those of you who are regular visitors to one of my sites, etckt.com know that its mission is to bring the latest and greatest information about walt disney world as well as the happenings from all over disney’s world. we do not focus our efforts at etckt.com on other theme parks or attractions; even those located in the same marketplace as disney’s for several reasons.
firstly, it is not to deny the existence of any sort of competition to disney. ample competition makes the market better for the consumer and guests to the park. disney has been a boon to the development of orlando over the past forty-plus years and continues to be the area’s largest employer (disclosure: i am a former disney castmember and have worked with the company in an external capacity off and on over the years).
secondly, it is not to ignore great attractions that other companies provide in the destination tourism business. there are limitless ways to to capture tourist’s dollars (euros, pounds, yen, etc.) and many companies provide exception immersive experiences that can be enjoyed by millions of travelers every year.
i have spent the better part of my career working in the entertainment and travel industries. my knowledge of the destination tourism business comes from extensive hands-on experience marketing and advertising destinations around the globe to travelers of all tastes.
finally, it is not because i do not enjoy other entertainment properties. living in central florida we have ventured to all of the local attractions and frequent the businesses that cater to our preferences. i have my disney annual pass, as well as a universal pass.
part of starting etckt.com was to showcase the greatest tourist destination on the planet. part in parcel of living within this tourist hub is taking part in all that it has to offer. from theme parks and shopping to restaurants and local experiences we live the “orlando life” and hope to present an accurate picture of not only why orlando consistently ranks as a top destination but why disney’s parks consistently rate in the top 10 year after year.
as our business strategy evolves with other web ventures we have in production they will take a wider view of the great orlando tourist attractions but for now our focus has been on the walt disney world resort with: etckt.com and our mobile applications from pixiepins.com.
until recently, tourists came to walt disney world and visited the other parks; that has changed to a certain point with the introduction of the wizarding world of harry potter at universal orlando’s islands of adventure (ioa).
we love many things about the new land at ioa but the problems that beset this new land within ioa have been endemic of universal’s approach (more appropriately universal’s parent company’s) to the theme park business. although they did not cut corners on the fit and finish of this amazing new land they did not really plan properly enough to cater to the millions of visitors who will want to experience the wizarding world. area is too small, queue lines for several attractions are poorly implemented, overflow from overcrowding restricts casual guests, etc.
so why am i writing this post today? in this morning’s new york times (subscription may be required to read) there is an article by michael barbaro on what they are calling “the new harry potter theme park”. first and foremost is mr. barbaro’s inference that there is an entire park dedicated to harry potter and the great stories from the genius of j. k. rowling.
it is not until nearly the end of the article that mr barbaro states that “the final product” opened inside of universal’s islands of adventure; this glaring error does a disservice to the traveling public who may not have as much exposure to universal’s ioa as those who live in the area. i continue to field questions from friends and family about the new “park“; only to have to face their disappointment when they learn it is “only” a land within the existing islands of adventure.
as respected as the gray lady may be, this article does not offer a cohesive look at the destination from both a macro (central florida as a destination) and micro (ioa) level. mr. barbaro offers some unique tidbits, like the creation of butter beer, but misses the larger point of the challenges and successes of this new land at universal orlando.
he could have gone further to explain the land is only a component of a larger park, ioa, rather than insinuating in his opening salvo that it is its own theme park; perpetuating a misconception that creates a real business problem for universal orlando’s tourism campaigns.
furthermore he could have expounded on the great details that j. k. rowling oversaw in the massive undertaking to bring her creation to life. mr. barbaro could have also investigated why universal was so cautious with the creation of the attraction – relegating it to a small section in the rear of the park and refitting a couple of attractions to mesh with the harry potter mythology rather than starting everything anew.
finally, he could have showcased the business concerns that universal and its parent company had in the development of this land from its concept to completion and how the new land is faring against those concerns.
instead we get a few softballs on the new additions, a couple of swipes at disney and nothing more. he goes on to state that “disney world remains by far the no. 1 lure in the region”, when in fact it is one of the top destinations in the world. orlando offers an incredible array of activities that cater to tourists from all walks of life. which, until the economic meltdown, orlando had been the number 1 tourist destination for years; still being in the top 5 is pretty admirable showing for the region and a testament to the great destinations around central florida.
ultimately, my issue is not with universal’s newest attraction. i have been there several times and love the attention to detail. my issue is with the article using a broad brush to infer items without any real detail for the reader to take away except possible misinformation that could lead to a less-than-stellar experience when visiting the attractions here in central florida.
universal has made a tremendous advance in theme park design with their new land while at the same time short-changed themselves and the public with lack of foresight in shoe-horning it into a small footprint at the back of the park.
disney has been, and will continue to be, the number one family destination in the world for the foreseeable future. the residents of hogwarts will hopefully challenge the great imagineers at disney to one-up their neighbors as they introduce new and revamped attractions across their entire property.
i expect more from the new york times in their reporting. from hard news to travel reporting they have set a standard that most journalist aspire to. this article, however, was phoned in and does a disservice to its subject and the times.