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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Disney Trying To Edge Out Independent Travel Specialists?

My first clue was the delay in announcing the AAA member benefits for our upcoming Disney Cruise and the second clue was the lack of offering AAA member benefits for our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation—such as AAA Story Time—click here to read more, and Reserved Wishes Viewing—click here to read more.  Then there was the announcement of the Disney Vacation Savings Account—click here to read more—that made saving for and reserving a Disney vacation conveniently located all in one location.

What are these clues telling me?  They are telling me that Disney may be trying to edge out independent travel specialists, including AAA and other Disney certified travel agents.

Already, if a guest has a reservation for Disney that was made through a travel agent, Disney cannot touch the reservation—it has to be handled by the travel agent.  For us, there have been no issues, but we have seen and heard of instances where this has caused guest confusion and dissatisfaction.  And, while not technically Disney’s fault, it is typically while at Disney this dissatisfaction happens and Disney gets the blame.

When I asked about member benefits for our next Walt Disney World vacation and whether or not previous benefits would be offered, I was told no.  The best offer will be the 10% discount at World of Disney at Downtown Disney. 

And, we have been the folks that have taken advantage of the perks of both our travel agent and Disney Cruise Line when sailing.  For example, if we rebook on-board for our next cruise and give our travel agent the credit for the booking, we walk on the ship for our next cruise with an on-board credit from Disney as well as any perks or bonuses offered by our travel agency.  In the past, these perks have been on-board credits, or drink credits, or free tube/float rental for Castaway Cay, or photo package credits.  The perks vary based on the length of the cruise—the longer the cruise the better the perks.  For our upcoming 7 night cruise, the AAA member benefit will be photo credits, which was the same for a 5 night sailing.  And, there were no member benefits for cruises booked for later in the year; another hint!

If prospective guests use the new Disney Vacation Savings Account, they are expected (not required) to reserve their vacation directly with Disney.  Guests can use an independent travel specialist, but to access the savings account to make payments requires some extra steps.

We love Disney and we love our travel agent, so we are hoping that we don’t have to choose between the two.  And, we renew our AAA membership each year, not just for the travel perks, but the other services.  We appreciate our AAA travel specialist and appreciate AAA for the discounts and the service. 

I understand why Disney is doing this—edging out independent travel agents—I just don’t like it.  And, Disney does have the capability of providing service to assist guests in all aspects of the travel planning process—flights to dining.  Prospective guests will be able to experience the “Disney bubble” even before touching down in Orlando.  It is just that I don’t have Disney Reservations’ phone number on my phone, but I do have my travel agents.  And, I can tell you that more people ask for that number than any other!

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