The Magic of Digital: A platform for enhancing everyone’s vacation

What’s one of the most popular wearables in the world? The Disney MagicBand, according to Vivek Sharma of Disney Parks and Resorts. In two years, Disney has shipped over 18 million bands to guests of Walt Disney World in Orlando. It’s a component of Disney’s digital platform, which has been instrumental in increasing Disney guests’ intent to return, a key metric in the tourism industry. Sharma is the senior vice president responsible for the digital guest experience across four cruise lines, 11 parks, 47 resorts, a vacation ownership club, and guided family adventures. He spoke at the Center for Digital Transformation’s annual conference at The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine on March 24.

A goal of the initiative was to address the universal challenges of planning adventures and getting to and from destinations. The Disney team studied the various guest contexts end to end. Were they driving or flying? Coming from a different country? Repeat guests? On a family vacation, at a convention, with a group, on a honeymoon? The magic had to start online and accompany guests on their journey and accommodate for five key behaviors guests perform on Disney’s properties: eat, sleep, shop, share photos of their trip, and visit attractions. The platform supports guests in these endeavors, whether they’re strolling through the France pavilion at Epcot in Florida, or Disneyland Paris

The Disney team developed use cases to determine what to standardize, what to localize, and which technology to use. When Disney initially designed the MagicBand, smartphones weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today. Now guests can use a Disney app on their own mobile devices to manage their vacation in real time, from making reservations and uploading photos to bypassing long queues and tracking down that perfect souvenir.

For now, MagicBands are available only at Walt Disney World, Disney’s most sprawling property with six parks and 31 resorts on 47 square miles. That’s twice the size of Manhattan. Shuttling people from place to place and through turnstiles quickly is a huge logistical challenge, requiring the tenth largest bus fleet in America. The MagicBand has helped Disney to reduce the turnstile time by 30 percent and move 5,000 more people through the Magic Kingdom each day. What could such a platform do for the rest of the world’s most popular tourist destinations?

The tools for planning and booking, managing guest profiles, authentication, and mapification are universal across sites. Their content, however, accommodates local culture and the potential diversity of guests. For example, the sites for Disneyland Paris come in 11 different languages. The company’s twelfth theme park, Shanghai Disneyland opening this June, and offers tickets that are wholly digital: guests must register their IDs online, which prevents scalping or counterfeiting.

What makes the platform particularly appealing is its potential to scale for infusing Disney magic into more non-Disney destinations. Imagine touring the inspiration for Arendelle, kingdom of Elsa and Anna in Frozen. You already can, on Disney’s tour of Norway. With such a portfolio of beloved characters, the possibilities are endless—each, with a storybook ending.

About the Session

Disney has enhanced the guest experience by investing in sophisticated technology. CDT Founding Director Vijay Gurbaxani sits down with Vivek Sharma to discuss how technology is helping Disney raise the bar for customer experience at its theme parks.

Presented as a part of the Center for Digital Transformation’s annual one-day Road to Reinvention: Leadership in the Digital Age conference on March 24, 2016 at the University of California, Irvine. + MORE


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