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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"America Is Open For Business"



President Obama delivered a speech from the Magic Kingdom last Thursday, January 19, 2012.  It’s not that I had a team or roving reporters from the field;  I had friends who happened to be visiting Walt Disney World Resort and were texting me to keep me informed.  President Obama declared in his speech to support tourism that “America is open for business.”  So what does all of that mean?

Why Magic Kingdom?  Walt Disney World Resort has over 32 million guests per year, but actual numbers are a well guarded industry secret.  Cinderella’s Castle is an icon recognized world wide and is known as one of the world’s most photographed locations.  What would be a better backdrop for a speech to support tourism?

Also, the location could be controlled . . . access, etc.  My friends indicated that the Magic Kingdom would close after the first 25,000 guests entered the gates.  Guests were routed through a backstage area in Tomorrowland to gain access to the park, and then were allowed access to other areas of the park by walking behind Cinderella’s Castle.  No crossing the hub, which was blocked for the speech and security reasons.  There was also no access to Main Street, U.S.A. until the speech was over and the area had been cleared.  Ironic, isn’t it?  While the idea of America being open for business was touted, guests were unable to get to Main Street, U.S.A.  Get it?

Anyway, Walt Disney World Resort compensated guests who might have had some limitations to making magic during their vacation due to the Presidents’ visit by offering extended hours at other parks, more entertainment options at other parks, and a nighttime fireworks display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Way to go Disney!  Another reason we keep coming back!

What does it mean that America is open for business?  I watched the 11, almost 12 minute speech on line later on Thursday.  The President proposed that travel visas be easier to obtain in more countries and processed faster for countries, especially China, India, and Brazil who have growing middle classes and economic means to travel.  Another proposal was marketing our country world wide as a tourist destination for National Parks, iconic cities, natural beauty, historic destinations, and theme parks.  The basic theme is that tourism is a way to grow our nation’s economy.  I can get behind those ideas.

What does it mean for us?  Interestingly, the Disney boards and forums are popping right now with complaints that Brazilians have taken over the parks.  Yes, there are many Brazilian tour groups that make twice annual pilgrimages to Walt Disney World—January and July.  Complaints about the large noisy groups, line jumping, and public displays of affection abound.  We were last at the World in July and witnessed line cutting, washing of hair in bathroom sinks, and attempts to guard Fastpass machines—which is a story the husband loves to tell—from members of various Brazilian tour groups.  I hesitate to claim that all Brazilian tour groups behave in this manner, and obviously we aren’t paying attention to those who are operating within expectations.

My personal response to the unacceptable behavior is to make eye contact with the offenders and say, “no” which is understood in many languages.  The husband would say that I have a “presence” and it came in handy a few times during our trip in July to at least temporarily halt inappropriate behavior from members of Brazilian tour groups.  But, I would do the same for offenders of any nationality.

Having visited foreign countries myself, I would never knowingly commit a social faux pas and I’m sensing that many visitors to our country would feel the same.  And, to quote Oprah, “when you know better, you do better.”  So, let’s make sure our guests know better.  My idea:  Provide a TV channel to be played at the Disney Resorts, or even throughout Orlando, that instructs on park rules, expectations, and etiquette in multiple languages.  I know there would be a way to advertise park amenities, products, or services throughout the messages, making it multi-purpose.  This same idea could be used in other heavily traveled tourist destinations.

So, it may mean crowds at certain destinations . . . even beyond theme parks. 

What about languages?  While many visitors to the U.S. already speak English, I certainly hope that the folks who are in charge of placing staffs at National Parks, historic destinations, iconic cities, and theme parks are considering multilingual employees or employees with various language capabilities.  It may be beneficial to have tourist information in multiple language formats just like we find directions for assembly for electronic devices and toys.

I volunteer at our local events center.  In fact, I have spent time there the last 3 out of 4 days.  The center provides a location for events big and small and a home for theater productions.  The center has been fodder for controversy among members of our city and city council, as expectations for the center to be profitable or not be a burden to tax payers have surfaced.  When volunteering there on Saturday, I was able to inform a fellow citizen that event centers such as ours, even in bit cities, do not typically run in the black.  Their purpose is to offer events and draw crowds so that other local businesses—restaurants, shops, gas stations, and hotels make a profit.  The more people in our community who understand that the better.  The same concept is behind “America is open for business.”   Let’s offer our National Parks, iconic cities, historic locations, and theme parks to the world so that our businesses can make a profit.  That’s an idea I can get behind.

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