Disney Vacation Club began way back – I’m talking the last century. The last millenium, even; October 1991. Since then the word has spread as Disney Vacation Club has transformed the entire vacation ownership industry.
In October 1991, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) revolutionized the vacation-ownership concept by drawing on Disney’s unrivaled brand of imagination and innovation. Today, more than 400,000 individual members from approximately 100 countries and all 50 states have learned “the best-kept Disney secret” and have secured decades of Disney-quality vacations at today’s prices through the magic of membership.
Inspired by guests who return to Walt Disney World resorts and theme parks year after year, DVC is one of the most successful and highly rated vacation-ownership programs on the continent. The DVC ownership program provides members with a wide variety of quality vacation experiences in the Disney tradition while offering the freedom to tailor every vacation to each guest’s interests and personal needs.
“Guests become members of Disney Vacation Club because of the magical memories and traditions that are so ingrained in the Disney experience,” said Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis. “Anyone can sell accommodations, but only Disney can offer the experiential environment, the entertainment and the imaginative programs that are part of our tradition. We call it ‘the best-kept Disney secret,’ but the secret’s getting out.”
How Disney Vacation Club Works
The methodology behind DVC’s not-so-secret vacation-ownership program is simple: with the purchase of a deeded real estate interest, guests automatically become a member of DVC. That membership then provides guests with the flexibility to personalize their vacation experiences as their family’s vacation interests change over time.
That signature flexibility is a hallmark of DVC’s “vacation point” system, which gives members an annual allotment of points that can be used in a variety of ways. Each year, members receive an annual allotment of vacation points that can be used in a variety of ways for different types of accommodations at a dazzling variety of resorts and for other vacation experiences, subject to availability. Guests can customize each and every vacation in a nearly limitless number of ways.
New members can join DVC with an initial purchase starting at approximately $17,920. Members can also elect to bank or borrow vacation points, use their vacation points in combination with renting accommodations on a cash basis or purchase an additional real estate interest at any time.
Where Disney Vacation Club Vacation Points Can Be Used
DVC members have the option of using their vacation points to stay in a variety of locales. Should they choose to vacation at a DVC resort, members can opt to stay at one of eight resorts, including: Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, which are all located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, or at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (Vero Beach, Fla.) or Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (Hilton Head Island, S.C). Members wanting to stay within the Disney family can also vacation at other select Walt Disney World properties, the Disneyland Resort hotels in Anaheim, Calif., and at Disneyland Resort hotels in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Members looking to stay at a DVC resort can also anticipate a few new options scheduled to open in 2009. At Walt Disney World Resort, Kidani Village, part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, recently opened its doors to members and guests. Upcoming resort offerings include Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort (the fourth phase of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa) and Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Plus, on the west coast, DVC is scheduled to open The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, part of an expansion of the existing hotel. For those members looking for new offerings that are outside of a Disney theme park resort, plans are underway to open an expansive Disney family mixed-use resort in Hawaii, which is scheduled to include 350 traditional hotel rooms and 480 DVC vacation villas built on 21 acres of oceanfront property on the island of Oahu.
“What excites me most about this tremendous growth is that we’re not only creating new accommodations, but new experiences,” Lewis said. “Each of the projects we’ve undertaken at Disney Vacation Club is unlike anything previously available in our resort portfolio, and our newest vacation experiences proudly build on that tradition.”
With the opening of its first phase in May 2009, Kidani Village, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, offers guests African-inspired details and home-like amenities. Many vacation villas also feature sweeping views of an expanded savannah inhabited by a variety of African animals.
The opening of Kidani Village includes new additions to the resort, such as Sanaa, a table-service restaurant celebrating African-inspired cuisine with an Indian touch; Samawati Springs Pool, a themed pool area; Uwanja Camp, a themed water-play area; Survival of the Fittest, a fitness center; Johari Treasures, a merchandise shop, and much more.
Jambo House, which includes 109 remodeled two-bedroom equivalent accommodations on the fifth and sixth floors of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, opened in July 2007 and is considered phase one of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. The first rooms and amenities at Kidani Village, phase two of the resort, opened May 1, 2009, with the remaining rooms and amenities planned for a fall 2009 opening. Upon its completion, Kidani Village is planned to include 340 two-bedroom equivalent vacation villas, for a total of 449 two-bedroom equivalent accommodations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas.
The 15-story Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, scheduled to join the Disney Vacation Club family of properties in August 2009, is designed to complement the fabled styling of the original building. Beyond mimicking the color palette and strong horizontal lines of its iconic predecessor, the tower’s crescent shape, hugging lush landscaping, planned recreation options and a lakeside pool promises to deliver some of the most dramatic views available anywhere at Walt Disney World Resort. Some villas face scenic, undeveloped stretches of Bay Lake, while others offer spectacular views of Magic Kingdom, located a short walk away.
As with many DVC resorts, most of the rooms in this iconic resort will feature innovative touches, such as modern artwork designed specifically for Bay Lake Tower, flat-screen TVs, full kitchens complete with granite countertops and modern appliances, separate bedrooms, washers and dryers, and other home-like amenities. Plus, to accommodate larger families or families traveling together, many Bay Lake Tower vacation villas are designed to sleep up to nine, though some units can also be divided into one-bedroom villas that sleep five and studios that accommodate four, creating flexible options for smaller groups.
The Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, scheduled to open on June 1, 2009, will become the next room category offered at that resort. Nestled in natural forest glens just around the riverbend from the bustling Downtown Disney area, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will revive Walt Disney World “treehouse living,” a cherished tradition from 1975-2002. While crews are replacing villas of the ‘70s with brand-new vacation homes, Imagineers took special care to honor the original octagonal design. The construction process itself is unique as each stand-alone treehouse villa will come together like a giant 3-D puzzle to ensure both superior quality and environmental sensitivity.
Plus, all 60 three-bedroom homes, elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest environment, will sleep nine and are planned to offer modern luxuries such as partial cathedral ceilings, a barbecue grill and flat-panel TVs, all presented in a style dubbed “cabin casual.”
“Bay Lake Tower is something our members have been requesting for a long time. With a sweeping view of Bay Lake on one side and Magic Kingdom on the other, the location couldn’t be any better,” Lewis said. “Treehouse Villas offers a completely different experience. Staying in one of the villas will be like having your very own stand-alone home in a peaceful, natural setting right on Disney property.”
Scheduled to open in late 2009, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa will add 50 two-bedroom equivalent vacation villas to the 2.5-acre expansion of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and mark DVC’s first venture into California and Disneyland Resort. Most vacation villas will include kitchens, living and dining areas and other home-like amenities while reflecting the same California Arts & Crafts architecture of the existing hotel, which immerses guests in a turn-of-the-20th-century California experience.
Additionally, for those looking to travel to destinations outside of the Disney realm, members can select from a collection of world-renowned hotels, sample an adventure travel experience such as an African safari or take an Adventures by Disney vacation to one of many exotic itineraries including China, Australia or Central America. Members can also set sail on one of the Disney Cruise Line ships or stay at one of hundreds of resorts worldwide through DVC’s vacation ownership exchange program.
The Secret’s Getting Out
Word of Disney’s “best-kept secret” is spreading through members and non-members alike, spurred by the program’s flexibility, affordability and unique ability to create unforgettable vacation experiences.
“One thing we hear consistently from our members is ‘I wish I’d bought into the Club sooner’,” said Disney Vacation Club Director of Marketing Sybil Woolfork. “Plus, our members are not shy about sharing their DVC experiences with friends and family, which is why one of DVC’s biggest drivers for new members is existing members’ recommendations. These endorsements are the best kind of promotion and advertising for our program.”
Since vacation ownership programs were first introduced to the United States in the early 1960s, the industry has grown to a $10 billion business. A study conducted by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the professional association of the recreational real estate, resort and vacation ownership industry, attributes this growth to a variety of factors, including higher standards of accommodations, quality and service, flexibility and the industry’s improved overall image. Although DVC, like many vacation ownership programs, is grounded in real estate, it has brought many innovative elements to its vacation ownership product, including its signature element: flexibility.
Additional advantages to membership in DVC include special benefits such as discounts on Disney theme park admission, dining, merchandise and recreation, as well as other unique offers and exclusive member events. DVC also features a dedicated in-house member services team of professional travel planners that is only a phone call away. These vacation advisors help members plan their vacations and answer questions about DVC membership.
“Our goal is to keep growing and expanding to meet our members’ vacation needs and to ensure that member families constantly experience a great vacation no matter how they use their points,” Lewis said. “Whether it’s a stay in one of our Disney Vacation Club resorts, an African safari or a Caribbean cruise, we want our members to feel that every vacation is even better than the last.”
Disney Vacation Club Properties
Disney’s Old Key West Resort (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: December 1991
Units: 558 two-bedroom equivalents
Disney’s Old Key West Resort launched the DVC concept when it opened its doors to members and overnight guests in December 1991. The Key West-style resort hotel, located in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort, features a quaint waterfront village of colorful, clapboard-sided, tin-roofed vacation villas. Resort amenities include a themed restaurant, four on-site pools, a well-stocked general store, two children’s play areas, tennis and volleyball courts, a lighthouse sauna, four outdoor whirlpool spas, outdoor barbeque grills, an exercise facility and marina. Most vacation villas also boast a beautiful view of water, Disney’s Lake Buena Vista golf course or woods.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (Vero Beach, Fla.)
Opened: October 1995
Units: 104 two-bedroom equivalents
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort – which has the Atlantic Ocean as its scenic backdrop – offers a spectacular inn and spacious vacation villas located along a pristine coastline. Less than a two-hour drive southeast from Walt Disney World Resort, this premium Florida beach resort offers a unique flavor in its design and theme that reflects the Treasure Coast region where the resort is situated.
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)
Opened: March 1996
Units: 107 two-bedroom equivalents
Built in classic Carolina island-style architecture, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is set among age-old live oak trees (some have been found to be more than 300 years old) and magnificent marshes, reminiscent of hunting and fishinglodges from the 1940s. Located on a 15-acre island within Shelter Cove Harbour and boasting oceanfront on a three-and-a-half-acre site just a shuttle ride away, the resort hotel and its beach house are nestled in the breathtaking natural scenery of the Carolina low country.
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: July 1996
Units: 282 two-bedroom equivalents
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas overlooks the festive Disney’s BoardWalk waterfront entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort. The resort hotel, with its Atlantic seacoast theme, featuresa quaint collection of shops, clubs and restaurants, in addition to a variety of views, including the boardwalk and the village green. The resort hotel also boasts a themed pool with an elaborate slide, boardwalk cycling and other amenities.
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: November 2000
Units: 114 two-bedroom equivalents
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, located next to the popular Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, surrounds guests with the grandeur of the Old West and stories of the people who settled there. Each of the resort’s studio, one- and two-bedroom vacation villas tells the tale of the pioneers who built and stayed in the late 19th century railroad hotels in the national parks region of the American West. A unique feature of the resort is its themed Carolwood Pacific Room which displays railroad memorabilia, including a special exhibit on loan from the Disney family of two of Walt Disney’s personal scale-model train cars and a piece of the track.
Disney’s Beach Club Villas (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: July 2002
Units: 177 two-bedroom equivalents
Disney’s Beach Club Villas is inspired by the casual elegance of the mid-Atlantic seaside homes of the early 20th century. The resort comes alive with beautiful pastel colors, intricate wooden accents and home-like accommodations. Its relaxing atmosphere and many leisure activities create the perfect setting for families to spend time together.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: May 2004 – Phase 4, the Treehouse Villas, scheduled to open summer 2009
Units: 924 two-bedroom equivalents (upon scheduled completion in 2009)
Just across the lake from the magical metropolis of the Downtown Disney area lies Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. From its colorful Victorian architecture to the historic influence of horse racing, this lakeside community recaptures the heyday of upstate New York country retreats of the late 1800s.
Plus, scheduled to open in June 2009, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort will offer guests the option of staying in one of its newly constructed Treehouse Villas, the newest room category at the resort hotel. Nestled in natural forest glens, this new phase will revive Walt Disney World “treehouse living,” a cherished tradition from 1975-2002. All 60 three-bedroom vacation homes, elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest environment, will sleep nine and are planned to offer modern luxuries such as partial cathedral ceilings, a barbecue grill and flat-panel TVs, all presented in a style dubbed “cabin casual.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opened: July 2007 – Phase 2, Kidani Village, scheduled to open beginning in May 2009
Units: 449 two-bedroom equivalents (upon scheduled completion in 2009)
Guests live their very own true-life adventure in a setting inspired by the intrepid explorers and historic expeditions of 19th century Africa. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas encompasses two African-inspired buildings: Jambo House, which has two floors devoted to DVC accommodations, and Kidani Village, which began opening in phases in May 2009.
Kidani Village encompasses an entirely new building, complete with its own pool, water-play area, restaurant, merchandise shop, fitness center, expanded animal savannah and more. All of the accommodations, both in the existing Jambo House and in the new village, blend home-like amenities with African-inspired details, and most offer sweeping savannah views.
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Walt Disney World Resort)
Opens: Scheduled to open August 2009
Units: 295 two-bedroom equivalents (upon scheduled completion in 2009)
Inspired by the color palette and strong horizontal lines of its iconic predecessor, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort promises to deliver some of the most dramatic views available anywhere at Walt Disney World Resort. Each of the rooms in this iconic resort will feature innovative touches, such as modern artwork designed specifically for Bay Lake Tower and flat-panel TVs, while most of the units boast full kitchens complete with granite countertops and modern appliances, separate bedrooms, washers and dryers, and other home-like amenities. Add a spacious lobby filled with woven woods and glass-wrapped columns, sweeping views from a rooftop lounge and fireworks viewing deck, and the convenience of a sky bridge linking families to shops, restaurants and the monorail station at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (Disneyland Resort)
Opens: Scheduled to open late 2009
Units: 50 two-bedroom equivalents upon scheduled completion in 2009
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is an architectural and artistic celebration of California’s renowned Arts and Crafts style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The nearby Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa also features an array of dining options.
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Future Project at Ko Olina Resort (Hawaii)
Opens: Scheduled to open in 2011
Units: 480 DVC units, 350 hotel rooms (upon scheduled completion in 2011)
In October 2007, Disney announced the purchase of 21 acres of oceanfront property on Oahu for the construction of a new resort. Located at the picturesque Ko Olina Resort & Marina on the western side of the island, the mixed-use resort – featuring both traditional hotel rooms and DVC vacation-ownership villas – is scheduled to offer sweeping ocean views, white sand beaches and crystal blue lagoons. In addition to 350 hotel rooms, two restaurants featuring foods unique to Hawaii, an 8,000-square-foot conference center and an 18,000-square-foot spa, the resort is planned to have 480 DVC vacation homes. DVC members and overnight guests can enjoy all the comforts of home in accommodations that are scheduled to include fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers and whirlpool tubs in most units.
DVC Established: October 1991
Workforce: Approximately 2,000 cast members
Since it was founded in 1991, DVC has become one of the highest-rated vacation ownership programs in the industry – and a prime example of how Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is growing its family vacation business by addressing a broad range of vacation experiences.
DVC was created as a unique experience for guests who like to return to Walt Disney World Resort on an annual basis and stay for longer periods of time. It has quickly grown to include a wide range of vacation offerings, currently boasting eight properties both inside and outside Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with numerous others scheduled to open in the near future.
Members access their vacation club ownership through a highly flexible vacation point system that allows them to tailor vacations to their personal needs. Members receive an annual allotment of vacation points that can be used in a variety of ways for different types of accommodations.
In 2009, DVC reached a company milestone, with more than 400,000 individual members from approximately 100 countries and every U.S. state having made a long-term commitment to unforgettable vacations.
- DVC has doubled its membership since 2003 to include more than 400,000 member families from each U.S. state and approximately 100 different countries.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas feature intricate African-inspired details and home-like amenities, and many vacation villas offer sweeping views of an expanded savannah inhabited by a variety of African animals.
- At Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, a horse racing fanfare can be heard across the resort every hour on the hour signaling the top of the hour to amused members and guests.
- A special room at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge houses a collection of train memorabilia and artwork, including an exhibit featuring two of Walt Disney’s personal scale-model railroad cars.
- There are 167 miles of post-tensioning cable running through Bay Lake Tower’s concrete slabs. These cables could stretch from Bay Lake Tower to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and back.
- Environmental sensitivity is extremely important to Disney Imagineers while constructing the new Treehouse Villas. As a result, 5,178 tons, or 65.22 percent, of materials from demolition are being recycled, including concrete and metals.
Wrapping it up
I was working at the company while the DVC was gaining some serious traction in the industry. Time-share as it was then widely know, was not a well-regarded industry. Disney knew this going in and used their knowledge, skill, experience and even muscle to change that. As they did they have become the market leader in this business. If you are exploring the vacation ownership opportunities available to you, it would be worth your while to check out their offerings and compare them to your current vacation requirements. Chances are, there is something for you at Disney Vacation Club.