Posts Tagged ‘Limos’

Lessons From Disney

November 15, 2008

We all know that The Walt Disney Company has a lot of money to do things right. Yet many of their competitors are well capitalized and can’t even deal with trash properly (are you listening Mr. Shapiro).

My 11-year old daughter and I walked out of Disneyland / California Adventure after spending $290.89 ($12 for Parking + $188 for 2 “Park Hopper Tickets” + $63.89 for dinner @ Restaurant in Pirates Ride + $27 for water, pretzels, soda, etc) with big smiles on our faces. Why can Disney charge so much and still leave consumers feeling they got value for their money (ok, we went a little crazy eating at that restaurant, but you only live once and we actually were able to get in)? Here are some major points from the notes Gwen and I took this weekend. We will stick to stuff that everyone can afford to do in some way.

· WEBSITE – From Disney’s website we were able to buy tickets, plan our day, find out what rides were closed, what shows were new and when they were playing, and of course directions to the park.

· WELL MARKETED ROUTE – We all don’t have the political clout to get the kind of exits and signage that Disneyland has, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a well market route. Bonnaroo and ACL Festivals both do a good job with this.

· TRAINED PARKING STAFF – These people know how to park cars, campers, buses, limos, and even pumpkin coaches. If you can’t afford to hire pros to run your parking, study what Disney does and then create a manual.

· TRANSPORTATION FROM YOUR CAR OR HOTEL – At many arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters, etc, there is one hell of a hike from your car to the entrance to the facility. Disney not only provides transportation, they give you valuable information while you are traveling on their trams and monorails.

· EXTREMELY WELL TRAINED STAFF – If you need a map, “go to a custodial worker in an all white uniform”. Want to find a ride or attraction and don’t want to look at the map?  ANY employee can tell you the fastest way to get there. And with a smile on their face. Training and manuals are the keys to success…along with hiring the right people (but not as important as training and manuals no mater what anyone tells you).

· BRANDED LIVE ENTERTAINMENT – Disneyland and California Adventure sponsor/partners are built right into the show rather than looking like an afterthought. Everyone who drives a car on the “Autopia” ride gets an official drivers license from Chevron. Kodak has “Photo Shot” areas that are even marked out on the theme park’s maps.

· SIGNAGE & MAPS – Maybe repeating myself a little with well marked route, but this relates to ounce the consumer is at your event. If you have trouble finding something at a Disney park, you either can’t read or speak English or Spanish, or you don’t know to take advantage of their translation programs… or you don’t like asking for directions period.

· PLACES FOR PEOPLE TO SIT & EAT – You will sell more food and beverage if you give your guests a place to enjoy it…out of the sun, rain, wind… on a clean table. Disney knows this.

· FOOD & BEVERAGE VARIETY –Disney even goes the extra step of using the theme of the area (Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, etc) to design both the menus and architecture of their restaurants, stands, carts, etc.

· LINES ARE BAD – When lines start to form at the ticketing windows out front, they open more windows right away. If one line seems to be moving faster than another, there is a supervisor out in the slower line trying to find out why (clipboard in hand). When there are lines at popular rides, Disney warns you of the wait time, gives you an option to come back later with a “Fast Pass”, and tries to keep your mind occupied by designing an experience around the line should you decide to wait.

· PEOPLE TRAFFIC CONTROL – Boy do these guys know how to keep guests moving, change directions for parades and shows, etc. Training, training, training.

· CLEAN RESTROOMS / CLEAN EVERYTHING – Nothing else to say.

· KEEPING STUFF UP – It is amazing, but it is said that some things at Disney parks get a fresh coat of paint every night. Ever see how much “ABC gum” you find at a Six Flags Park? Yuk!!!

· LIGHTING MAKES THE SHOW – Whether day or night, Disney parks use lighting to help create an atmosphere. You should do the same.

· CROSS PROMOTION – Disney builds their movies, books, and TV shows into their theme park rides, shows, and attractions. Branding at its best.

I could go on forever, but the list above was most of our note highlights. Disney is certainly not perfect, but we can learn a lot from them.

As always, would love your opinions and comments.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

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Hospitality is a Profession, so Leave it to Pros

November 9, 2008

I was talking with a friend on Friday who told me they wanted to start a conference.  I’m not going to say much more than that since I don’t want to give away my friend’s idea.  Anyway, it became apparent that my friend didn’t know much about the hospitality, event, or conference businesses. This friend could be in touble if they move forward without getting help.

 

On Saturday I got an email from my assitant while I worked at CAA, Nicole Provencio.  She’s now at Sketchers Corporate (the shoe company) where her “main job is to book hotels for all trade shows, conferences, and events.  Finding the newest & hottest hotels, getting the best rates, avoiding attrition, etc.”  Sketchers have over 20 annual trade shows alone each year, so they need someone like Nicole…someone with experience.  Sketchers, just like you, must have an experienced person on the other end of the phone or across the table from the hotel, resort, conference center, cruise ship, tour operator, or whoever you are doing business withs’ sales person.  They are certainly experienced and know just what they can and can’t offer.

 

 

 

When Andy Levine from Sixthman told me that there was a difference between doing a big concert or festival and producing a music themed cruise, my ego got the best of me to be honest.  I thought, if I could handle concerts with 200,000 people or manage tours checking 175 people in and out of hotels, tour buses, limos, vans, town cars and airports around the world, I could handle a few thousand drunken music fans and bands on a cruise ship.  I got spanked.  I’m sure Andy laughed.  Nothing takes the place of experience. 

 

 

So you don’t have the money to hire a pro to take care of your hospitality.  Here are some helpful hints from a guy with a few years on the road.  Some are obvious, but always worth being reminded.

 

 

 

·     In this economy disposable income is declining which means fewer will travel.  It is a buyers market.

·     When dealing with group sales at hotels, try to speak with someone as far up the food-chain as possible since anything out of the ordinary you may request will have to be run up the ladder anyway.

·     Try to avoid contracts whenever possible.

·     When booking groups, most hotels will insist on a contract.  The first things you need to look at are dates and numbers.  The word ATTRITION will become very important if you are managing your room blocks.  Try and get dates in your contracts where you are able to drop inventory you were not able to fill.  Obviously the closer to your event dates, the better for you. 

·     Before you start negotiating room rates, get an understanding of the hotels “rack rates” and the region’s high, low, and shoulder seasons.  Good deals can always be had…even in “high season” for a property. 

·     Deposits are another place you can push properties now.  They should be looking at this as more of a partnership these days as you are taking real risk to produce and market the event or whatever you are doing.  You should make your deposits as close to your event date as possible. 

·     Other mines to look for in hotel and hospitality contracts include: Buy-out rates and fees (rates go up on rooms for taking an entire property, resort, cruise ship, etc…this is a common practice at some resorts and cruise lines), baggage handling fees, gratuities, taxes on gratuities, ballroom and conference room charges, phone and data lines, hospitality desks, room drops (having materials or gifts delivered to guest’s rooms), copying and business center charges, and lets not forget parking (I went to a conference once where guests paid $50 per day to park their cars and it wasn’t in New York).

·     Food & Beverage becomes a whole new world and language in hospitality and you won’t believe the prices.  In this case, those airplane crash drills where you put your head between your legs and pray may work best. 

·     Not booking groups but want to save money on travel?  Look at the “Limited Service Hotels” popping up everywhere. 

 

Reality is hospitality is a profession and it pays to hire someone experienced to handle your needs.  Musical artists, their managers and agents go to producers like Andy Levine to do their cruises because he has seen it all.  Sketchers knows to go to Nicole because she booked Aspen Live Conference (Dec. 11-13 @ St. Regis, Aspen…Shameless plug) hotel rooms, transportation, meals, etc, for two years before coming to their company.  My advice, leave hospitality to Andy, Nicole or The Agency Group Events & Entertainment, Ltd. (another shameless plug).

 

As always, would love your comments and input.

 

 

 

Talk to you soon,

 

 

 

Jim