|By Jason Garcia, Orlando
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 07, 2013--After more than three years in development and $1 billion in spending, the Walt Disney Co. on Monday unveiled the central elements of "Next Generation Experience," the sweeping, vacation-planning project aimed at getting travelers to spend more time and money at Walt Disney World.
Packaged under the name "MyMagic+," the project includes a new website and mobile-phone app, a revamped ride reservation system and wristbands that will serve as all-in-one theme-park tickets, hotel-room keys and credit cards.
The goal is to make the increasingly congested Disney World, whose four theme parks drew more than 47 million visitors last year, less stressful to navigate for travelers. But it is also designed to allow Disney to cull vast amounts of new information from guests in hopes of better tailoring everything from sales pitches to operating hours.
"Over the past few years, we've devoted considerable time and resources to create a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every guest who spends time with us," Tom Staggs, the chairman of Disney's global theme-park division, said in a prepared statement. "This collection of tools is another step forward in the ongoing evolution of our guest experience, giving us even more ways to help friends and family create the unforgettable Disney memories that they want most."
Disney said MyMagic+ will include three central elements:
-- A new website and mobile app dubbed "My Disney Experience," which Disney said will be a "one-stop shop" for planning a Disney vacation. In addition to details such as hotel-room availability, travelers will be encouraged to provide personal details ranging from their favorite characters to celebrations such as birthdays.
-- An revamped version of its existing FastPass system dubbed "FastPass+," in which travelers will be permitted to reserve a limited number of attraction times from home. In addition to rides, options will include reserved seating for nightly fireworks display or other shows or specific character-greeting times. For travelers uncertain about how to plan, Disney said it will recommended a prepackaged set of three FastPass+ reservations to "serve as a starting point."
-- Radio frequency identification-equipped wrist bands that will be known as "MagicBands" that will replace paper tickets and can be used to enter parks and hotel rooms and to buy food and souvenirs around the resort. The wristbands, which will be sold in a variety of colors, will also interact with other sensors around Disney's parks, allowing characters to greet guests by name and to verify "FastPass+" return times.
Disney said MagicBands will initially only be offered to certain guests staying in its roughly two dozen on-property hotels, a move the company hopes will help rebuild occupancy that dipped to 78 percent during Disney's fiscal fourth quarter.
A spokeswoman said the company will begin roll out the various elements over "the next few months." Not every aspect will be introduced at once. Disney said it will expects to adjust the systems as more travelers use them and to add more features over time.
Other components of NextGen have already appeared in various corners of Disney World, from keyless hotel-room doors to interactive ride queues.
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