Home-based agents are in high demand and competing host agencies are upping the ante as they woo new members, and that has more than a few agents asking themselves, should I make a switch?
TORONTO — Taking a page from the blockbuster film franchise ‘Toy Story’, Disney assured travel agents at its Toy Story Land Showcase in Toronto yesterday that they’ve “got a friend in Disney”.
During the first stop of its Toy Story Land tour, Claire Bilby, Senior Vice President, Sales, Services & Events at Disney Destinations, told agents that “we value you, we need you as part of our business, and we need you to help tell our story.” And that story, she added, largely focuses on the brand new Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort, opening June 30, 2018 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Inspired by Disney-Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ films and spanning 11 acres, the new themed land includes two all-new attractions: Slinky Dog Dash, a family-friendly roller coaster, and Alien Swirling Saucers, featuring adorable ‘Toy Story’ green aliens in flying saucers. In addition, Toy Story Mania, one of the most beloved attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has been expanded to feature an all-new toy carnival game box entrance.
When asked what makes Toy Story Land so special, Bilby told Travelweek that it’s truly a family attraction. “Toy Story resonates with everybody, whether you’re a toddler or a grandma. One of the things that we really honed in on is creating a whole immersive experience. Yes, attractions are very important, but it’s the whole land that will ultimately deliver that over-the-top family experience.”
Marlie Morrison, Managing Director, Marketing & Sales, Parks & Resorts, Canada and Asia Pacific, also predicts that Toy Story Land will be one of Disney’s most instagrammable areas. With over 400 toy blocks integrated into the land, gameboard pieces, green army men and lamp posts shaped like Tinkertoys, the new land will make guests feel like they’ve been shrunk to the size of one of Andy’s toys.
“I think it’s going to lend itself to all sorts of terrific shots,” Morrison told Travelweek. “It’s going to really appeal to intergenerational families, from grandparents to grandkids.”
Morrison added that Disney is particularly excited to welcome Canadians, who are regarded as one of the company’s most important markets. “We’re so happy with the amount of Canadians visiting the parks every year, both new Canadians who’ve never been and Canadians who are coming down for the umpteenth time with their families,” she said. “Canada is incredibly important, not only to Walt Disney World but also to Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani.”
To help Canadians experience that “Disney magic” for themselves, the company has made a concerted effort to change the way they train travel agents. Said Bilby: “The days of doing three-hour trainings are gone. Agents just don’t have the time, which is why we went to bi-weekly webinars that last from 30 minutes to an hour and feature very specific subject matter. Some people may sell Adventures by Disney, some may not. It’s all about fine-tuning what we do to help agents in the way they want the information.”
Bilby encourages agents to make use of Disney’s travel agent website, DisneyTravelAgents.ca, which she says is a “one-stop shop for nearly everything you need, whether it’s product updates, marketing assets, sales training, the latest offers and so much more.” The site will soon get an upgrade, an initiative driven by input from agents themselves.
“We’re very excited about this new site launching because it’s going to have a fantastic makeover, and it’s going to be mobile-friendly because we know how we all live on our iPhones,” she added.
Bilby also suggested that agents use Disney travel professional social channels, be it Facebook Pinterest or Youtube, because “that’s where we post incredible content and assets that you can then share with your clients on your own social channels.”
And with so many new developments coming to Disney parks this year and beyond, it’s more important than ever for agents to stay connected, sign up for webinars, participate in fams and visit the parks themselves with comp tickets and discounted agent rates.
“We want you to know that we are there for you and that we appreciate that you are here for us,” said Bilby. “Our goal is to make your job easier and to help you grow your business at the same time because when you market and sell Disney vacations, it benefits all of us – we all win by working together. Together, we will surely go to infinity and beyond.”
Here’s a sampling of what’s coming to Disney parks in 2018: