moreover, the Mouseketeers for the first time have to rely on outside vendors. (The project’s code name was O.P.I., for Other People’s Infrastructure.) This is a company whose reputation relies on its family friendliness, after all. What happens if the bus happens to drive by a nude beach?
The company, which has long endured criticism about pushing itself on other cultures, could also set its international efforts back if it comes across as disrespectful.
“It quickly went from a brainstorming session to an oh-my-god-what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into moment,” said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s research and development arm.
Family adventure travel is nothing new, but Disney thinks it can compete by drawing on its resources to provide unique excursions. For instance, a tour of California
stops in Hollywood for an exploration of Jim Henson’s studio, home to “The Muppets” and otherwise off limits to the public. In London
, guests go backstage at the West End production of “The Lion King.”
Travel agents say the company is also bringing a degree of comfort and attention to detail that is missing from most family tours. Each day, guides surreptitiously take photos of families enjoying activities and slide copies under their hotel room doors during the night. Ice is carted around in Europe
to make up for restaurants that lack it. After river rafting
in Peru, guides surprise guests with hot chocolate and a warm towel.
“What I liked is that I didn’t have to be the mom on this trip,” Ms. Gammiere said, citing an evening where the kids watched a movie and the adults went to a wine tasting.
As you might imagine, little is left to chance. Each itinerary is tested three times by guides and then Disney stages “dress rehearsals” using employees as guinea pigs. Heather Killingbeck, director of trip and program development, said trial runs are used to teach local contractors that Disney standards are not flexible. “Sometimes they don’t understand that 45 minutes means 45 minutes,” she said.
While Disney characters do not populate the tours, the company relies heavily on what it calls “local storytellers.” For instance, in Venice the Disney tour guide might say, “Some people believe that you can even see the ghost of Marco Polo
wandering these streets.” Around the next corner, Marco Polo, a local actor in historical garb, awaits.
There are still kinks. One media executive who took his family on the China trip called it “Mao’s long march,” complaining that it covered too much ground. Disney, which has since tweaked the China itinerary, has also learned not to over-promise in brochures. “The opportunity to wander a vast glacier frozen in time” on the Canadian Rockies tour, turned out to be, in one customer’s words, “more like the chance to look at a dirty patch of snow.” The tour has since been canceled.
Karolee Glassman said she sought out the tours because the family was outgrowing Disney’s theme parks. “We would go as each grandchild hit 3 or 4, but we haven’t gone as much in recent years,” she said.
The company certainly has her business back: Mrs. Glassman, 70, and her husband Sandy, 85, have booked upcoming tours for their extended family to Italy and Ireland
. In March, the New Jersey
couple went on a Disney tour to Costa Rica
, where they painted gourds with local artists, soaked in volcanic hot springs and soared through the rain forest on a zip line.
“Nothing screamed Disney but the service,” Mrs. Glassman said, “which was marvelous.” MOUSE-EYE VIEWS
For information on Adventures by Disney, visit abd.disney.go.com
or call (877) 728-7282. Prices for the tours include accommodations and most meals but not airfare or guide tips (suggested tips are $180 to $288 per guide for a family of four).
Among the itineraries are:Once Upon a Fairytale,
a nine-day tour of the medieval towns and castles dotting southern Germany
. Highlights include spots that inspired “Sleeping Beauty” and “Rapunzel,” and a workshop at the Steiff Bear factory. Adults: $3,399 peak (July); $3,199 standard (June, early August and September) and $2,899 value (May, mid- and late August and October); children younger than 12: $2,609 to $3,059.Sacred Valleys and Incan Cities,
also a nine-day trip, visiting Machu Picchu
and other ruins, and including a river rafting
trip (Class 1 and 2 rapids), as well as a visit to Peruvian textile and cooking workshops. Adults: $2,699 to $3,299; children: $2,429 to $2,969.