January 21, 2011

Disney's Wild Africa Trek Hits and Misses

An upscale, limited capacity three hour excursion through the wilds of Africa at the beautiful Disney's Animal Kingdom. Does it sound appealing enough to fork out the big bucks? Disney is banking on it!

The idea of a boutique park has been bantered about for a few years on both the theme park discussion boards and in the Disney Company board rooms. Yet, the economy has tanked with no foreseeable rebound, sending the best laid plans of mice and men back to square one.

Still, Disney wants to cash in on the trend started by Sea World and its incredible Discovery Cove aquatic adventure. The Wild Africa Trek is the Mouse's response. Even at the introductory rate at $129 per person, it is an experience for the elite and cash rich. The experience looks great in writing and more than worth it via the video promotion. It belongs here, but something still feels amiss.
The park's opening in 1998 left most of the buying public crying "foul" and "half day park"- and the dismal opening year numbers backed up the response of guests. So Disney scrambled to add more.

Here's the catch: an experience like this should have been offered on opening day sans lunch and the hefty price tag. Even with an advanced reservations system, it could have been a public relations nightmare or an operational challenge never before seen. Regardless, Disney could have figured it out- and avoided the problems associated with the park for its first decade, thereby ensuring high guest numbers and even higher revenue.

The Wild Animal Trek won't change the park's image for those unwilling to pay the additional fees, but it will be a nice add-on for those who are already more than accustomed to a lifestyle beyond the reach of the average American. However, to put it another way, the lifestyle of the average American- and our trips to the Disney Kingdoms- is already beyond the reach of most of the world, so this trek will be available to the smallest percentage of people possible, ultimately making the experience highly desirable and very profitable.
To track the progress of the development and expansion of Disney's Animal Kingdom, feel free to begin reading this multi-part series filled with concept art, photos, and more. You'll see the park in a whole new light! It begins here.
Lastly, please consider answering the poll to your left. Thanks!
(Photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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